While Healdsburg remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sonoma County — and one of the most expensive places to call home in the North Bay -— it’s also a community in flux.
In hopes of encouraging more housing construction in the community, the City Council in the fall put to voters a measure calling for significant changes to the city’s growth management ordinance. The proposal, Measure R, also would have allowed the council to unilaterally change the ordinance going forward. But the community firmly rejected R with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
Meanwhile, the City Council is now made up of individuals who are new to the dais. Most of the more experienced council members either did not seek another term or failed to win re-election. The most recent departure is that of Eric Ziedrich, who resigned shortly after the loss of Measure R, which he strongly supported.
So Healdsburg voters again will be going to the polls on June 6 to vote on a replacement for Ziedrich. Of the four candidates running for this seat, we support Gary Plass.
Plass, 63, is a Healdsburg native who worked 28 years for the Healdsburg Police Department, retiring just before winning his first seat on the City Council in 2004. Although he lost in his bid for a fourth four-year term in November, he was appointed by the council to fill the seat vacated by Ziedrich. He was the clear choice for this interim assignment given that he finished fourth in the six-candidate race for three seats. He also should be the choice to fill out the remaining months of Ziedrich’s term.
It’s clear from the results of recent elections that Healdsburg voters wanted change on the City Council while they apparently wanted no change to the city’s growth management ordinance. But we agree with Plass that the election was not necessarily a repudiation of him. He lost the election by a mere 20 votes. “I don’t see that as a mandate for me to go away,” he said.
More to the point, none of the other council members has served more than two years. In addition to having extensive expertise in planning, overseeing city finances and maintaining control of the city’s retirement expenses, Plass offers 13 years of experience as a commissioner for the Northern California Power Agency, a joint action agency established in 1968 to generate and distribute electric power to Healdsburg and 14 other member agencies.
Among the other candidates, the next most qualified is Leah Gold, 61, an educational consultant who served on the Healdsburg City Council from 2001 to 2004. Gold also led the citizens’ committee that developed Healdsburg’s urban growth boundary initiative in 1996. She would provide a strong progressive voice on the City Council.
The other candidates are Rosie Fabian, 53, a care provider who ran for City Council once before in 2010, and Erica Whisney, 34, a teacher who is making her first run for political office. Both are articulate and knowledgeable about city issues but lack the policy experience of both Plass and Gold.
The city would benefit from either of these two serving on the City Council. But we believe Plass provides the perspective and institutional memory that the council needs most as it seeks to find new ways to generate housing while also protecting the interests of residents. The Press Democrat recommends Gary Plass for the City Council.