Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Local Issue

Petaluma is a fairly progressive community. We're into liberal politics, sustainable business practices, local agriculture, limited development, and the like. Why, then, do we have a city council that's dominated by development interests?

It's really no surprise. Follow the money. Developers have lots of it, and they fund the campaigns of those who do their bidding: specifically, Harris, Nau, Canevaro and O'Brien. These developers reap a huge return on their "investment" in local politicians. Thus, more and more of our open space is going to ridge-top palaces and flood-plain tract housing. In short, sprawl.

Now developer John Mills has announced his candidacy, coyly describing himself as a "semi-retired builder of custom houses."

Because he has deep pockets, he will send the citizens of our town innumerable glossy mailers filled with platitudes and drop-shadew photos of Mills and his wholesome family. Inevitably, Petalumans will be swayed by the pretty pictures and "family values," and we will have our own home-grown developer on the council, a step up from the four current members who simply get their money from developers and do their bidding.

None of this would be possible if we had an alternative option: publicly funded election campaigns for those who choose them. The cities of Portland, Oregon, and Albuquerque, NM, already have the "Clean Money" option, as do the states of Maine, Arizona and Connecticut, and diversity, competion and voter turnout are flourishing in those places.

Petaluma used to have some matching funds available, not exactly Clean Money, but a step in the right direction. When developers got control of the City Council, they quickly scuttled the matching funds even though their cost was pennies per resident per year.

Those of us in the California Clean Money Campaign are pushing for Clean Money for state political offices, and also supporting citywide efforts in this direction. Los Angeles and San Jose are now considering a Clean Money system for city council races.

Since our current Council doesn't reflect the wishes of most Petalumans, shouldn't we get on board this movement?


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