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Letters to the Editor, Aug. 22 -24


EIRs don’t approve projects

EDITOR: According to at least one reader (“Hotel Foes Should Accept Measure B Results,” Aug. 4), now that the EIR for the downtown hotel nears completion, we need no longer talk about the project, we simply need to vote it into place. The EIR is a standard format document, the same one used in any Sonoma-size city with a building project. The EIR is not the decider in these matters, it is a tool to help. Elected and appointed officials make that final decision.

The EIR provides much useful information, but there are many things that it cannot provide and that only humans can, like wisdom, such as measurement against other more pressing needs, longtime effect on the character of our town and conflicts with local imperatives. That’s why we have a City Council and a Planning Commission, to represent the legitimate goals of the people who elected or appointed them, whether or not they are popular or mechanically correct.

To be clear, I do not oppose this hotel project, I object to it at the present location, steps from our beloved Plaza. Were it planned for Broadway and MacArthur for example, I would support it.

Larry Murphy

Sonoma

Agendize this!

EDITOR: Suddenly it is clear that our elected leaders are trapped and rendered impotent by their predecessors’ resolution to reign in the City Council agenda. All of their individual campaign promises, all of their individual ambitions are muted because they have no ability to individually affect the agenda. There is no debate because you have to convince a quorum of your colleagues, without violating the Brown Act, that your cause is worthy of debate before you can debate. They cannot even discuss undoing the trap without convincing a quorum of colleagues, again, without violating the Brown Act.

Despite this, every month the agenda is full, staff reports are written and the business of the city government churns on with the occasional juicy bit bubbling up for the electeds to deal with. Whose agenda is it anyway? Where do these agenda items come from? Who is directing the traffic? Councilmember Cook says the agenda is set by Council goals; we have never seen leaf blowers or pink doors in the Council goals. Most of this is just a distraction, fluff, slight of hand and pretty colors to keep the dullards occupied while the real agenda is carried on out of sight.

The City commissions are not yet constrained by these rules, still, their agendas stay full as well; plenty of business to do. As chair of a City commission for seven years I can tell you first hand how hard it is to get items on the agenda, even without the Council’s self-imposed trap; especially when that agenda does not align with the plans of those who are being directed to help prepare for the discussion or bear the results of the debate.

Many, many times over my eight years as a commissioner, and seven as chair, I watched the City squirm as bold ideas are raised that may result in change, dodge commissioners’ requests, refuse to answer direct questions, omit items from the agenda after repeated requests and delay responses for months until either forgotten or the citizen/commissioner moved on for lack of being able to affect anything they wanted to do when appointed.

This was echoed by Councilmember Edwards who stated that his first two years on the Council were dominated by leaf blowers; why wasn’t the debate ended so he could get on to what he was elected to do?

If this resistance to citizen oversight and citizen agenda-setting happens at lower levels, what is happening at the Council level with these resolutions that keep debate from coming to the dais?

It is clear without control and oversight what the government will do; the City of Sonoma has already admitted to fleecing the citizens of out of millions and millions of dollars (“City of Sonoma Plugs Water Fund Leak,” July 18), and this was found with the scantest, fleeting information.

Despite the admitted malfeasance, the Council cannot seem to act, most having been neutered by their own rules. As Councilmember Agrimonti admitted Monday, Amy Harrington is the only one that can get anything on the agenda. Fight on Amy!

The tail wagging the dog must stop. Take control of the agenda, take control of the debate. There are many parliamentary tools available to control the agenda, start, control or end the debate that does not surrender citizens’ power to the bureaucrats.

Chris Petlock

City of Sonoma Taxpayers’ Association

Flags, for all of us

EDITOR: Not one of us, unless American Indian, isn’t either descended from an immigrant (which includes “colonialists”!) or, a first-generation immigrant native born or legally naturalized. What has been constituted as the United States of America – what we have – has been and is a union of all the literatures, labors, are, music, food and family cultures of us all.

The flag flying free above this author’s modest home property, besides its owner’s cultural heritage, embodies living contributions to the halcyonic agricultural and tourist area it encompasses, while embracing incontrovertible belief in the basic principle upon which our material nation is founded – that all human being are created equal…

It’s not easy being us, because of what we have been caused to learn: that there is a continuous enlightening progression in the histories of humankind’s civilizations on this globe. “Empire” through “empire” – ascent through descent; dynastically monarchical to republic – time has wrought that we know what truly it is, to belong to one human family – not simply to a material piece of the globe; to fundamental moral and ethical principles of human conduct, and beliefs established and followed upon a piece of it.

We hear much lip service given to our being at a historical moment in time; but do we understand, clearly, that we are at the precipice of our own mutual ongoing history? Not only honor in their joining of beliefs in the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” under a government for and by its people: individuals emanating from around the earth for whom citizenship wears no ethnicities. As part of the greatest unification of state and peoples, we further dream not only of multiple such flags, but of yet another – one that shows all parts of earth from which our Union has drawn and continues to draw. (It, however, would need to be a size accommodable only by our national Capitol’s dome!)

Tosca Lenci

Sonoma