Big shoes to fill
Valerie Brown's decision not to seek re-election to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors opens a gaping hole in the political landscape of the Sonoma Valley. There are already declared candidates rushing to fill that hole and, without question, more will follow now that Brown has stepped aside.
And, with the redrawn district lines embracing more of southern Santa Rosa, the candidate mix may very well include at least one name from the county seat with high visibility and a built-in population base.
It's going to be an interesting contest, and a long one, and whoever rises to the top will have some big shoes to fill - literally, politically and geographically. We're not sure that will be easy.
Valerie Brown has become a Sonoma Valley institution. She has matriculated from City Council member and mayor to state legislator and then county supervisor. Along the way, she has made many friends, some enemies and established a record as a smart, politically-sophisticated, widely respected and increasingly well-connected voice of and for the Sonoma Valley. When Valerie goes to Sacramento and Washington, D.C., she knows who to talk to and they listen. Her tenure as president of the National Association of Counties helped position her in the mainstream of policy-making and contributed to her selection by President Obama to serve on the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health. Brown's leadership on local initiatives to address climate change and her promotion of the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program have also won national attention.
That kind of experience and judgment takes years to acquire and we don't expect whoever replaces Brown to walk as tall as she does. Meanwhile, she still has 17 months before her term is over and we're glad, in this fiscally and politically challenging time, that she'll be with us that much longer.
One of the greatest challenges facing local government, as far into the future as most of us can currently see, is the crippling impact of budget cuts on education. For a state that once led the nation and the world, California has fallen far from educational grace. And as long as we insist on refusing to raise more public money (read taxes) to teach our children, we're going to have to do it privately (read philanthropy and volunteers).
One of the first requirements in rebuilding educational achievement is understanding the current state of our schools - their strengths and weaknesses, their successes and failures, the steps we can take as a community to help them meet their full potential.
Which is why we are launching the Our Schools page, with the impetus and support of the Vadasz Family Foundation, school superintendent Louann Carlomagno, the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation and a number of other Valley nonprofits and concerned individuals, prominently including Our Schools coordinator Lorna Sheridan.
And while the page is a collaborative effort, it will be an independent source of information, not dictated by the district or any other interest group. We welcome your contributions to it.