Challenger shaking up Sebastopol council race

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THE CANDIDATES

Una Glass

Age: 61

Profession: Executive Director, Coastwalk California; former software company owner/financial executive; one-time aide to former county Supervisor Mike Reilly.

Public Service: Appointed to the council in June to complete the remaining term of her late-husband, Councilman Michael Kyes; Sebastopol Community Development Agency, Sebastopol Downtown Plan Committee, Sonoma County Family Owned & Home Based Business Task Force, Sonoma County Conservation Action.

Platform: Long-term financial planning, revised general plan reflecting community values, environmentally sustainable policies.

Key Endorsements: Sonoma County Conservation Action, Sonoma County Democratic Party, Sebastopol Tomorrow, Sierra Club

_____

Jonathan Greenberg

Age: 56

Profession: Journalist and Internet entrepreneur, owner of Progressive Source Communications, public interest communications firm; former Forbes magazine reporter; one-time policy director, New York City Council’s Lower Manhattan Redevelopment.

Public Service: Active in campaign to restore Sonoma County public library hours and reopen Palm Drive Hospital; founder, Progressive Sebastopol.

Platform: Reopen Palm Drive Hospital, restore library hours, government transparency, budget, bike trails.

Key Endorsements: Progressive Sebastopol

_____

Sarah Glade Gurney

Age: 61

Profession: Attorney/Mediator

Public Service: City Council, three-time mayor, Sonoma County Transportation Authority chair, California Coastal Commission alternate, Regional Climate Protection Authority, Sebastopol Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission.

Platform: Strengthen local economy, unify downtown, reduce traffic, encourage infill development.

Key Endorsements: Sonoma County Conservation Action, Sonoma County Democratic Party, Sebastopol Tomorrow, Sierra Club

_____

Patrick Slayter

Age: 48

Profession: Architect

Public Service: City Council, Sebastopol Planning Commission, Sebastopol Entrepreneur’s Project, BikeWalk Sebastopol, Sebastopol Business Outreach Committee, Rebuilding Together Sebastopol.

Platform: Promote sustainable and economically viable community; improved bicycle, pedestrian and public transit options; downtown core.

Key Endorsements: Sonoma County Conservation Action, Sebastopol Tomorrow, North Bay Association of Realtors.

_____

PD Election Guide

Two short years ago, the campaign for Sebastopol City Council boiled down to three letters: CVS.

The race this year is somehow both simpler and more complex.

In the absence of a central, polarizing issue such as the unpopular CVS drug store plan that helped reshape the council in 2012, three incumbents defending their posts against a single challenger say they want to stay the course toward economic revitalization, community vibrancy and environmental sustainability.

Vice Mayor Patrick Slayter and council members Una Glass and Sarah Glade Gurney have the support of one another in their re-election bids, as well as the endorsements of Mayor Robert Jacob and Councilman John Eder.

They cite, if not consistent unanimity, a common commitment to progressive ideals, collaborative decision-making and past success maintaining relative financial stability through a universally trying economic time.

“During the last couple years of budget hearings, it’s been an overwhelming response from the community that, ‘Yes, we appreciate prudent financial planning,’ ” said Slayter, an architect and former planning commissioner finishing up his first council term.

But community activist Jonathan Greenberg hopes to win a seat for himself — specifically Slayter’s — and has cast the entire council in a dim light, saying he wants to bring transparency and oversight to a body he believes lacks independence.

He also has come out against a council-supported utility tax measure on the Nov. 4 ballot, in part because of campaign literature that greatly overstates the share of general fund revenue the existing tax provides.

Former City Councilman and Mayor Craig Litwin, who is consulting on the Measure R campaign, acknowledged that fliers promoting the tax initially included an inaccurate percentage — 15 percent — which was furnished by a staff report presented to the City Council last July. The existing utility tax actually provides about 6 percent of the city’s general fund revenue, while the new one, if approved by voters, would contribute about 10.8 percent of the general fund.

Greenberg said the issue driving his campaign, however, is his interest in reopening the emergency room at now-shuttered Palm Drive Hospital, a facility owned and formerly operated by an independent, elected health care district. Greenberg says he believes the council has a role in the debate, whereas council members do not.

“If I get elected to the City Council, I think I’m going to empower that body,” Greenberg said.

With many progressives backing the incumbents — including Slayter, a liberal who on this council is deemed somewhat conservative — it’s unclear how much traction Greenberg can get with the election just 9 days away. But his critiques have come amid complaints that he is prone to creative interpretation of facts and figures, as well as claiming credit some say more properly resides with others.

The mayor, saying he felt an obligation to speak despite some reluctance, recently called out what he said were “misleading” assertions about city spending and the hospital issue presented as “fact when they are not fact.”

“I think,” said Gurney, a 10-year council member, “it’s important to elect people whose values you trust, because their values are going to drive the decision-making, and I think it’s important to pick people who intend to work well together. I can say this as an attorney: You wouldn’t have a law partnership and put people together on purpose who were opposed to each other and intended to be dysfunctional and frustrate each other.”

THE CANDIDATES

Una Glass

Age: 61

Profession: Executive Director, Coastwalk California; former software company owner/financial executive; one-time aide to former county Supervisor Mike Reilly.

Public Service: Appointed to the council in June to complete the remaining term of her late-husband, Councilman Michael Kyes; Sebastopol Community Development Agency, Sebastopol Downtown Plan Committee, Sonoma County Family Owned & Home Based Business Task Force, Sonoma County Conservation Action.

Platform: Long-term financial planning, revised general plan reflecting community values, environmentally sustainable policies.

Key Endorsements: Sonoma County Conservation Action, Sonoma County Democratic Party, Sebastopol Tomorrow, Sierra Club

_____

Jonathan Greenberg

Age: 56

Profession: Journalist and Internet entrepreneur, owner of Progressive Source Communications, public interest communications firm; former Forbes magazine reporter; one-time policy director, New York City Council’s Lower Manhattan Redevelopment.

Public Service: Active in campaign to restore Sonoma County public library hours and reopen Palm Drive Hospital; founder, Progressive Sebastopol.

Platform: Reopen Palm Drive Hospital, restore library hours, government transparency, budget, bike trails.

Key Endorsements: Progressive Sebastopol

_____

Sarah Glade Gurney

Age: 61

Profession: Attorney/Mediator

Public Service: City Council, three-time mayor, Sonoma County Transportation Authority chair, California Coastal Commission alternate, Regional Climate Protection Authority, Sebastopol Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission.

Platform: Strengthen local economy, unify downtown, reduce traffic, encourage infill development.

Key Endorsements: Sonoma County Conservation Action, Sonoma County Democratic Party, Sebastopol Tomorrow, Sierra Club

_____

Patrick Slayter

Age: 48

Profession: Architect

Public Service: City Council, Sebastopol Planning Commission, Sebastopol Entrepreneur’s Project, BikeWalk Sebastopol, Sebastopol Business Outreach Committee, Rebuilding Together Sebastopol.

Platform: Promote sustainable and economically viable community; improved bicycle, pedestrian and public transit options; downtown core.

Key Endorsements: Sonoma County Conservation Action, Sebastopol Tomorrow, North Bay Association of Realtors.

_____

PD Election Guide

Greenberg, a self-proclaimed public-interest advocate with a history in journalism, has taken a prominent role in a series of public policy debates. He was behind a proposed city ban on leaf blowers, came out strongly against CVS, worked actively to get a countywide sales tax to fund libraries on the November ballot and advocates persistently for reopening the Palm Drive emergency room.

He says he targeted Slayter in large part because of the latter’s role in pivotal votes that permitted CVS developers to proceed with plans for the downtown store without a full environmental impact report — an outcome that resulted from what Greenberg claims was a faulty traffic report that was later challenged in court.

But while he expresses support for the Glass and Gurney candidacies, his campaign is largely critical of the entire council, lambasting what he calls excessive deference to unelected city staff of the sort that he says resulted in the CVS debacle, as well as the council’s failure to intervene in discussions about reopening the hospital.

Greenberg maintains that city officials could subsidize water and sewer services, improving the financial prospects of a hotly disputed proposal for restoring the community’s emergency room. And he says the council should use its “bully pulpit” to build support for the plan despite substantial, community-wide disagreement about its viability in the wake of Palm Drive’s collapse.

He has also staked out a position in opposition to a utility user tax that all five council members say is necessary to prevent layoffs and provide adequate city services after an existing utility tax expires this year.

Greenberg both lays claim to the “outsider” label and seems to bristle at it, asserting that his pointed questioning of city staff, council members and Palm Drive Health Care District officials has provoked a “circling of the wagons around the Sebastopol political establishment.”

“I’m the villain” for challenging the truth of what city officials say, he said. “I’m made to feel like the outsider, the challenger and the villain.”

City officials argue that Greenberg often misrepresents the facts, including several that serve as pillars of his campaign.

He’s complained repeatedly, for instance, that a 20-year, $4.6 million vehicle and large equipment replacement schedule the council adopted to help with long-range financial planning does not include plans for the purchase of a single electric vehicle — conceding a few days ago that the list only identifies vehicles that need replacing without specifics about how they’d be replaced.

He’s also engendered protests on the part of council members by using the term “budget surplus” to describe a $1.2 million general fund reserve the council worked hard to set aside after reserves fell to zero during the recession.

And while the city has a $398,000 contract with a consultant to ensure a 20-year revision of the general plan is complete and compliant with state law, Greenberg has repeatedly told the public the city will spend more than twice that, based on a cost estimate cited in a year-old newspaper story.

“Jonathan would put our city in a horrible position financially,” Jacob said. “He recklessly attacks our staff and budget, and regularly makes irresponsible and inaccurate statements.”

Even some of those who might otherwise be political allies have questioned him. Helen Shane, who was a leader in the challenge to CVS, has publicly accused Greenberg of claiming a role in the lawsuit to which she was a plaintiff that she says he didn’t play.

Slayter said he’s spent no energy trying to deflect Greenberg’s swipes, preferring to campaign on positive accomplishments and maintain his focus on “minding the store” for the city.”

“I don’t mind having debates,” he said, “but it needs to be respectful — that just because someone has a difference of opinion, that doesn’t make it a blood sport.”

Glass, who was appointed to the council last summer after the death of her husband, Councilman Michael Kyes, said Greenberg “is talking about issues that concern everybody, and in that, we’re really not that dissimilar. I just think that some of his beliefs about what we’re doing or what our agenda is, or what we have accomplished, is misinformed.”

“I look at what the council’s done, and I think there’s a lot to be proud of,” Gurney said, listing several initiatives, including requirements for solar power systems on all new buildings and efforts to revitalize the central business core.

“It takes a group working together to do that.”

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