Here are our recommendations for today’s elections in Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and the Sonoma Valley Health Care District. Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.
No on C: The wrong tool for housing crisis
First, Rent control is poor housing policy. Economists agree on that. It tends to benefit a select few — those with the good fortune to be renting when it takes effect — and discourages mobility. It keeps middle-income families from moving up to housing that they otherwise could afford, thus reducing the units available to low-income renters. As economist Chris Thornberg once told a Santa Rosa crowd, “It’s a terrible idea.” Second, given that it would only govern apartments built before 1995, it’s like having a stop sign that only applies to older cars. It creates an unlevel playing field for property owners, potentially depressing the value of older complexes and discouraging major capital improvements. Third, Measure C also comes with a “just-cause eviction” provision that would make it more difficult for landlords to remove problem tenants. The Santa Rosa council last year launched its “Housing action plan” that includes a number of laudable steps for helping renters and encouraging more development. It should give those a chance before resorting to this. Measure C is not the solution Santa Rosa needs.
Yes on D: Cannabis must pay its way
The cannabis industry has a keen interest in Santa Rosa, situated as it is near the famous Emerald Triangle and on the northern edge of a nine-county metropolitan area with more than 7 million residents. And the city has a signaled its willingness to host those businesses, both those associated with medical use of marijuana and those emerging after voters approved Proposition 64, allowing adults to use marijuana for recreational purposes. But there are regulatory costs associated with marijuana. And passage of Proposition 64 didn’t snuff out the threat of crime and violence. So the City Council proposed Measure D, authorizing local taxation of marijuana-related business. For decades, marijuana advocates have argued for legalization and taxation. California is one of more than a dozen states that have started down that path. The next logical and responsible step for Santa Rosa is approval of Measure D.
Yes on E: Help for Sonoma’s hospital
Hospitals in 80 rural communities across the country have shut their doors since 2010, and almost 700 others are reported to be teetering on the edge. The most common issue, of course, is finances. Sonoma Valley residents have largely been spared from concerns about the viability of their local medical center — in part because they have stepped up with vital support. In 2002, voters approved a $195-a-year parcel tax to help fund Sonoma Valley Hospital, and the tax has been renewed on lopsided votes twice since then. “Without the parcel tax, we would not be alive,” said Kelly Mather, the hospital’s CEO. The tax generates about $3 million a year for the 48-bed hospital. As it stands, however, the parcel tax will expire June 30 because a renewal effort in March fell 64 votes short of the two-thirds majority required for approval. Measure E is another chance to preserve Sonoma Valley Hospital’s lifeline.
Gary Plass for Healdsburg council
Of the four candidates running for the City Council seat vacated by Eric Ziedrich, we support Gary Plass. Plass, 63, is no stranger. He’s a Healdsburg native who worked 28 years for the city Police Department and has already served 12 years on the City Council. Although he failed in his bid for a fourth four-year term in November, he lost by a mere 20 votes. In addition to coming in with extensive experience in financial and infrastructure issues, Plass offers 13 years of experience as a commissioner for the Northern California Power Agency, a joint action agency established in 1968 to generate electric power to Healdsburg and other agencies. His expertise will prove vital especially given that none of the other council members has served more than one term.