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City elections — better than Netflix

Posted on September 22, 2018 by Bob Edwards

With Labor Day behind us, the curtain is rising on another season of the award-winning drama series, “City Council Elections.”

 Candidates and Residents alike may want to take note that City Council’s record of accomplishment periodically attracts the attention of leading academics and Nobel Laureates.  Rumors are that the World Economic Forum imay invite our Council, en banc, to lecture on a metaphysical question that has stumped philosophers since time immemorial: Can an elected body become so dysfunctional as to be unable to intentionally make a mistake?

Such an opportunity could put our little town on the cutting edge of governance by demonstrating how to achieve perfection through the simple act of missing the point.

As Council continues to set aspirational goals without the funding to achieve them, or ways to tell if they have been achieved, many problems facing our community may not be incorrectly solved before they leave office.

Here’s a quick review of things that Councils past and present have intensely not accomplished in just the last few years:

  •  Enacting a minimum wage ordinance
  • Deciding to study whether to enact a minimum wage ordinance
  • Deciding whether to study how to solve the traffic mess
  • Deciding whether there is a traffic mess and, if so, where
  • Deciding whether and how to fix the traffic mess if it decides there is one
  • Deciding whether to restricting tasting rooms
  • . . . the list goes on.

Make no mistake: such Zen-like detachment is not easy to maintain when constantly  distracted by More Important Matters, such as:

~ Issuing Proclamations

~ Draining money from the water department to plug leaks in the City budget

~ Hosting presentations by various groups on matters not pending before Council.  [“What We Did On Summer Vacation,” a PowerPoint by El Verano School’s 3rd grade, is rumored to be on the December agenda.]

~ Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, a patriotic tic with zero relevance to City business but with words easily memorized by the time one is elected to Council.

~ Waving in the 4th of July parade.

~ Attending regional meetings (with lunch), followed by show-and-tell reports at

future Council meetings.

~ Relinquishing millions in tax revenue to the Tourism Improvement District to spend on romancing tourists, in order to avoid the temptation to spend it on City residents.

~ Not asking the Open Space District for authority to decide whether to allow Dogs on the Montini trail, because the District might allow Council to decide whether to allow Dogs on the Montini trail.

~ Shuffling Farmers Market vendors, bands, etc., for reasons unrelated to the sale of fresh produce.

Such Profiles in Courage are a proud Sonoma tradition.  A few years ago, Council was deciding an appeal of a Planning Commission decision that had approved an EIR for the proposed W. Napa Street No-Name Hotel.  After lawyers meticulously and often truthfully debated, and as the decision deadline approached, the hotel’s developers agreed that the EIR needed more work. Council courageously pounced, upholding the appeal, 5-0.

Sometime thereafter, the Planning Commission erupted in resignations, triggering an internecine Council squabble over the mayor’s power to make appointments.  Council scrapped the process whereby the mayor filled commission vacancies from among vetted candidates. Each councilmember is now entitled to appoint one BFF, or Daffy Duck, to any City commission vacancy.

Per Council decree, tickets to this year’s drama are free to residents and non-residents alike, and, or course, completely non-refundable.

 

 



One thought on “City elections — better than Netflix

  1. Dear Mr. Edwards,
    Reading your article entitled “City Elections -better than Netflix” I both laughed and frowned. As a candidate in this “drama”, I agree it is very entertaining and for me educational. Having an MBA leads me to look at things from a certain perspective-an analytical perspective.
    For example; many people are happy to hear about a magical tax revenue that can create affordable housing for everyone that works in Sonoma. But I worry, because I know there is no such kind of income available. I also hear that the City Budget is so off that we should not spend any money at all until a through audit is done. However, there have been many audits in recent years and I am confident the information is there.
    I believe the people of Sonoma can handle the truth. We should be honest with them and make the hard choices that you talk about in your article.
    Here is my analysis of the situation:
    I did my homework. I reviewed all budget and projected financial reports. I met with City Manager Cathy Capriola last week. For the past 2 years the City financials have been audited. The situation not as bad as we thought but is not perfect. We need to work hard and spend thoughtfully.
    The city is just like a household. We have some income and expenses to make ends meet. If we don’t have wisely manage our financial resources, how can we run the city?
    Many people think the TOT tax is the magic bullet that will solve every problem. Per Cathy Capriola, any additional amount from increase on TOT tax is needed to eventually go to pension obligation under the city general fund in years to come. The city already has budgeted for certain things. For example:
    The government’s pension obligations, which will increase by 300% over the next 6-7 years. It is a government promise for retired police officers, firefighters and the city staff, because they earned it while they were working.
    The City manager and I agree, in the near future we will not have bankruptcy risk but we still face many challenges.
    Money is like blood and the city needs money circulating to be healthy. That is why I think we need to grow our economy and diversify/upgrade business structure. We must focus on government efficiency and effectiveness.
    Because you are right many people running for Sonoma City Council are talking about aspirational goals, that they will not be able to meet and it is all very exciting and entertaining. However, we have many important issues and problems that we can solve and address, that are being disregarded because some City Council members are trying to keep campaign promises they can’t keep.
    I think Sonomans are tired of all of the drama at the City Hall and want to have a City Council that can actually get things done in a technical way. They would rather get their excitement and drama from Netflix.
    Jack Ding

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