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Sonoma’s new City Council majority

Posted on January 19, 2019 by Sonoma Valley Sun

The addition of Logan Harvey to Sonoma’s City Council has shifted the council’s center of gravity to a more pro-government stance. Former council member Gary Edwards was reliably right-of-center, often arguing that “market forces” are more dynamic and workable than government planned solutions. He consistently argued against regulating tasting rooms on the Plaza, for example.

Edwards was often joined by council member David Cook in matters of policy and direction, and this meant that two of three votes needed for a conservative majority were often predictably available. Rachel Hundley and Amy Harrington generally took a more liberal, activist approach. Council member Madolyn Agrimonti frequently became a swing vote on split decisions, tilting the council towards one direction or the other.

 Logan Harvey is decidedly left-leaning in his thinking, and was elected on a platform generally supporting activist governance. Unless he changes his stripes, we expect a new council majority will strongly assert itself in 2019, leaving David Cook as the lone conservative advocate, and Madolyn Agrimonti’s vote of reduced impact.

Both Cook and Agrimonti beat a hasty exit from the building after the new majority named Harvey to the Vice-Mayor’s post, and for reasons not entirely clear, neither attended the first meeting of the reconstituted City Council in December. Both have been critical of recent council actions, directly and indirectly. Social media posts have been pointedly insulting and risk bringing rancor and discord into the public arena. Both Cook and Agrimonti have expressed frustration in the past with city staff, and the time it takes to get city business done. We sincerely hope that they will fully re-engage, and join the rest of the council members in good-will deliberations.

The City of Sonoma has a plateful of difficult and complicated issues needing resolution. Among these are: General Plan update, renewal of the Urban Growth Boundary, funding and planning for affordable housing, following through on climate protection measures, tasting rooms on the Plaza, cemetery deficits, development lawsuits, traffic circulation and pedestrian safety, and pension funding. Now is the time for serious deliberation and action.

We’ve not been impressed with the past council’s deliberative process. While each council member has been capable of giving their opinion, there’s been a notable absence of real debate, in which one council member presents his or her reasoning and challenges the opinion of others. Accordingly, few minds have been changed and council meetings often appeared to be little more than the expression of opinions formed prior to the meeting.

The City Council should be a venue of rigorous discussion and debate, where a spirit of open-mindedness and curiosity prevails. Leaders can then bring townspeople to higher levels of understating on complicated issues. It is through a truly deliberative process that sound and workable policy can emerge. Positions that are molded by clearly stated assumptions supported by principled values, show the public what is at stake. Whether left or right of center, each council member should be prepared to back opinions with their understanding of the facts, and not simply deliver a monologue that does not respond fully to the host of views and positions held by each other and the public.

It remains to be seen whether the current council is ready to grapple with taking the reins of government and properly leading and steering our city into the future.

 



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