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Letters to the Editor

Kearney, Miller, Healy for Council

EDITOR: I have had the honor of serving on Petaluma’s City Council for nearly six years. During that time, I have served with individuals who are mature, experienced, dedicated and hard working. Three of those dedicated people are up for reelection this fall: Gabe Kearney, Kathy Miller and Mike Healy. I endorse all three and ask that you join me in voting for them as well.

Gabe Kearney grew up in Petaluma’s east side, graduated from Casa and started into public life immediately thereafter working on City Committees before his election to the Council. He is a knowledgeable and tireless advocate for maintaining and improving our public safety, finding meaningful and lasting solutions to our seemingly intractable homeless issues, among other important local issues. He is the only Latinx on the Council and the only one who is running this fall.

Kathy Miller is the Council’s only member who lives on the east aide where two-thirds of the City’s population resides. Kathy represents Petaluma on the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and has been instrumental in securing funding for the much-needed widening of Highway 101 through Petaluma and the region. Kathy (as well as Gabe and Mike) have been tireless advocates for getting our river dredged.

Mike Healy is the most experienced member on the Council having served 20 years. His knowledge of public policy in local government is second to none on the Council or our region. Mike is a strong supporter of affordable and market housing in Petaluma. Mike is also a leader in the League of California Cities, an organization that advocates for cities before the state government on issues such as housing, transportation and climate.

The foregoing is a bit of what these fine people have done on the Council. Going forward, the City will be grappling with issues such as the Fairgrounds, an updated General Plan, climate change policy, housing, transportation and infrastructure repairs. Experience matters. As does representing the entire city, not merely a group of political activists with narrow agendas. Please join me in voting for Kearney, Miller and Healy for City Council this fall.

Dave King

Petaluma

Setting the record straight

EDITOR: It’s fine that Mike Healy thinks the Ellis Creek wastewater plant is one of his three biggest accomplishments (“Healy not done with city politics”). I agree that it is a world class project, one that I visit on a regular basis to go bird watching.

It’s a local treasure. But councilman Healy did not originally support Ellis Creek. He had concerns about the cost. Janice Cader Thompson, then on the council, along with Patricia Johanson, an internationally acclaimed landscape designer, were the driving forces to get this innovative plant on the drawing board.

I was there as staff to the Coastal Conservancy which made one of the key grants for Ellis Creek. Councilman Healy eventually supported the project and his current support for it is laudable but to list it as one of his accomplishments is puffery at its best.

Maxene Spellman

Petaluma

No to incumbents

EDITOR: I was surprised to read Healy, Kearney, and Miller’s defense of their approval of Sid Commons in the Aug. 27 Argus-Courier. I was surprised because their defense is riddled with flaws. Their defense shows why Petalumans must vote them out in November. In defending their false and failed promises around multiple issues, they have provided a clear view of why their brand of “approve-any-development” is horribly wrong for our town.

For both east side and west side Petalumans, it is their failed promise of traffic relief that is most appalling. Traffic is a top-ranked problem here, and it worsens with each project that Healy, Kearney, and Miller approve. Over and over, they use smoke and mirrors to push their approval of any-and-every development.

For the campaign-contributing developer of Sid Commons, they voted to exceed critical traffic levels to over 3,000 cars on Graylawn Avenue, a quiet, tiny road with only eight driveways/houses lining either side. They justified exceeding the City’s 2,000 maximum car limit by claiming Graylawn is the same as “other local residential streets like I Street.” This couldn't be farther from the truth. Graylawn is not the same as I Street.

Graylawn is classified by the City as “residential,” with 1,142 cars per day. It is less than .1-mile in length, with a high cross street ratio of 50:1 per mile, and it has no stop signs or crosswalks.

I Street, in comparison, is classified as a “major collector,” with 4,600 cars per day. It is over a mile in length, with a low cross street ratio of 12:1 per mile, and it features both stop signs and crosswalks.

To Healy, Kearney and Miller, thank you for providing us with a clear view of why your “experience” is wrong for Petaluma. Not only have you failed in your promises to fix our traffic problem, you have undeniably made it worse.

Sherry Kinzel

Petaluma

Measure CC questions

EDITOR: A few questions on the sale of Petaluma Valley Hospital – Measure CC:

Who is paying for the fancy brochures we are getting in the mail? How much is being spent to influence voters, and what is their motivation?

Where will the $52.6 million purchase price ultimately come from. It is not a gift, so will medical costs at PVH go up to make this a worthwhile investment for St. Joseph?

Who and how will spending of the $52.6 million be decided? Will the spending go to Petaluma’s highest priorities? Where will be the oversight?

I’m not opposed to the Measure, but I get nervous seeing so much money and effort going to influence my vote.

Dale Sartor

Petaluma

Yes on Measure CC

EDITOR: As citizens of Petaluma, we would be doing our city and our future generations a disservice if we allow Petaluma Valley Hospital to close. Petaluma Valley is the only hospital and emergency care center in southern Sonoma County.

When mere minutes can be the difference between life or death, just imagine what it would be like if our closest emergency room was in Santa Rosa. Or think of the ramifications of not having a local hospital if another global pandemic were to hit, or the now annual wildfires worsen.

All this can be avoided if we vote yes on Measure CC. If the measure passes, Providence St. Joseph’s secular (non-religious) affiliate, NorCal HealthConnect will buy and operate the hospital for the foreseeable future without making any service changes or using additional tax dollars. If you care about the long-term health and safety of Petaluma, then vote yes on Measure CC.

Janice Cader Thompson

Petaluma

No on Measure U

EDITOR: The City of Petaluma wants to dupe its citizens and the citizens outside the city limits with a regressive 1% additional sales tax. This punitive tax is estimated to rob our community of $13.5 million per year, forever.

In fiscal year 2018/19, the City’s unfunded liabilities were $117 million and growing. If Measure U passes, the full amount of additional taxes will not be sufficient to pay Petaluma’s annual pension obligations much more make a dent in the unfunded liabilities.

When will the City face up to their problems and reduce the compensation to past employees? When will the City and the League of California Cities put pressure on the State to reduce the enhanced benefits, again? When will CalPERS be held accountable for underestimating the local agency contributions and reduce the benefits to all CalPERS beneficiaries?

The citizens of our community have been suffering economically due to a pandemic. For the City to prioritize public employee pensions over its citizens is downright disrespectful. If you don’t want to be an enabler of bad government, vote No on Measure U.

Bryant Moynihan

Petaluma

Enforcing health orders

EDITOR: The community website lists the Petaluma Police Department’s non-emergency phone number for reporting violations of the state’s declaration and the board of supervisors’ ordinance requiring masks and social distancing.

Today, on our daily walk, my wife and I observed about 20 young men and a dozen or so spectators playing football on the soccer field at Lucchesi Park, in front of which a sign was posted, “Park Closed." The players were alternately closely huddling and playing the game. The spectators were sitting close together watching from the sidelines. None of the people were wearing masks and there was no social distancing.

I called the police department twice. An hour after the first call, we were returning from our walk, and I saw the same scenario. I asked for an officer call back. The officer explained that if "priorities allow," they go to the scene and document the situation. If nothing else, I asked why couldn’t an officer at least educate the violators and ask them to use masks. He said, “That’s just not the mission of the police department.”

He went on to tell me about a barber shop that consistently violates social distancing and masks. When I asked why the police didn’t cite the owner after so many violations, he told me that a few weeks ago his officers were writing citations only to have the county district attorney ignore them. The five officers on his 11-hour shift were “far too busy with other calls” to deal with such trivialities as a pandemic.

We’re approaching 200,000 deaths in the U.S. and 100 deaths in Sonoma County, and this pandemic isn’t a high enough priority to warrant at least some education by our police officers? Does Donald Trump run our police? Are the officers all at the range practicing with their shiny new automatic weapons? Please, if protecting us from a deadly virus isn’t a crucial law enforcement issue, tell me what is.

James Pointer

Petaluma

No to incumbents

EDITOR: My wife and I retired to Petaluma in 2012. As a newcomer I watched the local elections and City Council activities, trying to get an understanding of local politics. This is the second time I’ve seen the incumbent trio of Mike Healy, Gabe Kearney and Kathy Miller run as a group.

Looking at the web sites for all eight candidates, the incumbent trio show common policy goals, while the five challengers, Dennis Pocekay, Susan Kirks, Lizzie Wallack, Brian Barnacle and Robert Conklin each offer differing policy ideas and approaches.

If three people represent the same viewpoint, it appears to me that that one point of view is over-represented on such a small governmental body. I feel strongly that it is important to change this situation.

An additional insight concerns the Brown Act, a state law which governs, among other things, transparency in government. One important piece of the Brown Act prohibits meetings of three or more members of a policy group (a City Council, for example) to discuss policy or plan a common approach to policy outside of the public meetings.

I served on the Sonoma County Civil Grand Jury for three years, the last year as foreperson. Violations of the Brown Act constitute an important reason for investigating governmental agencies. Even the appearance of possible violations should be of great concern to the citizens of Petaluma.

Both the existence of a majority voting bloc and the problems which could arise from Brown Act investigations are excellent reasons to consider the non-incumbent candidates for the Petaluma City Council. The easy way to vote is just to look for “incumbent.” Instead, please take a close look at all the candidates before you vote.

Ron Chestnut

Petaluma

Vote for change

EDITOR: Is the city of Petaluma any better off than it was four years ago, less congested, city streets easier to travel, less disruption to the Petaluma River? You have seen nothing yet.

You have the incumbents on the City Council to thank for this and it’s only going to get worse. Did you know that a 180 unit apartment complex is planned on Graylawn Avenue near the Lucky Store where the only exit is onto Payran Street and it is being built beside the banks of the upper Petaluma River? Did you know that a 110 unit residential subdivision is planned at the corner of Corona and North McDowell, turned down by Planning and overruled by the City Council. What is the point of having a Panning Commission if they are ignored and overruled?

I could go on and on but you get the idea. Petaluma can not afford to have these incumbents in office for another four years. Go to the website cityofpetaluma.org/departments/planning and click on the block that says Major Projects. Check it out for yourself.

We need to stop this over-development in high density areas to protect the Petaluma River and ease traffic. The incumbents on the City Council ballot will do nothing of the sort. Remember to vote out Healy, Kearney and Miller on Nov. 3.

Judi Allewelt

Petaluma

Weird weather

EDITOR: It’s 1 p.m. on Sept. 10, and I just turned on my heater.

Yep, heater on. I’m bundled up yet feeling cold. I want to go outside and work in my downtown urban farm but the air quality is unhealthy. I’m actually sleepy.

It’s vital that I do something creative to hoist my energy level. There must be something about the moisture adhering to the particulate matter in the air that causes a different type of refraction of light throwing me and others off of their sleep cycle and certainly rattling a feeling of well being and safety, along with all the other rubbish we’re sifting through.

Christine Kierstead Sheeter

Petaluma

Waning political discourse

EDITOR: Those of us in the middle 75% on the political spectrum usually have reasons for not vocalizing our political views. Some run businesses. Others simply do not desire to argue. Then there is “splatter.” Surely there are other reasons as well.

I have held it in long enough. The left and the right of the political spectrum have poisoned our democracy. Absolutely, you have a right to your own views but riots masquerading as demonstrations, shouting down people trying to express different points of view are not a democracy at work.

Elected officials are too scared out of their wits to bring these extremists under control and our culture lacks systematic peer pressure as well. All of this has made the middle of the spectrum positively sick. I am sorry but it is sick of your failure at self-control.

The political spectrum within Petaluma used to be easy going with some folks involved with the various commissions and schools. Lay-back or funky seemed to describe Petaluma. Not anymore.

It seems that every issue has its extremists who are hard set against the very essence of democracy, namely compromise. They will not even allow legitimate verbalizing of opposing points of view. They show up as crowds in order to intimidate or overrun City Council. They march in our streets, and thank goodness, no rioting. But yelling at passing cars is not making any points except to turn people off. And, boy have you turned people off.

Government response to COVID-19 has greatly stoked these anti-democratic fires. Officials make orders, with penalties, out of health recommendations. We have imported the ugliness of Communist East Germany into Sonoma County. It has been done by establishing a COVID-19 snitch hotline and a budget of $600,000 that could have been spent re-surfacing roads.

The term “Karen” and “Becky” are new words representing a caricature of Gestapo wannabe men and women. And despite “…defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic...” pledges, nobody is doing that. And without leaders doing their duty in government, our democracy is in a sickening spiral downward.

Richard Brawn

Petaluma

Barnacle, Pocekay, Wallack for Council

EDITOR: Wednesday morning, I woke to a dystopian sight. Instead of sunshine or fog, everything was bathed in an orange glow — the glow of sun trying to break through heavy smoke. I was sad, even heartbroken. I thought of the birds and other animals who cannot go indoors to escape the smoke. I thought of the trees and other plants, which are suffocating with the soot coating their leaves, their source of energy and oxygen.

What are we doing to our planet? We haven’t paid attention to the warning signs, and we haven’t taken the kinds of action that are needed. We have not treated our mortally ill home (planet) with the urgency needed. And now our own lives are at risk.

What does this have to do with Petaluma? Didn’t we declare a Climate Emergency? Didn’t we create a Climate Action Commission?

The Climate Action Commission is a good idea, but it has little power over a City Council majority (Mike Healy, Gabe Kearney, Kathy Miller, and Dave King), who constantly vote as a bloc.

Wishful thinking seems to dominate their decisions, ignoring the data of the recent past as regards climate change, and insisting that flood plains and river corridors do not exist where, in fact, they do. We were told the Auto Mall and then the Factory Outlet Mall would not flood, but they did flood. The City Council was warned, but they ignored the warnings.

When will the City Council start to pay attention to the good citizens who earnestly research issues and carefully prepare their comments, only to be gaslighted after hours of testimony?

Fortunately there is an answer to that question. The City Council will start to pay attention to the community when the community decides that it no longer needs the three reactionary incumbents who are up for election, and chooses to elect three new council members who know how to listen and who have dedicated their lives to the well-being of the community. Who are they?

Barnacle, Pocekay, Wallack. It is time to plan for the future.

Beverly Alexander

Petaluma

Pocekay for Council

EDITOR: Like everyone else, I have no idea what the "new normal” will bring after the virus lets us have our lives back. What I know is, with or without the pandemic, we must have qualified, informed, caring people in government that holds our trust and looks out for our best interests, from Petaluma to D.C.

Here in Petaluma, we have a wonderful opportunity to elect someone to city council who’s qualified, informed, and caring. I support Dr. Dennis Pocekay’s run for city council because he is prepared to address a number of issues, including the future of the fairgrounds, development in environmentally sensitive areas, city finances, the general plan, and more that will define Petaluma for decades to come.

I urge you to vote on Nov. 3 and to vote for Dr. Pocekay. To learn more about Dr. Pocekay, please visit his website at www.pocekayforcouncil2020.com

Harley Christensen

Petaluma

Barnacle for Council

EDITOR: As a resident of Petaluma Estates mobile home park, I began to attend city meetings last fall because I was concerned about the ill-conceived plan to build single family homes at Corona and North McDowell. This would be a housing development “for families” but one lacking adequate places for children to play and without a plan for safe access and crosswalks.

Although the Planning Commission repeatedly rejected the project, it was finally approved because council members Healy, Kearney, Miller and King were more aligned with the wishes of the developer. It took a lawsuit to bring the project to a halt.

The meetings are where I first heard Brian Barnacle speak. He always supported the adjoining SMART station but argued against the design of the housing project. He presented ways in which the development could make our community more livable. I was disturbed because its developer was asking the city for a deviation from the zoning in the General Plan, at the same time our City has embarked on an update to the Plan that will bring it up to current standards, plan for both today and tomorrow, and embrace the vision expressed by our community.

The location is zoned for Multi-Use, which allows both commercial and residential use, meaning a development of housing plus a place where I might walk across the street to meet a friend for coffee, pick up some milk and fresh produce, walk there instead of driving. Just think of it, small businesses offering everyday services within walking distance of where people live. A real neighborhood.

We need people at City Hall who can make it possible, and Brian Barnacle should be part of it. He has the knowledge and he cares. I see his commitment to help make Petaluma a city that works for all, and I urge everyone to vote for him for City Council.

Nancy Mosk

Petaluma

Barnacle for Council

EDITOR: Of all the things we need for a more resilient Petaluma, at the top of my list is change on the City Council. We need new voices, voices backed by vision and experience to look and plan ahead, not back. People who don’t just say they believe in climate change, but people who actually work hard every day to guard against climate change. Our Council needs leaders, not followers, leaders who make a difference and work for all of us, not just some of us.

As I look out my window, or try to this week, I am humbled by the forces of nature. It’s hotter than normal, dryer than normal, and far more fires than normal, but definitely not normal. We can’t just sit back and blithely say, “this is the new normal.” We can’t accept that this is the new normal.

We need leaders who will help us fight for a livable normal, reduced traffic congestion for cleaner air, safer streets so we can walk and bike, energy security to protect us from rolling black outs. We need a "climate champion" to quote 350 Bay Area Action, “a civic leader to lead climate-positive initiatives and support action-oriented policies.”

Brian Barnacle is that person. Please join me in electing Brian Barnacle to our City Council. We need his voice, we need his leadership, and we need his experience in clean energy to help put the right policies in place in order for our City be livable well into the future.

Beverly Schor

Petaluma

Wallack for Council

EDITOR: As a parent I am constantly reminding my children to "be kind" — to the Earth, to each other, to folks they meet on the street. The focus on kindness is what attracts me to Lizzie Wallack's candidacy for Petaluma City Council.

Lizzie is passionate about inclusion, and making all folks welcome is one of the most basic kindnesses we can bestow on one another. I feel confident that given the opportunity, Lizzie will help create an inclusive community by listening to the voices and needs of all Petalumans and advocating for all of us, including those marginalized by society. I hope to have her voice speak up in the halls of our city government soon.

Lily Kreimer

Petaluma

Putting out fires

EDITOR: Home. Alone. Indoors. Slight headache from the smoke that has crept in. But with deadly windstorms in Iowa, hurricanes in Louisiana, and fires throughout the West, I’m lucky.

And 2021 won’t be better, unless we get busy reducing our CO2 emissions.

Fortunately, we know how to do this. We should plant more trees, install solar, drive electric, and create more bike lanes, but none of these actions is as immediate and effective as putting an ambitious price on carbon polluters. HR 763, if enacted by the US Congress, is expected to drive down carbon emissions 40% in the first 12 years and 90% by 2050.

Sure, fossil fuel companies will try to pass the cost of a carbon fee on to consumers, but HR 763 distributes the collected fees back to households: you’ll get a monthly check. Yes, you could use it to offset a higher price at the pump and carry on as usual, but you could also choose to move toward a new energy future, with your own bike, or solar, or EV.

As Arctic explorer Robert Swan says, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

HR 763 puts us all on the climate action team. Ready to join? Tell your members of Congress you want to see a price on carbon pollution. (And don’t tell me they won’t listen: it’s our job to get louder.)

Mary E. Davies

Petaluma

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