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Council candidates discuss transportation issues

At last week's city council candidates forum, several council hopefuls said the issue they heard about most on the campaign trail this year is the dilapidated condition of city streets. Indeed, road repair and other transportation issues, like building the elusive Rainier Crosstown Connector, have only grown in importance in voters' minds over the years.

While candidates agree these are two of the biggest issues facing Petaluma, they differ on how, exactly, to tackle them. Here's where candidates stand on funding street repair and building Rainier.

City street repair

Petaluma's cracked and pothole-ridden roads are never far from most residents' minds, and all the council candidates acknowledged that the streets pose an expensive problem that city must tackle.

A report issued last December by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission showed just how difficult that job has become: It found that Petaluma would have to spend $132.4 million over the next five years to bring its network of streets back up to the recommended "optimal" condition.

Just to keep streets at their current level would cost $7 million a year. Currently, Petaluma spends about $2.5 million on all road-related activities in Petaluma. Most of it goes to basic street repairs, with little left over for long-term maintenance.

Candidates have suggested putting a sales tax on the ballot to help fund road work.

Councilmember Mike Healy proposed placing a half cent sales tax measure on the ballot. That would bring in an estimated $5 million annually, of which Healy said he would like roads to receive the biggest share.

Vice Mayor Tiffany Ren? proposed this summer placing a sales tax on this November's ballot, suggesting that some of the proceeds go to road repair. The tax measure did not make it to the ballot.

Business owner Jason Davies expressed concern over passing an additional tax when people are already "hurting" financially. "I would turn every stone possible before moving to increase taxes," he said.

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