There will be representation for the Springs, and soon. First District Supervisor Susan Gorin is determined to bring to the Board of Supervisors a proposal to establish a Springs Municipal Advisory Council (MAC), representing Boyes Hot Springs, Fetters Hot Springs, Agua Caliente and El Verano before the end of the year.
The Springs area, with well over 20,000 residents, has as its sole representative in government the First District Supervisor, who also represents tens of thousands of others – from other unincorporated areas, the City of Sonoma and a large portion of incorporated Rincon Valley and Bennett Valley. If you live in the Springs and vote, you are one of 59,740 registered voters who can select your one supervisor every four years. If you vote in the City of Sonoma, you are one of 7,090 registered voters who select five council members, and you get to vote for the supervisor too.
Clearly, the Springs is egregiously underrepresented. Is it a coincidence it is also the subject of the “Hidden in Plain Sight” study that highlights the misery of this area?
The MAC initiative responds to long-held aspirations by some Springs community members for a stronger voice in local affairs, aspirations which many hope will culminate in incorporation. Springs leaders over the last thirty years have participated in successive bodies created to give a voice. These include grassroots groups – Verano Springs Association, Springs Task Force, and presently the Springs Community Alliance, which sadly has not been successful in realizing the aspiration of its name; and officially-appointed groups – the defunct Redevelopment Advisory Committee and the current Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Committee (SVCAC). The Springboard business group is a hybrid, created by La Luz with county blessing, to bring local business owners together.
The basic goal of any MAC is to provide better representation for areas that do not have their own local government. However, as Supervisor Gorin has recently noted, a MAC is “not exactly government.” She defines it as an opportunity to create a formal way to work on issues of local concern, to organize local interested parties, and to establish a communications channel between citizens, residents and county government. She expressed hope that the Springs MAC would be “the keeper of the community spirit.”
But what exactly is the “spirit” of the Springs? What is the “community”? Working class, Latino, and “Bohemian” neighborhoods. The walled-off Sonoma Mission Inn. Unconventional. Progressive. Artistic. Independent. Young families. Where the majority of the local workforce lives. Most Springs residents wouldn’t live anywhere else in the Valley, but many are struggling to afford it now.
So how will the seven members of this MAC be selected? By state design, MAC members can be elected or appointed, but Supervisor Gorin has announced that she will appoint this MAC. There is sentiment for members to be elected instead.
Gorin elaborated that she will include a member of the SVCAC (Springs members are already appointed by the supervisor), someone from the school district, and someone from the business community. So that leaves four at-large members. For this body to “represent the Springs” is a hefty challenge.
We endorse representation by several Latinos, to reflect the population of the area, and suggest that all those appointed be people who are living the challenges of the Springs. Kudos to Supervisor Gorin for this effort. We hope she creates a truly representative MAC.
–Sun Editorial Board