Features ~ Sonoma Valley Sun


Reflections on the Redevelopment Advisory Committee

Posted on November 1, 2007 by Sonoma Valley Sun

It is hard to believe that four years have passed since I decided to throw my hat into the ring and run for the Resident Owner seat on the Springs Redevelopment Advisory Committee. I clearly remember feeling anxious and excited about making the decision to run. I didn’t know if I would be elected, but I really hoped I would. New to the neighborhood, I didn’t know who might vote for me. I was armed only with good intentions and a willingness to attend meetings, so I made this my unofficial campaign platform.

On election day, we had to make speeches to the very small crowd that had gathered to vote. When it was my turn, I stood in front of the group and my head immediately flushed scarlet. I don’t remember exactly what I said except, “I promise to show up at meetings.” Following the speeches, we all cast our ballots, and waited. My husband held my hand reassuringly.

Our first Springs Redevelopment manager was Brent Smith. He was conducting the election, and when the ballots had been counted he called Kathy McKenna Perry and I up to the front to talk to him. He took us outside. I felt like I had been pulled into the principal’s office under false pretenses. He told us that we had tied for the seat, and that he had an official way to resolve the issue, “coin toss,” he said. Okay. My first-ever election would be decided by a coin toss. I was actually quite pleased with the idea because I am, and always have been, a big fan of the coin toss. I think all disputes, disagreements and difficult decisions should be settled with a coin toss. The world would be a much more peaceful place. Anyway. I won the coin toss. As it turned out, even though the coin didn’t fall in her favor, Kathy Perry was appointed to a seat by Supervisor Valerie Brown, so everyone was a winner.

At the first-ever Springs Redevelopment meeting, the official business continued. We had to create a system of staggering the committee seats so that not everyone came up for election four years later. Brent had another official way of resolving this issue equally as entertaining as the tie-breaking coin toss. We drew pencil erasers out of a paper bag. Blue erasers earned a two-year seat, yellow erasers earned a four-year seat. My yellow eraser is still attached to the inside of my giant meeting binder. Every month when I open my binder, I am reminded of the beginning of our journey.

In the four years of committee meetings and a few additional sub-committee meetings, our group has seen the completion of several projects in The Springs, including the Bonfini affordable housing project, the new sheriff’s substation and the Springs’ Schools Initiative, to name a few. We have worked tirelessly on the Highway 12 improvement project that now promises to see construction begin next year, and we have created a strategic plan to address all of the challenges and opportunities that lay in the future of our neighborhoods.

I have a new-found respect for those who choose to serve the public both as paid staff and as volunteers. It isn’t easy to negotiate a way through the red tape of law, budgets and complicated nets of people and offices, but our public servants keep plodding along, moving forward in sometimes micro-steps. I have been proud to serve with a dedicated and passionate group of people including Rich Lee, Steve Cox, Kara Olness Reyes, Kathy McKenna Perry, Gay Kisbey, Rich Arendt and our newest member, Ryan Lely. When I was offered an opportunity to teach a class on Thursday nights, I had to search my soul for the right answer, and with elections around the corner, it seemed the right time for me to bow out.

I strongly encourage anyone living in the Springs to attend the public information meeting on Thursday, November 1, 6:30 p.m. at the Valley of the Moon Boys and Girls Club. Informational materials will be available including a map of the Project Area, a copy of the Project Plan’s Goals and Objectives, the procedures for formation and operation of the RAC and candidate declaration forms for election to the RAC. Following the November meeting, the election will be held on Thursday, December 6 at 7:00 p.m., (also at the B&G Club). There are three seats up for re-election: Business Operator, Residential Tenant and Residential Owner/Occupant.

Don’t miss out on a rare opportunity to directly, positively and permanently affect the community you live in now and in perpetuity. It’s not always easy work, but there is an overwhelming sense that what you contribute is important, and at the end of the day, or four years, you can look back and feel good about participating in your world in a meaningful way.

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