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Opinion: Council incumbents ‘helped create city’s problems’


The Argus-Courier endorsement of Mike Healy, Gabe Kearney and Kathy Miller for Petaluma City Council is not a surprise, but the reasoning was. To state that voters are tired of problems — that have not come overnight — and then to suggest that voters re-elect those who helped create the problems is wishful thinking.

The editorial proceeded to promote the incumbents, not through sorting through the facts, but by lifting text directly from the candidates’ shared website and campaign literature. Endorsements should be based on steely-eyed analysis, not puffy resumes.

The shortfalls are numerous.

The three are being credited with easing traffic by securing funding for the Rainier undercrossing. But traffic studies indicate that the $40-plus million connector will do little to relieve traffic congestion. The three are telling voters what they want to hear, not the truth.

On a similar subject, Kathy Miller’s involvement in the Sonoma County Transportation Authority is extolled, but has resulted in Petaluma being dead last to see the improvements to Highway 101.

Speaking of being dead last, the three tout their embrace of Sonoma Clean Power, but it came only after they voted it down and only later came to understand the benefits by listening to representatives of the Center for Climate Protection, who showed them how much money would be saved by residents, and even more by businesses. Even then, Petaluma’s City Council was the last in Sonoma County to see the light.

Stating further that they address climate change by adopting the Sonoma County Climate Action 2020 Plan is short on facts. I was a member of the Advisory Committee that helped produce the Climate Action Plan, and I reported on its progress at Planning Commission meetings over two years.

Healy and the other incumbents were completely unaware of the work being done and never asked a single question about impacts to Petaluma. The city is now responsible for completing its own specific Climate Action Plan within the next three years. To date, the City Council has not begun this work.

The three congratulate themselves on the City’s bike trail system, but the paths are woefully neglected. I ride the Lynch Creek trail regularly. It is a great network, but it stops and starts without any directional signage, making it more difficult than it should be to navigate. It also is becoming cracked and weedy in places from lack of maintenance. I doubt that the incumbents spend much time riding these trails.

And for the three to take credit for implementing the pedestrian and bicycle trails is laughable after twice allowing Basin Street Properties to avoid implementing the bike path behind the Sheraton Hotel for the Marina Apartments. This had been a Condition of Approval by planning staff but was written out for the benefit of the developer.

This bike and pedestrian trail is a critical link for residents and employees living along the Lakeville corridor to get to the SMART Train station and reduce the traffic impacts. The incumbents do not recognize this as a priority.

All of the chronic problems we face can be tied to poorly planned development. Against the vision of our General Plan, the City Council has recently allowed 45 acres of 1980s-style development. The development was touted as a remedy for our city’s funding shortfall, but it has only exacerbated the traffic and our streets, bike paths and sidewalks continue to crumble.

It is true that the three incumbents work together, but who are they working for? A large part of their funding comes from developers. Their decisions on projects before the City Council typically benefit developers. The increased traffic comes as a result of development that does not allow for any options to getting in our cars.

We need smart development as called for in our General Plan. Robust, mixed-use development that supplies our city with sustainable funding, instead of a “tax as you go” policy. Residents of Petaluma are tired of short-term solutions with long-term consequences. And yet, the Argus Courier suggests that we continue along the same path.

We deserve better. And I can provide that.

(Bill Wolpert is a member of the Petaluma Planning Commission and a candidate for City Council.)