Far many, the passing of 2017 is a relief, but we’ve survived the test of fire and now look ahead to what 2018 will bring.
The top of the list is rain; December was nearly bone-dry, and reminds us of how precious drinking water is and how vulnerable we are to its loss and expense. Speaking of expense, our entire region, Sonoma Valley and the City of Sonoma, is going to have to cope with water-rate-sticker-shock this year. The Valley of the Moon Water District is already moving ahead with its revised water rates, and for the average user, the price will be going up. State laws dictate how utilities like water agencies set rates and spend revenues; the formula may seem lop-sided but until the laws are changed (if ever) that’s the world we live in.
Speaking of water agencies, the City of Sonoma has yet to change its water rates and with each passing month may be violating state law. It’s alleged millions of dollars in revenues transferred to the General Fund was improperly removed from the Water Fund; when resolved, will the Sonoma ratepayers get a refund? Time will tell.
Time will also bring elections in November of this year. The City Council will have three seats up for election, and it’s unclear at this time if Mayor Agrimonti, Rachel Hundley and Gary Edwards will run again. Candidates are already testing the waters and we expect it will be an interesting campaign. Will local developers heavily fund pro-development candidates? Will this be the most expensive election in City of Sonoma history?
Cannabis use is now legal in California, but it can’t be purchased at any outlet located in the City of Sonoma. The reason, of course, is because the city has not, to date, allowed pot to be sold at retail within the city limits. Meanwhile, other communities, like Sebastopol and Cotati, have long-before embraced the THC revolution and now find themselves prepared to enjoy the tax windfall the City of Sonoma resists. We find it ironic that the city cries “tight budget” all the time but misses obvious tax opportunities such as cannabis provides.
Speaking of the city’s tight budget, it looks to us like more and more of what once was done by City Hall is being outsourced. Even minute-taking now seems to be too much for our “over-burdened” staff; City Council minutes have been six-months late in availability to the public, and it now costs taxpayers $125/hour for an outside contractor to watch the meeting tapes and generate minutes. We can’t help but wonder, does it require the City Clerk’s full attention to manage the public’s three-minute timer at meetings?
Technology was supposed to make things easier for the citizens, but it looks to us that the opposite is true; navigating and searching for information online has gotten more difficult and tedious than ever. The computer revolution was supposed to bring transparency bus has been, so far, a failure. In fact, coping with technology is now government’s greatest excuse for not getting things done. It makes us pine…not for 2017, but for 1957, when good old-fashioned paper and pencils seemed to work just fine.
– Sun Editorial Board