Loading...

ISSUES

Having met with or listened to the other fine folks running for the office, I decided that I will offer the voters of the Fifth District an additional choice. Among the issues I’m concerned about:

Sonoma County Pensions “OPT OUT”

I will “opt out” of the County retirement benefits (savings $61921/year), as my friend Supervisor Gorin has done. None of the other elected members of local city councils, State Assembly, or Senate get the retirement benefit they vote on for employees. I think this is a conflict and I would support all future elected Sonoma County officials get Social Security. I would invite the other candidates to join me.

Intergenerational Equity

Our local governments are failing to provide for the basic services needed by the taxpaying citizens of Sonoma County. They are becoming increasingly incapable of providing for the roads, the education, the social and mental health services, the public safety, and all the other services that were once provided for generations before.

Sonoma County and the City of Santa Rosa, the two main local governments responsible for most of our services, are in the midst of the worst fiscal disaster in history. This is because in 2003, the Board of Supervisors and the Santa Rosa City Council (including newly arrived, former SR Councilwoman Noreen Evans), approved a 50% retroactive unfunded increase in pension benefits for the first wave of retiring Baby Boomers. Thousands of employees retiring before this increase received nothing; no increase, and most have not received a Cost of Living Adjustment since.

This decision is the worst breach of Sonoma County officials’ fiduciary obligations and responsibilities since the County was incorporated in 1850. It jeopardized future pensions of not only the 2000 employees retired before 2003, and the next generation of Millennials and GenExer’s who are contributing now, but also the retiring Boomers themselves.

We’ve seen a corresponding five-fold increase in retirement costs, with corresponding cuts in schools, social programs, roads and infrastructure. Without the resources needed to tend to the most vulnerable among us, our communities have become Zombielands, with homeless shuffling the streets.

There is a 25% reduction in the County’s work force, as most of the departments have been gutted, with retiring or rehiring. All the impact fees and many special assessments have increased dramatically becoming an impediment for business and job creation. As the more experienced employees retire, with a loss of the institutional memory of how to serve the people, we no longer have the funds to provide the next generations with jobs, and are no longer able to provide desperately needed essential services.

The next human rights movement, just like the Suffragettes and the Civil Rights movements of the 20th Century, is for Intergenerational Equity. This is the concept that one generation should not be allowed to burden the next generations unduly, for benefits they’ve given themselves, without funding them.

As Sonoma County’s Fifth District Planning Commissioner and former member of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, I’ve worked hard to protect diverse communities, improve health services & schools, and develop affordable housing and infrastructure with fiscally responsible and affordable solutions. I have been a leading advocate of sustainable pension reform and will continue to explore solutions. To be truly effective, I need your vote.

General Fund $’s

I support using General Fund $’s to reduce permit fees and increase staffing at Permit and Resource Management Department. Presently PRMD is almost fully funded by permit fees, which are not enough to do the job, they are overwhelmed without enough staff. We need to reduce many of the impact fees as well, some of which are double to comparable jurisdictions, and have become an impediment toward creation of affordable housing and business development.

If we can reduce the long delays in obtaining permits for many projects, we will see an increase in the tax base sooner, thus increasing the tax base and property taxes. Time is money, getting projects started sooner than later creates more jobs, economic opportunity and tax revenues.

When property owners want to fix public roads in Napa County, they waive the fee for an encroachment permit, and say thank you, we are grateful for you fixing our roads. In Sonoma County encroachment permits to fix public roads can be quite limited and expensive. I support allowing property owners to fix their own roads with licensed contractors that have the proper insurance and are knowledgeable in traffic control and road work.

Housing

There is a tremendous amount of unutilized housing in Sonoma County (with average household size at historic lows in many areas). Many of our West County villages have lost population over the last 20 years, becoming “gentrifying gerontocracies”, where the only people able to afford to buy are older retirees, pricing out younger workers and families. We need to encourage diverse communities with housing for young and old alike.

I would support and encourage the creation of Accessory Dwelling Units, with adequate parking, water, septic/sewer, in existing owner occupied residences throughout the County, with zero impact fees and reduced permit costs. Possibly low interest loans for converting existing bedrooms into small apartments. We need more rentals and housing opportunities for people that work in our communities, who’s children attend local schools, who volunteer at local fire departments, rather than corresponding long commutes from Santa Rosa, to jobs throughout the District. We are making new housing and apartments too expensive to build with impact fees and hook-up charges (many fees equal to the costs of large estate homes).

I am opposed to increased TOT (transient occupancy tax) taxes, and any other tax measures at this time, I don’t think the voters would approve any tax increases, until we get a better handle on the Sonoma County budget. Also opposed to rent control, this will further discourage development of new rental housing, and just the mention of the possibility encourages landlords to raise rents.

The number one reason we don’t have enough rentals in Sonoma County is the policies of Sonoma County. Our local government is at cross purposes with the stated goal of more affordable housing. We have these onerous affordable housing fees that make housing less affordable, and in turn we use the “Affordable Housing fees”, to build $400,000 one bedroom apartments in large complexes. I support reducing affordable housing fees and using the remainder to incentivize homeowners in creating Accessory Dwelling Units.

Environment

I believe in private property; that owners should be allowed to do what they want within certain parameters. And by and large, most landowners and farmers in Sonoma County practice good stewardship of their lands. What we need is for people to keep their private property on their land, and not allow it to go into the watershed. Likewise with chemicals and fertilizers; by the use of best practices, anything used on one’s land should remain on their land. We need to protect the commons; especially important are the riparian buffers along our beloved waterways.

I support the use of open space resources, along with other resources, to incentivize private landowners to work with the public in protecting the commons and preserving and enhancing the riparian. Many of our waterways are clogged with vegetation making it impassable for anadromous fish migrations. More cost effective means need to be utilized to clear and maintain these waterways, with replanting shade trees and removing non-native species.

Toward the goal of protecting our River, Coast, and public areas, we need to use government more as a Convener; leveraging our resources more effectively with combined efforts of volunteers, non-profits, faith based, and private businesses. Incredible progress is being made with the Stewards of the Coast & Redwoods as well as the amazing efforts of Russian Riverkeeper.

How about doing something with the State Life Guard in concert with local surfers to help safeguard our visitors along the Coast? The State Parks can’t even maintain the restrooms along the Coast. One idea is to allow businesses to pay a common service and let them put a little placard on the restroom.

It is time to think creatively and reinvent the way our local government works.

Social Services

In order to prevent unsupervised homeless camps, with large amounts of waste and trash, along our Rivers and streams, we need to provide supervised and safe alternative camps near all of our communities. There needs to be alternative, less expensive means of housing, instead of County jail or honor farm. Provide work for some homeless, if they’re able, toward restoration of our streams and waterways, cleaning up communities, etc.

We need to work with the Sheriff’s Department and public safety, with additional private security, working with community volunteers, with seamless communication and other technological improvements (cameras). Minneapolis has a very successful example “Project Safezone“.

Your contributions make a difference!