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What ever happened to elections?

EDITOR: Imagine if the Sonoma City Council were appointed by some government official instead of being elected by city residents?

That’s the situation we’re now facing in the Springs, and other unincorporated towns in Sonoma County.

On the surface, the Municipal Advisory Councils the Board of Supervisors is creating to provide local government input for unincorporated areas sound like they’ll provide a voice for residents. But the reality is, the model Sonoma County is using is anything but representative.

In many other counties, the members of the MAC truly represent their communities because they are elected. In Sonoma County, the MACs will be appointed by the area’s county supervisor. This allows a supervisor to have complete control of the situation and appoint individuals who will advance his/her particular agenda or point of view.

Also troubling is the fact there was no public, inclusionary process in the Springs, not even a community meeting, for all those interested in local governance to be able to give input into how we want to be represented.

Yes, elections cost money. But if the point is to give unincorporated residents a true voice in local government, then the MACs should be chosen via elections by the people they are supposed to represent.

Gina Cuclis

Springs

‘Drama in time’

“A city is more than a place in space, it is a drama in time”. – Patrick Geddes (1854 – 1932) pioneering Scottish town planner

Being unable to attend or watch the live stream of the special City Council meeting on July 19, I watched the recorded meeting on the City’s website. I watched it the day after the meeting and again two days later – all 2 hours 17 minutes and 30 seconds of it.

Patrick Geddes’s “drama in time” was very much on my mind as I watched the meeting.

This particular drama – Hotel Project Sonoma - has been running for five years. The cast of characters has grown and changed somewhat, but the core ensemble remains the same – the “credits” for this long in the tooth and tiresome show can be found on the signature page of the Appeal of the Planning Commission’s certification of the Hotel Project Sonoma Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

This small but dedicated band purports to speak for most if not all of our citizens. They don’t.

Over the five year run of their show, the naysayers have promulgated specious arguments against the hotel project – hazardous chemical contamination from the property’s former use as a newspaper printing plant (found to be groundless), alleged “piecemealing” of the project (found to be groundless), attempts to saddle the project with the green house gas impacts of the flights hotel guests take from their towns to visit Sonoma and stay at the hotel, etc. In other words - a lot of attempts to throw s**t at the wall hoping something sticks.

The naysayers are also adept at proactively refuting information from independent experts hired by the City to prepare the EIR. This is best demonstrated by the ramblings of their leader, Larry Barnett, in one of his more bizarre columns in the Sonoma Valley Sun posted on July 5.

While the naysayers come out in force to speak and write letters against things happening in town, I’ve yet to see them appear in an advocacy role for what they say they would like to see in Sonoma. Their channel is tuned to what they don’t want and why they don’t want it.

The naysayers use the need for affordable housing as a primary reason for their opposition to any project that’s not about affordable housing, but they have been conspicuously absent from the discussions of the SAHA project on Broadway and the apartment project on West Spain on the former Christmas tree lot.

Newer to this cast of characters are two of our City Council members doing their star turn in this dreary drama – Mayor Hundley and Councilmember Harrington. To be fair, they are both relatively new to Sonoma and to Council membership. They’ve not had the long time exposure others on Council have to the naysayers. The show might seem fresh to them. At least I hope that’s the reason for their demonstrated appreciation for and chumminess with the naysayers.

In the July 19 Council meeting, both Hundley and Harrington, seemed unclear on the issues at hand. The quantity and the quality of their questions revealed a startling lack of preparation – to the point I’m not sure they had read much of the pre-meeting material available to them.

As one of the members of the public said in the public comment period of the meeting, “This evening I lost some of the confidence I would have had that there was a complete understanding about all of the issues of this EIR on the part of the City Council members. Some of the questions that were asked and the way in which they were asked reflected not the kind of understanding that I’ve gotten over five years of reading these documents.”

Fortunately for our town, Councilmembers Agrimonti, Cook and Edwards were prepared on July 19. They’ve seen this show before and seem to agree that it’s time for its run to end.

Sue Simon

Sonoma

Hanna woes not a reflection on all staff

EDITOR: The recent op-ed Valley Forum column about Hanna Boys Center from James Lynch (“Redemption, Hope and Trust,” July 21), was both accurate and insightful. Having spent 25 years at the center and now retired, I witnessed firsthand the transformation of hundreds of troubled teens into responsible members of society. Success at Hanna isn’t guaranteed nor is it always instantaneous. In many cases, students return years later in early adulthood to express their gratitude to “staff.” Staff, you see, is the common denominator for success. Cottage workers, case workers, teachers, recreation staff, administration, kitchen, maintenance all working together, sometimes in harmony, to achieve a common goal. When one of these moving parts fails, as it did drastically in the alleged case of the clinical director, it should not be a reflection upon the countless members of “staff” who have served at the center. Nor should it be an indictment of the Center in general. Thank you for pointing out that Hanna deserves better.

Rita Bertini

Sonoma