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What this election means
Jack Balshaw 10/30/2002

This newspaper has published a series of interviews and position statements from the incumbents and challengers in this year's city elections. These have enlightened us about their individual views but haven't informed or suggested what their election would mean relative to the council's and the city's actions for the next two years. Let me try, from my point of view.

Some have attempted to label the council factions as "environmental" and "pro-business". This is misleading. Those assumed to be environmental, (Cader-Thompson, Maguire, Glass and Cindy Thomas) are less environmental then they are Progressive. Their interest is in affecting the total (natural and community) environment by using government to implement their beliefs. They have a vision of improving society through controlling the details of our lives; from the amount of water it's permissible to use, to how we get around town (autos, bikes, buses, Rainier or no Rainier).

Those assumed to be Pro-business, (Clark Thompson, Healy, Harris and Canevaro) are less pro-business then they are day-to-day managers. They prefer to address problems as they arise and deal with today rather than the "maybe" future. They might be called pragmatic rather than visionaries.

The big difference between these two groups is that one tries to control our future while the other tries to solve our present problems. It may be as simple as that. Do we want to plan for a perfect future and hope it happens or do we want today's problems solved? Considering our city's limited ability to significantly affect the total environment, I opt for solutions to our local annoying problems.

As I get older, I have less and less faith that anyone has perfect or "best" solutions to our problems. I'm especially wary of solutions that place restrictions on my freedom of choices.

Regarding the "pro-business" faction on the council, are you aware of anything that has happened in Petaluma in the last two years that gives any indication of pro-business (implying growth inducing and anti-general public) activities? I'm not aware of any great or even significant issue that has occurred as the result of any so called pro-business slant on our council. Is there a problem or are people simply calling names to create negative reactions?

While elections are about electing specific people to an office, the larger issue in Petaluma is how will those individuals interact to bring about effective governance. Some people appreciate long term planning while others are more interested in resolving immediate problems. When selecting elected officials, thought should be given to which camp they belong.

In the ideal world, both short and long-term management should be considered. But in the world of limited resources and the need to select from a limited agenda, elected officials are usually limited to either long range planning or immediate action. We should consider Election Day as our opportunity to indicate which general direction we would like our council to follow.

As a footnote I would like to recognize the progress the Public Facilities Department has made in fixing streets since the council has responded to public insistence that they pay more attention to the condition of our streets. If anybody thinks that their vote doesn't count, just recall that it was the pressure put on the council by the public that has resulted in our streets receiving more attention in the last two months than they have received in the last year. The public can and does make a difference IF it lets its wishes be known.

Political flyer alert - Petaluma Tomorrow will be distributing endorsement flyers soon. If these contain negative characterizations of those they don't endorse, please consider it a hit piece and do not reward such an activity. Vote for those being hit. This applies to ANY last minute political literature.


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