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November ballot takes shape for Sonoma

The City of Sonoma announced this week that official nomination papers for candidates desiring to run for the two seats on the City Council will be available on Monday, July 13. Candidates for the two seats will join four city initiatives on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The two city council seats coming up for four-year terms are currently held by David Cook, nearing the end of his second term, and Amy Harrington, nearing the end of her first. While running for 1st District Supervisor in 2020, Cook said he would not be seeking a third term on the council. He lost his challenge to Susan Gorin in that race.

“I’m holding to my word and I will not be running for re-election,” said Cook. “I believe in term limits – I want other people to step up and take that seat and ‘do good.’”

Harrington was on vacation the week of July 6-10, and unavailable for comment. But Jack Ding, a member of the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission and a candidate for a council seat in 2018, announced on Facebook he would again be a candidate in this year’s election.

People interested in filing must be a U.S. citizen, 18 years of age on or before Election Day and a registered voter of the City of Sonoma at the time nomination papers are issued, and shall continue to reside in the City of Sonoma during the term of office. Papers will be accepted at the City Hall through Aug. 7, 2020, during regular business hours, by appointment only.

‘I believe in term limits – I want other people to step up and take that seat and ‘do good.’“ - David Cook

Four local ballot measures will be on the City of Sonoma general election ballot.

Among the measures is a renewal of the City of Sonoma half-cent sales tax, which needs two-thirds voter approval; the tax narrowly passed in 2012, 67.1 percent to 32.9. According to the city, the five-year sales tax extension would “provide funding for essential services such as police, fire and emergency medical services, street and road maintenance and repairs, flood prevention, park and open space maintenance, graffiti abatement and other general community services.”

Another local measure will also require a two-thirds vote - a cannabis-business tax that caps out at 4 percent and should provide the city with about $200,000 a year in revenue. The revenue would go into the general fund, where it would provide “unrestricted” support for programs like streets, police and fire, and other city services, according to city staff.

That is one of two cannabis measures up for a vote in November – the other is the Citizen Access Initiative, the result of a 2018 signature-driven petition to allow more cannabis businesses with fewer zoning restrictions in the city limits. That initiative’s chief sponsor, Jon Early, targeted his petition drive to get the measure on the November 2018 ballot, but maneuvering by the city council at that time delayed the public vote by two years. In the interim the city developed its own cannabis business strategy and process, and two dispensaries proposals are currently being developed to present to the City Council in August.

The fourth ballot measure is the potential renewal of the city Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), implemented by a public vote in 2000, establishing a boundary beyond which the city could not expand development.

“The UGB follows the same boundaries as the Sphere of Influence… and is larger than the city limits to allow future growth as needed,” said Teri Shore of the Greenbelt Alliance, a strong advocate of the UGB.

Opponents of the current UGB argue its lack of flexibility prohibits the city from taking advantage of affordable housing opportunities in the midst of an ongoing housing crisis.

The UGB expires at the end of 2020, and the measure on the ballot will essentially keep the same boundary as has been in effect for the past 20 years. The council agreed last month, on June 29, on the wording of the ballot measure.

The ballot measure earned a 4-1 approval from the City Council with Mayor Logan Harvey casting the lone dissent, in what he called "a symbolic vote" to illustrate the issues of income inequality and racial disparity in affordable housing.

Email Christian at christian.kallen@sonomanews.com.

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