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Petaluma Mayor David Glass won’t seek reelection

Petaluma Mayor David Glass, a progressive politician who has spent nearly two decades serving on the city council, announced Monday he will not run for re-election this November.

His decision opens the door for major changes in leadership on the council, where three other seats will also be up for election in the coming months. Former Petaluma City Councilman Mike Harris, who narrowly lost a mayoral bid to Glass in 2014, is the only candidate to have formally announced a run for mayor.

Glass, 70, said his decision was motivated in part by a desire to take the politics out of a campaign to pass tax measures to buoy the lagging city’s budget that’s been hard hit by skyrocketing pension costs.

“I’m actually excited about the time between now and the end of the year,” the North Hollywood native said. “I want to work on things and I wanted to depoliticize what happens now and at the end of the year. I don’t want anyone questioning my motives about ‘Oh, he’s saying that just to get reelected.’ I intend to be out there talking about the need for the city to pass a tax measure.”

Polling for tax measures, including a sales tax increase and an increase in the tax charged on stays in hotel beds, is underway. Glass said the city is considering a half or three-quarter cent sales tax increase that would be geared toward public safety and expire in about 20 to 25 years.

While city financial analysts say the economy has fully bounced back from the recession, California Public Employees’ Retirement System rates will gradually increase due to a state-level change, costing the city an additional $4.8 million over the life of the forecast period and causing a shortfall by fiscal year 2021, according to city projections. The city has cut its staffing by 12 percent in the past decade while the budget shrunk by $4.2 million, despite adding 3,000 new residents. Maintenance projects are lagging, and if there’s no new revenue, deeper cuts must be made, according to city officials.

“I hope that the community now is at a point where they’ve been educated and understand we’ve done what we can do to deal with all the issues wrapped around finances for the city,” Glass said. “Going forward, we have a bill that we owe that’s contractual that goes back decades. ... we’ve lived with trying to balance it and the fact is that we can’t anymore.”

Glass is also looking forward to untethering himself from the dais to spend more time with his wife of 34 years, Bonnie Glass, and their 27-year-old daughter, Kelsey.

“Looking back on it — 12 years of being mayor over a 16-year time frame — it’s been great,” said Glass, who has lived in Petaluma since 1990. “It’s been a challenge, it’s been interesting and the most fascinating thing I’ve ever done. … My wife’s been good about allowing me to do this, it’s been a lot of meetings and a lot of time and I want to have some time to say ‘whatever you want to do, whatever we want to do.’”

The former planning commissioner first ran for a Petaluma City Council seat in 1998 after a student at his daughter’s Mary Collins Charter School at Cherry Valley was experiencing anxiety attacks about flooding during the rainy season. Though he lost that initial bid, he was elected as mayor in 2003, when he campaigned in support of redeveloping downtown.

Glass, the former radio voice for the San Francisco Giants who also owned a municipal finances business, left the council in 2006 to host a radio show on KSRO, where he interviewed figures such as Barbra Streisand and former President Jimmy Carter.

A survivor of bladder cancer, he returned to the council in 2008 and has since served consecutive terms.

He’s proud of the city’s work to finance and build the Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility, execute flood control projects, the progress on the East Washington sports complex, among other accomplishments.

It’s too soon to think about endorsing a replacement, Glass said, though he touted the qualities he’s seen in current councilwoman Teresa Barrett, a fellow progressive, and councilman Chris Albertson, the city’s former fire chief. He also praised Pam Torliatt, a former Petaluma mayor and city councilwoman, who has also described herself as a progressive.

“Someone I’m sure will get into the race — we’ve got a lot of qualified people here I’m sure someone from the progressive side will get into the race,” he said.

Glass, who has long described himself as a progressive, struggled to define what that political platform means in today’s political climate.

“It’s morphed. People have an expectation and they don’t really grasp the consequences of what they’re expecting,” he said. “I don’t know, I’m not the one to define it.”

City Manager John Brown, who has helmed the city for a decade, praised Glass’ leadership.

“He’s been a real cheerleader for the city and he understands the finances very, very well given his financial background,” Brown said. “He’s been very supportive of me and city staff and we appreciate that. He really understood the challenges we’ve had to deal with and overcome and has really been helpful trying to get out there in the community and get a message out.”

Vice Mayor Mike Healy, the council’s elder statesman who has served since 1998, lauded Glass’ commitment to the city.

“He has a real passion for the community,” Healy said. “We’ve agreed on a lot of issues and disagreed on a lot, but his love for the community was never in question.”

Glass, also an avid golfer, said he may also consider conducting election-related outreach in outside congressional districts during forthcoming elections. The west Petaluma resident plans to drop into City Hall occasionally to catch up with former colleagues, but can’t envision himself regularly attending city council meetings.

“This is the right time, it’s the right way to go out and I’m not going anywhere. I love Petaluma, we’ve been here for many years, and I intend to be part of Petaluma in the future but this is how I think this sunsets, this phase of my life. Voters have been great to me,” he said. “I’ll look back on the things we accomplished later. Right now I’m focused on the things that need to be done.”

(Contact Hannah Beausang at hannah.beausang@arguscourier.com.)