Meet the Mayor: Amy Harrington has firm grip on the gavel
When Mayor Amy Harrington moved from San Francisco to Sonoma she became deeply committed to keeping it as she considers it to be: the best place in the world to live.
Elected to the Sonoma City Council in 2016, she is serving as mayor during 2019 and has a clear vision of what she intends to accomplish – raising the minimum wage, earmarking money for affordable housing and finding one, city-approved location for cannabis distribution.
“People are making $11 an hour. We can do better than that,” she said of the current minimum wage, pointing out that the statewide minimum is the same here as it is in cities with a much lower cost of living. “Obviously you need to make more than that here. We can’t talk about affordable housing without talking about the fact that many of the people who work here can’t afford to live here.”
The city council will hear a UC Berkeley study in February to help determine what the wage increase should be. “We need to meet employers somewhere in the middle,” she said, adding that workers who can’t afford to live here have no political power.
In the election last November Sonoma voters approved a 2 percent increase to the transient occupancy tax, a ballot measure that would also allow the city council to add an additional 1 percent if it so chooses. Harrington wants to add that 1 percent and then allocate it to a dedicated fund to be used for affordable housing.
“What’s the best use of our money?” she asked, pointing out that with the loss of state redevelopment funding, the city has to address how it can raise money for affordable housing.
Harrington is also concerned about the proposed 2020 Sonoma ballot measure that, if it passes, would allow unlimited dispensaries within the city limits as long as they meet zoning regulations.
“That’s a really bad idea,” she said. “Prior to 2020 it makes sense to find some reasonable location that the city would hand-pick.”
She recognizes that some people have expressed a desire for a dispensary, “but I don’t think people want unlimited dispensaries.”
Harrington, 42, is a probate attorney with offices in San Francisco and Sonoma. A San Francisco native, she grew up in the upstairs flat of a Victorian building right across the street from housing projects where there was always “lots of noise and sirens.”
Her father, a mailman, and her mother, a legal secretary, placed a high priority on their children’s educations, sending Harrington to the prestigious and pricey Hamlin School, which was then a girls school, almost all of whom were from much wealthier families than hers.
She was accepted to Lowell High School where, at that time, “95 percent of the kids were Asian,” she said – and she was tall, blondish and dyslectic. Raised in diverse environments, she always learned to fit it. She majored in political science and sociology at UC Davis, working full time during her senior year for the Health Care Workers Union, (now SEIU.) She helped organize service staff in five hospitals in Sacramento, continuing in that job for four years after college.
She then moved to Spain for a year, traveling throughout Europe before returning to San Francisco and becoming the campaign manager for Geraldo Sandoval, who she helped elect to the San Francisco board of supervisors in 2000. “I fell in love with the candidate,” she said. They married and Harrington started law school at UC Hastings, passing the bar in 2005.