Brian Powell battled several illnesses earlier in his life, including Crohn’s disease, colon problems and failing lungs. Throughout his recovery, the Petaluma High School graduate taught himself healing techniques like how to eat better and think positively.
It’s a therapeutic message that he has shared with other sick people on a volunteer basis, and now Powell, a candidate for mayor, wants to heal Petaluma of what he sees as the ails of the city.
“People are being poisoned on a regular basis,” said Powell, 38. “My life’s work revolves around teaching people to be healthy. This community has become toxic.”
Powell, who can trace his roots in Petaluma back a century, pins many of the city’s current problems on what he sees as unchecked growth that has outpaced its infrastructure. He has called on a complete halt to new development.
It’s an extreme position that places him on the edge of the political spectrum of the other candidates running for Petaluma mayor and city council. Nor does it address calls for more affordable housing as many working families are priced out of the community.
“Petaluma was once a nice place, but what was nice is almost all gone,” Powell said. “The problem we have is we have too many people.”
A political newcomer, Powell has never run for public offices, and he does not have experience serving on city committees or nonprofit boards. He does not have a college degree. His grandfather, Philip Joerger, served on the Petaluma City Council and was elected to the county Board of Supervisors.
A father of an 11-year-old son, Powell volunteers as a youth sports coach and what he described as his own efforts to clean up litter around the city. For money, he said he does construction work.
Besides a freeze on development, Powell is campaigning to fix the city’s streets.
“A major issue is roads,” he said. “They need to be repaired. To do it right, we need to sit down and make a larger plan.”
A crusader for environmental health, he is opposed to spraying of pesticides in public parks and small cell phone towers in neighborhoods. He also wants to preserve the fairgrounds for the Sonoma-Marin Fair and the Petaluma Speedway.
“The fairgrounds is a staple of the community,” he said. “It needs to stay.”
He also wants to open a teen center and pledged to volunteer as a youth mentor. A former baseball player, he said he would like to attract a semi-pro baseball team to town to compete in the same league as the Sonoma Stompers.
Public safety is another of Powell’s top concerns. He said he would like to see the police department return to full staffing, and add more firefighters and an ambulance, although he did not articulate a plan to pay for these priorities. He said he would like to dedicate resources to tackling the opioid epidemic.
While fighting synthetic drugs, Powell draws a distinction with marijuana, which he compares to other garden-variety herbs and says should be readily available in Petaluma. He said the city “dropped the ball” with its first pass at a cannabis ordinance that outlaws dispensaries but allows two delivery services.
Instead, Powell’s plan calls for three brick-and-mortar dispensaries in the city along with delivery services and a wholesale distributor, capturing the sales tax from the industry and giving local consumers a choice.