Pitchforks or Rakes?

Picking and choosing on Election Day 2016

A few weeks back, the notoriously Trumpian sheriff of Milwaukee County, David Clarke, rallied for a civil war against all things Clinton when he tweeted that it’s “pitchforks and torches time” in America. In the year of unhinged pitchfork politics, will North Bay residents take up the rakes instead? Will they at long last vote out the leaf blowers?

The perennial fight in the city of Sonoma pits landscapers and maintenance workers against low-decibel residents loudly demanding peace and quiet, already. It’s been a too-long campaign season as it is. And while the stakes in Sonoma aren’t as high as, say, a proposed no-fly zone over Aleppo, for the people there, and around the North Bay, key local measures and races this year hit at quality-of-life concerns, housing affordability, the encroaching sprawl, taxes and schools—with a sprinkle of law and order thrown in.

As for the leaf blowers, this paper stands with the rake-and-a-broom crowd and against the contraptions. As we strive to respectfully ban the blowers, it is essential to contain the blowhards wherever possible, and create new economic opportunities of a Clinton-in-coal-country variety for the salt of the earth of Sonoma.

In the year of the pitchfork, the silent majority may after all turn out to be the quietly outraged moms of Montana who plan to vote for Hillary despite the odds in their state, and whatever their husband might think. With that spirit fully and sincerely in place, these endorsements are all offered through a metric that values and rewards a retrenchment to a core politics of kindness and decency, that amplifies against-the-odds strivers, and that seeks out bona fide freaks and/or Renaissance men (and women) wherever possible. In the year of the pitchfork, the North Bay will lead the way as uncertain winds of Trumpian fury loom. Join me as we unleash the dogs of empathy for this curated set of choices.

Rosaura Segura is one of two candidates running for Napa Valley College Area 6 trustee. She’s a grape grower and farmer, and partner in the groundbreaking Encanto Vineyards. Encanto opened in 2011 and is one of very few Mexican-American-owned vineyards in California or the nation. Segura’s stature is commendable and especially so given the vulnerable immigrant population that does much of the heavy lifting in the fields. But Napa has enough representation from the grape sector, period; her competitor is a licensed social worker who has been in the local education trenches for years, so Debbie Alter-Starr gets the endorsement.

Ditto Mariko Yamada in her race for State Senate against Bill Dodd. I like Dodd, he’s a cheerful and hard-working Tim Kaine–ish sort of formerly Republican, pro-choice, pro-biz dude. But Yamada is a former social worker and she’s tuned in to elder issues, and I like that her ads keep popping up on Politico even if you don’t see much sign of her anywhere else. Yamada for State Senate District 3.

As this paper offers its inevitable if intensely wary endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president, let’s remember that it will take a village to find the teachable moment when the election passes and parents no longer fret about what the orange creep might say on TV. The big right-wingnut gamble on Trump appears not to have paid off, and my money’s on the multiple school ballots circulating around the North Bay, with a hearty-ho endorsement on all fronts from these quarters. And as we also offer the inevitable but cautiously enthusiastic endorsement of Jared Huffman for another term
in Congress, here’s a hearty endorsement for the schools-and-education tax in Marin’s Measure A, and here’s a shout-out to another Napa Valley College trustee candidate, in Area 5, Jennifer Baker, because she’s a librarian.

Huffman has nominal opposition from a perennial Republican-cashier candidate, but 10th District State Assemblyman Marc Levine is being challenged by Roni Jacobi, a fellow Democrat who was the second-most vote getter in the June primary, and is on the ticket thanks to California’s non-party-humping “jungle” primary system. Levine has pushed out some good and popular policies in his three terms in the Assembly—ammo-centric gun-control measures, a revolving-door ban for departing lawmakers to lobby their former colleagues, the renamed Robin Williams Tunnel—but Jacobi is more of our type of progressive, with a relentless focus on climate-change impacts.

Jacobi’s supporters often highlight that their candidate is the only one in the state who signed on with a pledge to ramp up the fight against the climate crisis to World War II levels of national action. The former Santa Rosa city councilwoman helped that town create its landmark Climate Action Plan, and she was raised by her grandparents, who were Republican Austrian immigrants. That’s kind of temptingly exotic for these parts, and seals the deal. Jacobi for Assembly!

On the school front, of special note are school board races in Napa and the Sausalito-Marin City district. The upshot in Napa County this year is that there are not a lot of races and several are uncontested, but there’s an open seat on the Napa Valley Unified School District with four candidates vying for the position. The Napa Valley Register reported over the summer that there was scant interest among Napans to run for the office, but four citizens stepped up and in doing so made this race a very tough call to endorse.

Here’s the breakdown: Icela Martin is a single mom who recently started a groundbreaking agricultural-safety business in the county. Jesse Allured is an emergency-services administrator with a daughter in the district and one of two whistleblowers who recently highlighted big deficiencies in the county’s EMS system. Jessica De Lasaux is a sustainability consultant who co-runs a local yoga bodywork program called YogaNV. She has a son who is going into kindergarten next year and brings a mindful millennial moment to the race. Susan Larson Bouwer lists her occupations as “mom” and “graduate student,” and she’ll complete an organizational-studies masters next spring, always good training for a public servant. Bouwer graduated from the district and raised three children locally.

Bottom line: These are all great choices. Wouldn’t it be great if we could create a super-candidate drawn from the best of the admirable qualities of all these candidates? A candidate of such expansive base of knowledge and wealth of kindness that they could fairly say, “I alone can fix it”?

OK, so maybe not. Gotta go with Icela Martin for NVUSD, the single-mom, small businesswoman whose professional and civic work is already front-in-center in helping out a vulnerable and often uninsured workforce.

The Marin City-Sausalito school board charter fight may be the roughest and highest profile of any local race in the North Bay. There’s an ongoing court case that’s looking at how the budget is allocated in the district, which comprises two schools: the Willow Creek Academy, a charter school in Sausalito that has about 450 students; and the Bayside Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy in Marin City, with a little over a hundred students. Over the summer, reports surfaced that the Marin City school had been chronically shorted in the school board’s budgets, to much detrimental effect on the kids, many of whom hail from the poorer side of 101. Now the Department of Justice is being called into the suit, and if you make an anagram of “Sausalito Marin City,” you wind up with “A tony racialism suit.” Weird but true in this mixed-up campaign season.

The Sausalito-Marin City board now has a 3–2 majority of charter-school connected individuals, including the head of the charter that runs Willow Creek, William Ziegler. David Suto and Debra Turner are running to replace Ziegler and board member Caroline Van Alst. Given what’s already known about the misallocated budget, a housecleaning at the school board is in order, so we endorse Suto and Turner for the Marin-Sausalito School Board.

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The Sausalito-Marin City fight is all about the intersection of race and equal access, even as the only color that ultimately matters is, as ever, green. That reality is also unfolding via a pair of Marin County ballot measures for residents of Kenwood-Ross: a continuation of a local tax to pay for a money for sheriff’s detail, and a new initiative to digitally record all the license plate numbers that roll through the rich roadways of Kenwood-Ross.

We’re calling this one the Sean Penn Memorial El Chapo Neighborhood Watch Measure, just for kicks. You may recall that Penn wrote a long feature last year about his time hanging out with the teflon Mexican drug lord for Rolling Stone. I liked that story, but not so much that I’m going to support the monitoring of traffic in a rich town. So ix-nay on the urveillance-say measure, but go ahead and pay for your own cop, Kenwood-Ross: Yes on Measure M; No on Measure K.

Back in Napa County, the Calistoga School Board has an open seat sought by a winemaker, a project manager, the incumbent and “community volunteer” Mark Galindo. He was singled out in the Weekly Calistogan last December for the tireless volunteer work he and his family have put in—the concession stand during the Lake County fire, the relentless work on behalf of a local child with cancer—and now he’s getting into politics for the first time. Ruddy and red-bearded, with two kids of his own, there’s really nothing else to say but win with Galindo.

Speaking of newcomers, the race for mayor of American Canyon jumped out because Leon Garcia, the long-term incumbent, didn’t have any opposition until this summer. Along came Douglas Lloyd Lindsey, our kind of meat-and-potatoes challenger, a political neophyte who says he is running to destroy the mediocrity of incumbency, and to shake off years of accumulated frustration from sitting in at too many city council meetings.

A profile of Lindsey in the local paper asked—with a particularly odious sniff of snooty—whether Lindsey, a retired Teamsters trucker, was up to the task of being mayor, while not coming right out and asking if he thought of himself as stupid. Sympathy vote alert!

I believe Lindsey when he says he could handle complex issues and would, if elected, forswear watching PBS for analyzing planning commission reports. Plus his wife is a local school trustee. He will need her, and those planning commission reports, as American Canyon continues to expand to accommodate Napa housing needs and faces the nexus of development fallout along the way: increased traffic and taxes, pressure on the infrastructure—they’ve got a big water-storage problem in American Canyon. Lindsey is tuned in and ticked off. So make American Canyon great again, or maybe for the first time. Douglas Lindsey for mayor.

Napa is known as the reddest and most conservative of the North Bay counties, but I’m happy that they put a conservatively low three measures on the ballot this year, skipping all the letters in between and offering A, B and Z to citizens. And actually there really are only two measures, with an asterisk on A.

But first, Z. The proposal would put a one-quarter percent sales tax toward preserving and adding to open space in the county—heck yes on Measure Z. Measure A and B are both directed at animal-control efforts, making sure they are humane and that all efforts are made to keep dogs, cats and rabbits from being euthanized. And “all efforts” was the problem, at first, as the supervisors said loose language in Measure B about using “all available resources” could break the county bank. The advocates who wrote the ballot said they were talking about animal-rescue resources, no-kill shelters and the like. The compromise is that both are on the ballot, but people are instructed to vote for A, where the budget-bust language has been scrubbed. Whatever, just stop killing the bunnies. Yes on A.

Death, and its avoidance, is on the statewide ticket, too, and bears mentioning: Proposition 62 would flat-out end the death penalty in California. The presently condemned would live out their days in prison and no new capital cases would be brought. Yes on Proposition 62.

Proposition 66 would expedite the appeals process in order to kickstart the executions of roughly 750 prisoners on death row. Proposition 66 is notable for containing perhaps the scariest line of any ballot measure in the state, or perhaps anywhere, this year: to get the executions flowing, the measure “Exempts prison officials from [the] existing regulation process for developing execution methods.” Gulp. Hell No on Proposition 66. So, what if both death-penalty measures should pass? Whichever proposition gets the most votes, prevails.

There are measures popping up all over the North Bay, some of which get our goat more than others. How about the call for fluoridation in Healdsburg? We say it should be a choice. How about an increased transient-occupancy tax in same said ‘burg, to help pay for affordable housing? Yes, yes, go for it: Yes on Measure S.

In Sonoma County it must be said that whenever the issue of community separators is raised, I burst into song and exclaim, of course we support Measure K, which further enshrines and expands on the county’s groundbreaking (to the ironic extent that no ground is broken in the undeveloped separator areas) efforts to keep sprawl at bay and maintain the rural character of the region.

In case you were wondering, the song is “Come out and Play (Keep ‘Em Separated),” with its catchy, punk-lite chorus to do exactly that. Of course everyone knows the 1994 MTV hit from the Offspring was a flagrant rip-off on a riff from the Agent Orange song “Bloodstains.”

Agent Orange was a great band, but it was a horrible herbicide, which brings us to Measure M. The county that has worked to rub out the Roundup from its fields is trying to ban, yet again, genetically modified organisms via Measure M. Despite my sincere appreciation for the magical powers of Bayer aspirin, the corporation’s arrival in town, along with a slew of other GMO-connected heavies, ahead of the upcoming vote was an even bigger headache to handle. Yes on the GMO ban—yes on Measure M.

There are a couple of other races which jumped out and that felt to be particularly keyed in to the endorsement metric of kindness met with competency. Cotati has a city council race underway that features candidate Eris Weaver, who works as a “facilitator and group process consultant,” which sounds great enough, and then you get to her books. She’s the author of Let’s Talk About Money: A Conversation Guide for Intentional Communities and The Art of Apology. Not sorry to say that we’ll take that sort of art over the “Art of the Deal” any day. Weaver for Cotati City Council.

Lastly and so far from leastly you’d swear this whole endorsement issue was rigged, Geoff Ellsworth. The candidate for St. Helena City Council is the designated Renaissance man of this endorsement special. He’s an artist, a musician and a champion for the environment against the excesses of the wine industry. Ellsworth gets our vote May peace be with you.

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BOHEMIAN ENDORSEMENTS

SONOMA COUNTY 5TH SUPERVISORIAL DISTRICT RACE

Recommendation: Noreen Evans

The presidential election presents a choice between an ignorant demagogue with a penchant for sexual assault and a highly competent but ethically challenged policy wonk. If only the choices for the Sonoma County’s 5th supervisorial district race were that distinct.

The challenge for voters in the race between Lynda Hopkins and Noreen Evans is drawing distinctions between the two. We reject the cartoonist portrayals of political newcomer Hopkins as a stooge for the 1 percent and development interests and Evans as a lackey for the SEIU union and the status quo. We believe either candidate would serve the county well, but ultimately choose to endorse Evans because of the experience she brings to the position, in particular her track record on environmental protection.

The 5th is defined by its open space, family farms and beautiful coastline, and we believe Evans will be a champion for the region. If she isn’t, the scores of environmental groups that have endorsed her will hold her feet to the fire. As for Hopkins, her support from the real estate industry, business interests (the Sonoma County Alliance donated $11,576) and numerous wineries ($5,394 from Dutton Estates alone) give us pause. That money doesn’t come for free. While she says she won’t be beholden to any donor and will hold all meetings in the open, that strikes us as naïve and impractical.

Meanwhile, we hope Evans will maintain her independence from the service employees union which earned her endorsement and that she moves aggressively to confront needed pension reform for county workers.

PROPOSITION 64

Recommendation: No

“Legalize it” has long been a stoner dream. “Imagine all the money we could save by redirecting law enforcement resources away from pot busts and the money we could make by taxing the cannabis trade,” goes the thinking. At last, the day to vote on legalization and end costly prohibition has come with Proposition 64. But we’re not ready.

The support for Proposition 64 is telling. Most of the big money comes from, well, those with big money who see cannabis as a financial juggernaut. And it may well be. But in the North Bay and farther north, the many small growers working in the shadows fear the impact of legal pot. Without a well-crafted plan to bring these growers into the fold and keep corporate, vertically integrated corporations at bay, we could be looking at severe and painful socioeconomic disruption on the North Coast.

This isn’t about protectionism. Like it or not, cannabis is the economic mainstay of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties. If falling prices and over-taxation drive these small growers out of business, we’ll be looking at a spike in poverty and other socials ills that will look like Appalachia west.

And meanwhile, efforts to regulate the medical cannabis industry are barely off the ground. Adding a legal recreational market on top is simply too much too soon. Let’s legalize, yes, but let’s do it right and we think that means letting the legislature craft a bill. That’s messy and slow, but it will come closer to serving the greater good thant the ballot measure does. And it may help keep the feds off our back, too.

SEBASTOPOL CITY COUNCIL

Recommendation: Craig Litwin and Michael Carnacchi

Like California, Sebastopol is often out in front of social and environmental issues that are later emulated by other cities, and the Sebastopol City Council is an R&D lab for progressive ideas. All four candidates for the two seats on the council bring solid résumés to the job, and they all agree on the issues facing the little city: environmental protection, supporting local business, improving traffic and walkability downtown, affordable housing and fiscal oversight.

Craig Litwin served on the city council from 2000 to 2008 and therefore brings on-the-job experience that will serve him well. He also has extensive support from county and state leaders that we hope he will draw on to serve the city. His environmentally minded priorities and practical experience make him a strong candidate.

Choosing a second candidate is tougher. None of the three other contenders have held political office before, but are all civic-minded and committed volunteers. Michael Carnacchi is a fixture in downtown Sebastopol at his celebrated boot shop. As director of the Sebastopol Downtown Association he knows the needs and potential of downtown as well as anyone. He wants to take the dust off of a Caltrans plan to reroute Highway 116 through downtown to Llano Road to reduce the traffic and noise downtown. None of the other candidates have concrete plans for downtown.

Carnacchi gets our support because he has done his homework and has attended dozens of city council, planning commission and general plan update meetings. He can intelligently insert himself in the conversation about policy thanks to his active participation in city decisions. We also like that he hasn’t spent a dime on his campaign or put up a single sign.

Neysa Hinton is a lifelong West County and Sebastopol resident with deep connections to the city through her years as a Rotary Club member and a founder of the Sebastopol Farmers Market. She doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but her no-nonsense, hard-working approach is refreshing.

We appreciate candidate Jonathan Greenberg’s activism in support of the Sonoma West Medical Center and the watchdog role he plays before the city council, but we believe Litwin’s experience and connections and Carnacchi’s demonstrated interested and understanding of the issues that face the city will better set them up for success on the council.

SANTA ROSA CITY COUNCIL

Recommendation: Ernesto Olivares, Julie Combs,
Jack Tibbets
and Chris Rogers

With four seats open on the Santa Rosa City Council, this election will usher in a new era. Rent control, affordable housing, cannabis and homelessness have emerged as key issues. We support the city’s council’s decision to implement rent control, even though we know it’s not a panacea.

Incumbent Julie Combs has been a champion of affordable housing and rent control, and gets our vote for her strong, progressive stance on housing. Combs has been been a friend to the medical-cannabis community, an out-front critic of overzealous raids on local grows and dispensaries. Even as Combs digs into policy issues inherent in a “New Age Amsterdam” vision—by no means shared among all Santa Rosans—she also gets high marks for pushing initiatives to get everyone indoors, through a comprehensive and richly detailed 24-point “Housing for All” program highlighted on her campaign page—along with a raft of endorsements that range from blue-dog Democrat and U.S. Representative Mike Thompson, to the Green Party, to Local 1021 of the Service Employees International Union.

We also endorse incumbent Ernesto Olivares, even though he voted against rent control. His experience as a police officer and his extensive community involvement make him an asset on the council and a conservative check on the council’s progressive wing.

We’re supporting newcomers Jack Tibbets and Chris Rogers because they bring a mix of strong experience in public policy and represent a new generation of progressive leadership in Santa Rosa. Tibbets has an impressive résumé of community and policy work, including serving as a board member for Santa Rosa Public Utilities and the Sonoma County Public Library Foundation. His day job as a community liaison for California Clean Power will also serve him well. Rogers served as a staffer for State Sen. Mike McGuire and works for a local green energy company, so his head is in the right place too.

Both candidates say they would have voted for rent control, but don’t see it as a cure-all.

Challengers Don Taylor and Brandi Asker bring their own experience to the table, particularly Taylor, a business owner and former planning commissioner, but we feel the other candidates are the right choices at this time.

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