Did you hear the latest about the Petaluma City Council?
The council is quietly building a record of accomplishments after many years of political fireworks. The seven members don’t always agree, by any means. But their disparate perspectives aren’t producing congressional-style gridlock.
After local voters rejected a one-cent sales tax measure two years ago, the city did some creative financing to replace aging police cars and acquire a new fire engine. With the first SMART trains about to roll, Petaluma has beefed up local transit services. And the ongoing rejuvenation of the riverfront is adding to Petaluma’s appeal to tourists and urban homesteaders.
Looking ahead, council members will decide the future of Petaluma’s fairgrounds, the city will be hiring a new police chief, and it must replace the downtown fire station, which doesn’t meet modern seismic safety standards. The area around the rail depot is likely to be developed, local roads are still in dreadful shape, and affordable housing is in short supply.
That’s a challenging agenda, and Petaluma voters are lucky to have four strong candidates for the three City Council seats up for election on Nov. 8. They are incumbents Mike Healy, Gabe Kearney and Kathy Miller and Planning Commissioner Bill Wolpert.
All of them are experienced, knowledgeable and eager to serve. But there are only three seats, and based on the performance of the current council, The Press Democrat recommends retaining Healy, Kearney and Miller.
Healy, a lawyer in private practice, is the dean of the City Council, having won his first election in 1998. He provides institutional knowledge as well as expertise on water and transportation issues. Healy also has devoted hundreds of hours to gaining public access to Lafferty Ranch, a city-owned property on Sonoma Mountain with spectacular views of the Petaluma River and San Francisco Bay.
Miller, a staff attorney for Disability Services and Legal Center, was elected to the council four years ago. Her goals include identifying a revenue stream for road repairs, and, with the Sonoma-Marin Fair’s lease running out, she wants to see the 62-acre site, which belongs to the city, reconfigured to retain the fair while adding amenities, such as a shopping area similar to San Francisco’s Ferry Building or Sebastopol’s Barlow district.
Kearney, a residential real estate agent who also works year-round for Burning Man, was appointed to a council vacancy in 2011 and elected to a full term a year later. As a member of the transit advisory committee, he played a role in adding routes and expanding hours for Petaluma city buses as well as planning for coordination of service with SMART.
Wolpert, an architect, has served on the Planning Commission for about five years. He also was involved in Petaluma’s general plan update about 10 years ago and served on the city’s historic and cultural review committee. He says the City Council too frequently overturns the Planning Commission and settles for “cookie-cutter designs” for local development.
Wolpert does a good job on the Planning Commission, as demonstrated by a unanimous council vote to appoint him for a second term. We hope he runs again for City Council, but with just three seats available this year, The Press Democrat recommends Mike Healy, Gabe Kearney and Kathy Miller for the Petaluma City Council.