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Let’s hold Petaluma leaders accountable

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Last week, the Argus- Courier polled its readers asking if they supported development on floodplains upstream of downtown. The result was a resounding “no.” Did we really need a poll to reinforce that Petaluma, an agriculture and green space-loving community, does not support paving over floodplains, damaging native species habitat, and putting thousands of residents and businesses in the downtown and Payran neighborhoods at risk?

Apparently so. Just days after the poll closed, the Argus published a hugely misleading op-ed from former Argus publisher and apparent political operative John Burns commending City Council members for trying to do just that — expedite development of the floodplain upstream of downtown and Payran.

The article commended council members Mike Healy, Kathy Miller and Dave King for their “quick thinking” to hold a public hearing. The purpose of the hearing was to expedite the development process and suggest in advance of seeing the developer’s proposal that the city would be open to concessions. Burns cited decade-old data, omitted the Argus’s recent statistics about public opinion, and failed to include key details. To say it was misleading is an understatement.

Burns also dismissed the point of view from the only council person present with a professional planning background because she is new to the Council (D’Lynda Fischer). Petaluma, maybe we need a new perspective. Perhaps we’d be better off if our city was run by professional planners instead of lawyers who’ve had their campaigns financed by developers and others from outside the community.

John, thanks for your opinion. Here is a different view.

Healy has been on the council since 1998 and Miller since 2012. Both Healy and Miller and Councilman Gabe Kearney are up for re-election in 2020. One of their hallmark issues has been the Rainier crossing. So, as year four goes by and again they fail to deliver on their hallmark promise, now is the time when they need to create a swirl, renew empty promises, and dupe the community into re-electing them. Insert Burns and the procession of surrogates that will surely follow.

Rather than commend their leadership, some contest that their decision making has been a major contributor to Petaluma’s decaying roads, increased traffic congestion, decreased levels of police service, tax increases, budget shortfalls, growing GHG emissions, and lack of affordable and market rate housing. For some in the community, this is the legacy of our longtime council members.

Over the next 10 months ineffective leaders will be trying to get re-elected. This happens at the local level just as it does at the state and federal levels. The City Council will be ramrodding bad projects through, trying to force new taxes on you, and trying to win your vote with opinion pieces and hollow promises. Pay attention and don’t get fooled.

Our traffic and roads are worse than ever. Our housing is hardly affordable. Our greenhouse gas emissions are increasing. The city is starting a six-month budget planning process because, at the current pace, we will be in the red by 2022.

These council members support building upstream of Payran and downtown, placing the entire Payran and downtown neighborhoods at risk of flooding. Does anyone remember how the 1995 Payran floods devastated our community? The council members probably do but will not let the safety and vitality of our community stop them from rubber-stamping bad projects.

And what is their solution to our decaying roads that we cannot afford to fix, budget issues, housing crisis, and climate emergency? You guessed it, they want to consume green space with new roads, subdivisions and oversized homes, increase your taxes, and continue to defer maintenance. Sounds like more of the same.

We have good reason to ask questions. Do they deserve four more years?

Yes, this is a harsh point of view. We do appreciate their service.

But their statements promoting regressive land use policies, funders, and blatantly misleading opinion pieces like Burns penned have caused members of the community concern. Their statements are benefiting their political objectives more than the community interests – and their falsehoods are left largely unchecked.

(Brian Barnacle was raised on a farm in Petaluma and is a current resident. He is a small business owner and a land use enthusiast.)

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