By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The top candidates for mayor in Petaluma offered their plans Tuesday on how the City Council can guide the city to financial stability as the economy recovers from recession.
David Glass, a current councilman and mayor from 2003 to 2006, said “catalyst projects” such as the Theater District and transit-oriented development around the SMART train stations are what will right the city’s economic ship.
Jeff Mayne, president of the business group Petaluma Downtown Association, said Petaluma needs to diversify its economy, restore cash reserves and create a balanced budget for it to move forward.
In a forum sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, the two faced off on several issues, most related to the budget but several about Petaluma’s growth and planning process for developments. About 80 people attended the event, which will be broadcast on community television over the next few weeks.
Mayne, Glass and two others are running for mayor on Nov. 2. The other two candidates haven’t shown up for community forums.
The amount, type and even the definition of what constitutes “smart” growth illustrated the candidates’ differing philosophies.
Mayne said facilitating projects such as the Target-based East Washington Place and Lowe’s-anchored Deer Creek Village proposals would give Petaluma residents what they want.
“What I want to see in our community is a diversification of our shopping opportunities so we can get off 101,” he said. “It’s interesting to me that the environmentalists don’t recognize the carbon footprint increase of our having to be on 101 all the time to get those things we need. That’s not smart growth.”
Glass, a proponent of mixed-use and pedestrian-, bicycle- and public-transit-friendly development, said the SMART train that’s planned for 2014 will be an economic stimulus for Petaluma.
“That is the catalyst,” he said. “That is the future.”
Mayne challenged Glass’ promotion of his leadership skills, which he said have helped the council remain civil and functional.
“Not only am I good at talking, but I’m good at getting to the nut of the issue and bringing out all of the council members’ perspectives and listening to them,” Glass said.
Glass was right about the need to listen, Mayne said, but wrong about his own follow-through.
“Otherwise we wouldn’t have had so many different 4-3 votes, we wouldn’t have had the acrimony there, the challenges, the speaking in platitudes,” he said, referring to the current council’s ideological split that surfaces in many votes.
Glass said the test wasn’t whether the vote was 4-3, it is: “Did you get the decision right?”
One of the significant 4-3 votes recently was the adoption of the 2010-2011 budget, which has spending outpacing revenues by $1 million and exhausts nearly all remaining reserve funds that are meant as a cushion for emergencies or unforeseen circumstances. Since 2008, the $8 million in reserve has been whittled to $5,000.