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.