Rachel Hundley, who announced in December her plans to step down in early 2021, made her resignation from the Sonoma City Council official today by submitting a formal letter to the city clerk.
The term, her second, expires in 2022. The Council must now fill the vacant seat by appointment or by calling a special election.
In the resignation letter (full text below), Hundley does not delineate the specific reasons she reached this point of frustration, instead thanking city staff, and urging more public involvement and engagement in the governing process.
“Sometimes progress comes with an undertow beneath the surface—seemingly dragging away the hard-spent time and energy invested into making our system better,” she wrote, alluding to the tension and hostility on the council this past year or so.
Her language in a December video, in which she announced her plans to resign and concentrate on her law career, was much more direct.
“Unfortunately, the city council has continued down a path of reckless and, at times, disturbing actions to settle personal scores, grant favors, and elevate only themselves,” Hundley said then. “I don’t have the stomach for it anymore.”
In Monday’s letter, Hundley concludes that the City Council has not served the City as well as it could these last two years. “It is easy to become cynical and to assume there is not hope for something better,” she said. “There is always hope—and more than that, there is always a possibility of doing better. Like all of our governments, city government belongs to its people. Perhaps it is time for the people of Sonoma to start expecting more from their elected officials.”
TEXT OF LETTER FROM RACHEL HUNDLEY TO CITY OF SONOMA
Pursuant to subdivision (c)(2) of Section 1770 of the Government Code, I hereby resign from the City Council of the City of Sonoma.
Please convey to the employees of our City that it has been a pleasure working with you all these past six years. Although it saddens me to think I will no longer have the opportunity to work for our City as a member of its governing body, I look forward to continuing in my relatively new career as a public law attorney specializing in municipalities and special districts where I have the privilege of advising elected officials and employees of other local government agencies.
When I first ran for our City Council, I was a newcomer to this area who simply wanted to be more involved in my new community. Like many others in town, I did not think I would be successful in the 2014 election. That unexpected victory sent me on a path towards gaining a deeper understanding of city government, local politics, and the Sonoma community. I have learned that “progress” happens like the cyclical waves of the ocean. Sometimes it comes with crashing force. Other times it is so subtle that it is hard to notice unless you have been standing on the beach watching the tide come in. And sometimes progress comes with an undertow beneath the surface—seemingly dragging away the hard-spent time and energy invested into making our system better.
The last year (or two) has been especially challenging for our City, yet I remain hopeful that our talented City staff—and the inevitable churn of residents who hold the seat of City Council Member—will lead us toward new seasons of positive change and progress. At the end of the day, a “city” is bigger than any of its individual components, including its elected officials. I am honored to have been a small part of the beneficial advances our City has made these last six years, both internal and external.
To the public, I implore you to pay attention to what happens within your local governments— including the City and County. Coinciding with the declination of our City Council over the last two years has been a steady decline in third-party vigilance and provision of information to the public. By “third party,” I mean our newspapers. If you have relied on the Sonoma Index Tribune as a primary source of information about what is happening within our City and community, then you are grossly underinformed.
Especially during this time when it would be irresponsible to meet in person, watching and participating in our City government has never been easier. Across California, many cities have seen public participation increase with the introduction of video meeting platforms. Many other cities similarly saw robust local elections last November. In Sonoma, however, public participation has been at an all-time low, and we saw our first uncontested election since 2008.
Perhaps the pandemic has been so much of a challenge that we do not have the capacity to give our attention to local government. Perhaps it was the constant parade of heartbreak and disgust exuding from the federal administration over the last four years. Whatever the reason, I hope the members of the public who do have time to watch our City Council meetings and follow closely an issue or two that inspires them will do so. If the last four years have taught us anything about government, it is that we can take nothing for granted.
The City Council has not served the City as well as it could these last two years. It is easy to become cynical and to assume there is not hope for something better. There is always hope—and more than that, there is always a possibility of doing better. Like all of our governments, city government belongs to its people. Perhaps it is time for the people of Sonoma to start expecting more from their elected officials.
I wish great success to our City, and I look forward to my new role as a participating member of the public.
Very Truly Yours,