Council's progressive change - Teresa Barrett

By Teresa Barrett
Published: Thursday, May 7, 2009 - Argus-Courier

During this unprecedented period of global economic meltdown, the new Petaluma City Council is making decisions quickly, rationally and responsibly. However, according to local columnist Don Bennett, this City Council is part of a progressive machine that is ruining Petaluma.

I am certainly part of the City Council that unanimously voted to oppose the Dutra asphalt plant and conserve Shollenberger Park and our city’s multi-million dollar investment in that amenity and tourist magnet. As Supervisor Mike Kerns’ appointee to the Sonoma County Planning Commiss-ion, Mr. Bennett ignored Petaluma and its elected officials and voted to recommend constructing the Dutra asphalt plant on the bank of the Petaluma River.

I was also part of last term’s pro-business council that voted to determine the fiscal and economic impacts of all new major development on existing local businesses. So too, I am part of the current council that unanimously voted to direct our city to establish an economic development strategy to guide Petaluma’s future growth.

Although Mr. Bennett implies I have been on the council for two decades, I expect he was being hyperbolic. I have actually served on the City Council for two and a half years. Oddly, he complains about decisions that were made over the past two decades — decisions he in fact helped to make as a member and chair of the Petaluma Planning Commission for 11 years. The current council majority that he complains about has been in place for exactly four months.

The problems Mr. Bennett also wants to blame on the current council were created over the past two decades during which he served. These problems are a direct result of approving development without demanding the necessary infrastructure to make it work.

As Councilmember Glass is fond of saying, “We have been promised traffic relief but only received traffic.” However, in the past four months, the new council has achieved unanimous approval from the Sonoma County Transportation Authority to fund construction of the East Washington freeway interchange improvements, including a new northbound onramp behind Raley’s. We have also kept funding on track to widen and improve the Old Redwood Highway overpass and interchange. Construction will be finished within four years. This current council is providing traffic relief.

Sadly, the Argus-Courier is developing a habit of acerbic, nasty, biased and misleading editorials, cartoons and columns, which then require set-the-record-straight guest commentaries. The paper would better serve the Petaluma public by having an editorial board that no longer supported old, failed policies. It will take cool heads, without vested interests, working together to create a livable community. Perhaps the Argus could become a voice for this new approach.

Indeed, the Petaluma City Council members are progressive insofar as they work to determine what the city can afford in the face of a severely decreased budget that is in large part a result of the current global economic crisis. To that end, the council is working toward designing an economic strategy that requires new development to pay its own way, thus helping the city grow in a way that maximizes value for those who live here, while minimizing negative impacts. This sustainable approach will enhance the quality of life of all residents.

This kind of progressive change defines the current Petaluma City Council. This is progress of which Petalumans can be proud.


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