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Editorial: A shift in the Sonoma City Council winds

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Logan Harvey is in a good place.

He began the year with a new gig as a content analyst for a tech firm, then last spring he got engaged to his girlfriend.

And to top it all off, on Tuesday, the 30-year-old Sonoma native became the youngest member of the Sonoma City Council, finishing second in the Nov. 6 council election with 16 percent of the vote out of a field of seven candidates.

As if that weren’t enough, he was seen by Index-Tribune reporters Nov. 7 outside a property management company on Broadway on the hunt for a new and improved apartment for himself and his betrothed. Getting new digs depended “on whether I won,” Harvey said. He was joking; he knows the monthly council stipend isn’t that big.

Logan Harvey has come a long way, in a short amount of time.

Little over a year ago, Harvey was a relatively unknown city council gadfly. He’d returned to Sonoma in 2016 following a stint teaching in Korea and had begun making regular appearances at the bimonthly council meetings – speaking during the public comment period for the more pressing issues before the dais.

His invariably progressive remarks seemed to hold little sway with the council. He’d say his bit – rarely if ever utilizing the entirety of his permitted three minutes at the podium – then quietly sit down toward the back of the meeting room; his influence virtually nil.

Not so today. Today he’s an incoming member of the Sonoma City Council. And that could signal big change.

The Sonoma City Council has over the last few years developed a reputation for embracing the status quo on salient issues – legal cannabis, affordable housing, sanctuary city status – while taking action on less consequential matters for the majority of residents – leaf blower bans, commission appointment processes, renaming civic meeting rooms. This is partly to do with the split makeup of the council; with three moderate conservatives and two moderate progressives behind the dais, votes have often swung toward avoiding big-issue outcomes rather than pushing forward with any clear vision for the city. It’s been a cautious council.

But the addition of Logan Harvey could shift that course.

Based on his campaign platform and interviews he’s conducted with the Index-Tribune, Harvey could well be the most progressive member of the council. And he’ll be filling the seat vacated by Gary Edwards, arguably the most conservative member of the current council. So a 2-3 progressive minority has potentially become a 3-2 progressive majority. In effect, Sonoma has just accomplished a hyper-local version of “flipping the house.”

Now, don’t go shopping for probiotics, Che Guevara T-shirts and Phish tickets just yet, Sonoma. Lots of issues that come before a small town of 10,000 are decidedly non-partisan; whether to spend several grand for new “Council Chambers” signs is neither a Democratic nor Republican platform staple.

But many issues that were previously stymied by insufficient council support will likely find newfound muscle in a three-member progressive quorum of Councilmembers Harvey, Amy Harrington and Rachel Hundley. Think: alternative transportation, affordable housing, homeless advocacy, strengthened environmental policies – the list goes on.

Current Vice Mayor Amy Harrington is in line to be the next Mayor of Sonoma – a somewhat honorary title bestowed by council majority – and if she follows through on her quest to play a larger role than recent mayors in setting council agendas, then the city could be revisiting several issues that previously failed to gain traction. Raising the minimum wage and allowing a cannabis dispensary were two such issues Harrington was gung-ho about last year; they could make a return appearance in 2019.

The establishment of a city “affordable housing fund” is also likely to get a look, as such a model to subsidize workforce housing solutions has already been championed by several of the council members.

Make no mistake, the City of Sonoma has “flipped the house.” How that plays out, exactly, remains to be seen. But one thing’s for sure.

We won’t have to wait long to see it.

Email Jason at jason.walsh@sonomanews.com.