Where We Stand
President of the United States
BILL CLINTON’S only political challenge comes from the right. Ultimately the Greens would like to change that. But there is a reason that many progressives have united behind Bubba: The Republican alternative would throw California’s 54 electoral votes to a party well-organized by the Ralph Reeds, Newt Gingrichs, and Dan Lungrens of the world. The prospect of a second-term president with a bias for action, who isn’t hobbled by war, old age, or scandal from acts commited in office, will offer the possibility of meaningful political change for the first time in decades. Clinton’s early reformist efforts were derailed by powerful industry lobbies and the ideological zeal of socially conservative Americans who want to turn back the clock with laws regulating personal choices on reproductive rights and sexual preference. Protest votes may not be an affordable luxury this time out.
1st Congressional District
SURE, SHE’S UNPROVEN, but Michela Alioto, 27, has effectively unmasked Rep. Frank Riggs, R-Windsor, the born-again conservative and Gingrich foot soldier, for neglecting the wishes of his constituents–no, not the gun-toting, tobacco growing, clear-cutting special interests, but the regular folks who live in his far-flung district. In recent weeks, both the Republican and Democratic parties–not to mention big labor and others–have flooded the North Coast with cash, since this is one of the most crucial and closely watched congressional races in the country. Alioto is pro-choice, supports the ban on assault weapons (which Riggs, a former cop, wants overturned), and favors environmental policies that benefit the largest number of North Coast residents. Riggs, who has one of the worst environmental voting records in the California delegation, has voted to weaken the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act; to curb the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority over pesticides, refinery emissions, and sewage runoff; and to downsize the National Park System.
6th Congressional District
LYNN WOOLSEY, the former welfare mom and onetime vice mayor of Petaluma, has grown steadily into her role as the North Coast’s sole liberal voice in Congress. Indeed, Woolsey’s willingness to stand her ground on social issues, even as President Clinton shifts to the right, shows her conviction. This year, the Democratic House leadership is looking to Woolsey to help craft the fix-it bill that may forestall the worst aspects of the welfare “deform” bill signed by Clinton earlier this year. Republican opponent Duane Hughes is a rehashed Gingrich revolutionary with few original ideas.
1st Assembly District
VIRGINIA STROM-MARTIN is a Democrat and elementary school teacher from the tiny west county hamlet of Duncans Mills who is making her first bid for public office against Republican millionaire Marge Handley. In a state Legislature dominated by male lawyers in three-piece suits, a first-hand advocate for California’s beleaguered classrooms would be a breath of fresh air (and make an effective teammate for 6th Assembly District incumbent Kerry Mazzoni). Strom-Martin opposes the controversial plan to create school vouchers, which is supported widely by the Christian Right. As a longtime environmental activist, Strom-Martin supports the debt-for-nature swap to help preserve Headwaters Forest, rather than the land-swap deal cut by Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Her opponent–who is trading on name recognition from her many unsuccessful bids at public office–has been linked to Orange County extremist Kurt Pringle, the Assembly Speaker.
7th Assembly District
THREE GOOD REASONS not to vote for Democratic incumbent Valerie Brown: She abstained on the vote to ban methyl bromide (a dangerous soil fumigant used in the grape-growing industry), choosing not take sides; blatantly supported state control of local money; and showed a lack of vision by failing to address voter discontent. One good reason to vote for Al Liner, a dark horse Peace and Freedom candidate and tireless advocate for social justice: he has emerged as a leading proponent of a brilliant idea to bolster voter participation, infuse new ideas, and reform the electoral system with proportional representation, which would allow minority parties a fair share of the legislative pie.
5th Supervisorial District
THE TWO SURVIVING candidates–Mike Reilly and Eric Koenigshofer–in this seven-way primary race are more alike than different, and either would represent this far-flung, frequently fractious district well. But Koenigshofer’s close ties to Sheriff Mark Ihde are a concern, particularly when the Sheriff’s Department is undergoing such critical scrutiny in the wake of the murder of domestic violence victim Maria Teresa Macias. And Koenigshofer’s campaign style suggests he would do little to soften the aloofness the supervisors often display toward the public. Reilly’s commitment to and command of social issues and his track record in building common ground among disparate interests–including former Bill Dowd supporters–give him a narrow edge.
Measures D, G, I, O, and N
THESE FIVE VARIATIONS on urban growth limits each give local residents vital control over sprawl in their communities–an effective tool to constrain traffic, retain community identity, protect agricultural lands, and limit the demands on municipal services. While they would slow annexations, these are not “no growth” measures, but instead would restrict new development to existing city spheres of influence for up to 20 years. The countywide Measure D freezes zoning in community separators around cities that adopt urban limits, while initiatives in Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Healdsburg, and Sebastopol let voters firmly establish their own boundaries. We recommend a yes vote on all five urban growth boundary measures.
HOPING TO STOP the flow of red ink at county-owned Community Hospital in Santa Rosa, county supervisors agreed last February to a lease agreement under which Sutter/CHS now runs the venerable public hospital. But widespread discontent with the perceived lack of public participation in that decision, fears that the county’s commitment to provide care for the indigent and the uninsured will not be maintained, and mounting distrust of corporate health-care giants, have fueled this effort to overturn the lease. Sutter’s massive spending to defend its contract (at least $200,000) and the serious state Health Department citations the company has received for deficits in its service in the first few months at Community Hospital reinforce those concerns. Given a second chance, we can–and must–do better. Vote yes on E.
EVEN IF SONOMA COUNTY does need another Wal-Mart, a questionable assumption, is the Shiloh Road site in Windsor the place to put it? This may be the defining decision for our youngest town as it pits cold economic gain against the less tangible considerations of community identity, neighborhood integrity, and the attractive prospect of an industrial employer on the site, rather than another big-box monument to consumerism. Vote no on Q.
Cotati City Council
SIX OF THE SEVEN candidates vying for three seats on the City Council support urban growth limits in a burg struggling to hang on to its small-town charm. Bob Jones and Pia Jensen were in the forefront of the drive to keep a huge Lucky market out of town, and that speaks well for them. Planning Commission member Lisa Moore has stated her opposition to a Lucky store as proposed.
Petaluma City Council
THE COUNCIL MAJORITY, led by Mayor Patti Hilligoss, tried for years to poison the political process during the tumultuous Lafferty Ranch swap debate before the voice of reason prevailed earlier this year. Unfortunately, Hilligoss isn’t up for re-election. But two incumbents are seeking another term: Jane Hamilton, a staunch swap foe who fought the good fight; and Lori Shea, a swap supporter who repeatedly defied the public’s desire to preserve Lafferty Ranch for future generations. Environmental activist David Keller emerged as a leader of the swap foes, but he also scores big points for his insistence that the public retain control over a new sewer treatment plant. Pamela Torliatt is a seasoned Planning Commission member who has shown her dedication to the public’s right to participate in their own destiny. Hmmm. What a concept.
Santa Rosa City Council
WITH TWO NEW seats to fill–plus a pair of expiring terms–voters have more openings than attractive choices in this race. Incumbent Mayor Sharon Wright–with close ties to the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce and building trade–and her fellow council members have failed to nurture small businesses in the downtown, which is starting to look like a ghost town. It’s clearly time for a change. Planning Commission members Mike Martini and Noreen Evans bring to the table useful experience, both in and out of government, along with a rational approach to growth issues, despite their links to the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce. Of the nine candidates, only two have close ties to the recently annexed Roseland district and its diverse, multicultural population. Of those, Duane DeWitt is a genuine independent, who speaks his mind, but does his homework first. Of the remaining candidates, former Food 4 Less owner Mike Runyan brings a potentially useful business background and encouraging advocacy for youth and schools, despite his links to the Chamber of Commerce/Sonoma County Alliance power grid.
Sebastopol City Council
GROWTH IS RELATIVE in Sebastopol, where the two leading candidates favored the hotly debated O’Reilly project. As an incumbent, Howard Levy has often differed on other issues, notably his desire to allocate city funds to social services and his meticulous scrutiny of development proposals–two qualities that warrant his retention. Planning Commission member Kathy Austin’s views are more consistent with Foley’s, but her inclination to innovate gives her the edge in a close decision.
Rohnert Park City Council
SIX CANDIDATES. Three seats. One big political mess. Growth is the defining issue. In this case, support of Measure N, which would restrict growth for four years–not too much to ask in a rapidly sprawling suburb that can’t afford proper public safety and sewage services–sets the standard. Linda Branscomb, Jake Mackenzie, and Paul Stutrud–a forceful watchdog–would use their terms to push for a 20-year urban growth boundary, and no place needs one more badly.
Santa Rosa City School Board
THESE SUDDENLY sought-after seats should go to those with the best ideas, not the biggest budgets. Sharon Cortez-Dawson’s first-hand experience with gang members and at-risk youth is a resource all too rarely applied at the board level. Steve Thornton’s back-to-basics approach is effectively tempered by his support for teaching conflict resolution. Christopher Wenmoth’s call for district elections and an expanded board make excellent sense, and this young, self-motivated former dropout could be a unique role model.
From the October 31-November 6, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent
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