As with Healdsburg and other North Coast hot spots, Sonoma is a community struggling to find the right balance between the needs and interests of residents and those of tourists. It’s a love-hate relationship that’s tested by traffic and parking problems, pressure for more tasting rooms and hotel development and the rapid rise of vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods.
So it should come as no surprise that some of these same issues are front and center in this year’s Sonoma City Council election, which features four candidates vying for two open seats. In this contest, we recommend the re-election of David Cook and Laurie Gallian, with a special plug for newcomer Amy Harrington for those looking to shake up the status quo.
Cook, 50, president of Cook Vineyard Management and a 20-year resident of the Sonoma Valley, is seeking his second term, having first been elected 2012. His emphasis is on helping the city find stable financial footing, maintaining infrastructure and finding a way to increase the city’s stock of affordable housing. During his four years on the council, including his year as mayor in 2015, Cook has shown himself to be a fair-minded, deliberative thinker, often trying to strike a balance on extreme positions. For example, he supports, as do the other candidates, Measure W on the Nov. 8 ballot, which would strengthen the city’s smoking ordinance. But he believes that once it is approved, the council should take advantage of the measure’s flexibility and amend a provision that essentially forbids homeowners from smoking outside their own homes. It’s a fair complaint.
Gallian, 64, the longest serving member of the council, is seeking her third term. A resident of Sonoma for more than three decades, Gallian’s roots in the community run deep, having served on nonprofit boards and as a community volunteer for a number of organizations before earning her seat on the council in 2008. A past Sonoma representative to the Sonoma County Climate Action Plan advisory committee, Gallian puts reduction of greenhouse gases as a top priority, which she says is also one reason she supported a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers. She also has shown herself to be a tireless representative for her city as a member of the Sonoma County Water Advisory Committee, the Sonoma County Transportation Authority, the Regional Climate Protection Authority, the Sonoma County Agriculture Preservation and Open Space District Advisory Committee.
That said, we also understand why voters might be drawn to the ideas and energy of newcomer Amy Harrington. An elder law attorney who moved to Sonoma with her husband less than 10 years ago, Harrington, 39, isn’t shy about expressing her frustrations with the City Council’s tendency to allow issues to linger, such as what to do with leaf blowers. She contends the City Council was pressured to adopt a moratorium on vacation rentals because of the heat of the election. “The City Council never wants to take an unpopular vote,” she said. As with other candidates, she supports the passage of Measure U, an extension of the city’s half-cent sales tax for the general fund. But she has committed to helping the city wean itself from this revenue and has pledged not to renew it in another five years.
Also running is Jack Wagner, 35, a bright Sonoma native who finished sixth out of the eight candidates who ran for council two years ago. He has strong ideas for how to improve the community but his lack of experience in community service raises doubts as to whether he can deliver.