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It's monstly on the front page

Jack Balshaw 12/4/2002

Not surprisingly, most of the important happenings in Petaluma can be found on the front page of the Argus. The four headline stories for November 27th were, the Kentucky St. fire, Petaluma Community Access (PCA), Wetlands plans in peril and Glass elected mayor. But, let's look behind the headlines.

The fire created a huge gap in the continuity and ambiance of Kentucky St. What will happen and how soon are totally up in the air. My concern is whether the City Council will wait until plans, proposals, etc, work their way through city departments to them or whether they will boldly commit to reconstructing the burned building.

The building is privately owned and I assume there is insurance. But, if redevelopment funds can be earmarked to redevelop downtown east of the river, including reroofing the old depot, surely they can be used to accelerate the reconstruction of this important downtown area. I don't mean this as a gift to the building's private owners but as up front money to get things started sooner rather than later.

The PCA article covers what are basically money problems for the program. What seems to get continually forgotten is that the city collects $625,000 a year in franchise fees from the cable company but doesn't pass any of it through to PCA for operations. Other cities, like Santa Rosa, support their community stations totally from franchise fees.

Previous councils, who thought so highly of PCA that they tried to access a controversial $2 a month subscriber fee, wouldn't contribute any of THEIR franchise money to PCA. Perhaps our new council might.

The wetlands project and its problem present an interesting opportunity. The expanded project was approved by the council with the condition that no city money would be used to purchase the extra land. Now it seems the deal will fall apart unless the city negotiates a zoning change for use of the property.

On one side, who cares? The wetlands obviously can't ever be built on because they're wetlands. Potential public trails will be lost but the land will still stay open space at no city cost. (Money that could go to fixing streets.)

On the other hand, the city could get recreational open space for no additional money by giving the owner the right to develop the portion of his property that is currently outside the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). There's the rub and where the fourth headline, "Glass elected mayor", comes in.

In order to expand the UGB prior to the end of its 20-year life in 2018, it takes 6 votes from the 7-member council. The question will be, "Will Mayor Glass, an environmental sympathizer, be willing to join with 5 other council members to trade development for recreational open space in order to save the city money?"

Another subject that wasn't headlined in this issue is the construction of a new theater in Petaluma. A movie theater is high on the list of the Petaluma public's desires. The most feasible and probable location for one is adjacent to the Factory Outlet. While Mayor-elect Glass supports a theater downtown, he opposes any construction near the Factory Outlet. If no developer can be found for a downtown theater, will he compromise to allow one there?

There is, of course, much more about the details, maneuvering and machinations at city hall than can be covered here. Unfortunately, the focus of headline stories is to provide readers with information about what's going on now and not to recap what has gone on before. Unless readers have a long memory or personal interest in a topic, they usually don't remember how or why some things came to be. It's too bad there isn't a way to summarize a project's history with each new story or to provide an impartial analysis. This would put current happenings in perspective for the general public.

In most cases it probably is good to assume there is more behind the headlines than there is in front of them.


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