Everyone in Sonoma County has been touched by the recent fires in some way. It changed our sense of normal and our community as a whole. Some jumped right in to help, others began plans for moving forward while others are faced with overwhelming uncertainty.
During the chaos, we saw emergency personnel mobilize and perform heroically, neighborhoods band together and an outpouring of generosity from the community. We witnessed our elected officials spending endless hours dealing with every detail, making quick decisions, demonstrating great leadership and reassurance when it was needed the most.
The League of Women Voters of Sonoma County wants to commend our community and our elected leaders for their outstanding efforts.
Now we all are beginning to plan for the resurrection of our community. Before the fires, the League of Women Voters completed an extensive research project on affordable housing and homelessness in Sonoma County, which is a compilation of many recent studies and articles on this subject.
Affordable housing and homelessness had already been proclaimed to be a crisis within our county. The purpose of this project was to gather information into a concise document that could be utilized by the various local jurisdictions.
While much was being done by cities, towns and the county to address this serious issue, the league found that even more collaboration and cooperation between entities would be beneficial.
Now we find ourselves in a post-October 2017 world where the devastating fires have brought the housing issue to an even more urgent level. In the short time since the fires, the county and Santa Rosa have begun to take bold steps to expedite the rebuilding process. The league applauds these first steps.
We also encourage all towns and cities in Sonoma County to embrace bold steps, innovative ideas and a renewed sense of cooperation to not only replace what has been lost but to keep in mind the long-term impacts of these decisions.
The league-adopted report can be a useful reference document not only for our government entities, but also for our citizens so that they may gain a better understanding of the original problem and what was being done to address it at the time. The underlying housing and homeless issues that existed before the devastating fires have not gone away and must be considered as we all move forward.
The league report has an executive summary that frames the housing and homeless issue existing before the fires and has been amended to reflect the recent devastating events. It includes a list of recommendations from the league.
The full, more extensive report addresses the background and history of the affordability crisis as well as the role of nonprofit agencies in addressing the problem. These documents are available at lwvsonoma.org.
Our hope is we can look back in the coming years and be proud of the bold, collaborative and imaginative decisions that were made to resurrect our beautiful community.
Rebecca Jones, a resident of Santa Rosa, is president of the League of Women Voters in Sonoma County.