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Sebastopol candidates present their vision for the city

Ron Basso


Sebastopol’s leaders must act fast to keep the city’s budget in the black.

On that, all six candidates vying for three open Sebastopol City Council seats agreed at a Monday night debate.

Differences among the candidates emerged as they told the audience at Park Side Elementary School’s auditorium just how they would promote growth while upholding the city’s progressive values.


Colleen Fernald

“I have six years of experience in office,” said Mayor Sarah Gurney, who is running to keep her seat. “I’m concerned for our economic vitality, and I want to continue to manage the city, fiscally, with responsibility.”

Patrick Slayter, an architect and member of the Sebastopol Planning Commission, said the council should work to bring more events to attract people downtown, such as a year-round farmers market.

“We all saw the effects of the bike ride this weekend,” Slayter, 44, said of Levi Leipheimer’s GranFondo event that snaked through town, bringing spectators to the area.

“One way we can do that is by adding amenities for consumers that they depend on, like adding more parking,” said Michael Kyes, 61, an energy-efficiency consultant who has lived in Sebastopol for 21 years.

Sarah Gurney

What’s key is how much people spend, said Maureen Ann Shea, 59, part owner of the Hot Tub Store. “We need to find businesses that are selling things that aren’t just $5, $10, $15,” she said. “We should think about our downtown area like Disneyland. How do we make it a destination?”

Boosting sales taxes can’t be the only way to keep the city vital, said Ronald Basso, 51, who owned the now-closed R.S. Basso furniture store chain and has served on the Sebastopol Design Review Board.

“We need to look beyond taxes. We need to think long term,” Basso said.

Michael Kyes

The candidates bring with them a broad range of experience.

Gurney, a 57-year-old mediation attorney, is in her third term on the council and her third year as mayor.

Kyes has served on the boards of the Sebastopol Area Chamber of Commerce, the Laguna Foundation and the Sebastopol Parks and Recreation Commission.

Slayter, 44, is a member of the Sebastopol Planning Commission.

In contrast, Colleen Fernald, a 48-year-old artist and sustainability consultant, said her experience serving the city stems from her avid participation in the public comment portion of meetings.

Maureen Shea

“I’ve probably attended more hours of public meetings and nonprofit meetings than many members of the existing council,” said Fernald. She sang a peace song to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at a recent City Council meeting.

Debate over the health effects of PG&E SmartMeters and wireless Internet dominated a portion of the evening, and an audience member asked the group how they would weigh opinions of a quiet majority against a vocal group of very liberal residents.

“For a long time it’s been said we had a vocal minority attending the council meetings and swaying decisions,” Basso answered. “For me, I won’t be easily swayed.”

Patrick Slayter

Gurney defended the council’s policies as balanced.

“There’s a misperception that some small vocal minority runs our city, and I know from my experience that it’s just not true,” she said.

Fernald put herself squarely on the fringe. Sebastopol is represented by a strong moderate leadership, and it’s time to diversify the council, she said.

“I’d like to see three strong moderates, three conservatives, and one extremely liberal,” Fernald said, waving her hand.

The debate was organized by the League of Women Voters of Sonoma County and co-hosted with the Sonoma-West Times and News and the Sebastopol Area Chamber of Commerce.

12 Responses to “Sebastopol candidates present their vision for the city”

  1. Odd Todd says:


    Wait a minute! I have close relatives in Bakersfield. That city solved the solar heating problem years ago. It is called the cowboy hat. Keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter. Transit was solved 50 years ago. Its called the pickup truck with gun rack of course. You can haul anything and travel at speeds unknown to the bicycle.

    Bakersfield has oil dericks as far as the eye can see. They sell the oil to Sebastopol residents who use it in their Prius a vehicle not sold in Bakersfield. Country music, well, you haven’t got anything like the Crystal Palace where real music is played. None of this apple festival fiddle stuff.

    Yep, you need to get that Peoples Republic of Sebastopol passport updated and take a trip south on 5. Take Mayor Gurney and candidate Fermald with you. The folks in Bakersfield like a good laugh.

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  2. Reasoner says:

    New City Council, please do not use my name for your inaccurate, misleading posts. Sebastopol spends money on defensive litigation, like every municipality in the nation. It did not initiate or seek this litigation, nor did it result from Sarah Gurney’s role.

    As for you moving to Bakersfield, my preference would e that you accept the fact that progressives have brought progress to our THRIVING community in dire economic times. But if it’s a choice between your going to Bakersfield to be with people who share your values or you distorting the facts and trying to create a fear and lie based tea party movement of the lunatic right-wing fringe here in Sebastopol, I think a move might make a lot of sense.

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  3. Reasoner says:

    Ok, well folks, I did some checking.. and as it turns out I was wrong. I checked the records and found that our COUNCIL spent over 125,000,00 in litigation costs over the salamander dispute. Then they spent over $80,000k protecting a wild bug in a field near Lynch Road. I stand corrected, and maybe I should move to Bakersfield after all! Sorry everyone!

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  4. Reasoner says:

    Sarah Gurney is a fine Mayor and she represents the majority of our fair city and our progressive values, which New City Council clearly resents. Maybe it’s you who should consider packing, New City Council, to a place where your Tea Party Values are more widely shared by your neighbors. Bakersfield?

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    Sarah Gurney is not a good “mediator” – she rams our city into litigation over and over on cases that should be resolved informally. Look at our legal bill last year and YOU decide. Let’s send her packing this year!

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  6. Reasoner says:

    I have concern that the “pro-business” candidate in this race, Ron Basso, will use his position to promote his own personal business interests.

    I am a Sebastopol resident and voter and got his campaign flyer. He describes himself as a “retired” businessman wanting to “give back” to his community. Then he goes on to promote his “green” agenda of making second story retail space zone-able for residential use. It is okay to have this position, but to MISLEAD voters into thinking he is “retired,” and then to NEGLECT to DISCLOSE his CLEAR CONFLICT OF INTEREST in this matter, is very troubling to this Sebastopol voter. Indeed, it may even be illegal if he gets elected and pushes for an agenda that will bring him hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit. The top floor of the Basso building is nearly empty and he has been unable to rent it for two years!

    I am not a candidate and do not know any of them personally. But I have rarely seen a political candidate promote an agenda that would cause him large profits as shamelessly, unapologetically, and covertly as this.

    Is this what the anti-progressives on this bulletin board consider a “pro-business” candidate? Someone who runs for office to make money from laws that benefit him?

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  7. Mike says:


    Thank you Reasoner, you made my point. Hot air thinking from the 60′s. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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  8. Bradley Miller says:

    The progressives got us where we are now. I’m a Democrat.

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  9. Reasoner says:

    I want to address the “conservative” anti-progressive voices on this page, on the issue of the economy: GUESS WHO, tea partier, anti-tax, know-nothings, are contributing MOST to the economic well-being of our community? Hint: it ain’t you! It’s we progressive folks drawn to the progressive values represented by the Waldorf schools and GREEN (not as in consumerist but as in ecologically conscientious) values of our city council and community. WE, not YOU, are the ones who keep housing values high by buying new houses and paying quadruple the property taxes that you pay for a home you bought 30 years ago (thanks to Prop 13, which has bankrupt our state). WE patronize and pay sales tax at the thriving alternative stores here. So spare us the “real folk” b.s. and get real. A progressive city council represents the most vibrant economic group in town, as well as a majority of the people here. The three of you commenters above, you “silent majority” types, are not a majority. And you do not speak for us.

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  10. Andy says:

    What has happened to Sebastopol? I remember when my dad took us to Sebastopol to buy chicken feed at the feed store. We use to drive by the apple cannery and Chevy dealer on the way to the feed store. Analy High was a nice small high school and a rival with our school in sports. Wait, I am sounding like Gaye LeBaron.

    Then the 1960′s happened and the hippies found the town. It has been downhill since then. The city council and the candidates for city are living in a land far, far away in some other time zone. Now they are concerned about rays from the SmartMeters and the Internet.

    It is too bad these political wannabees don’t have the God given sense to focus on the real issues. It is also too bad good people with common sense have been apparently driven from the political scene in town.

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  11. Mike says:

    It was Disneyland night at the debate! Maybe it was Future Land? The artist and sustainability consultant, now thats my kind of consultant, wants to sing peace songs at council meetings. Hey, that makes sense, don’t they sing “Its a Small World” everytime you visit Disneyland?

    Another candidate wants to raise sales taxes. Thats a great business motivator from someone who failed in his business.

    Like all true leftest, these candidates want to “uphold progressive city values” whatever that means?

    Another candidate who is part owner of a hot tub store wants people to spend more. I guess she wants everybody to buy a hot tub.

    Well, here is a flash. In this economy, too many people can’t take the kids to Disneyland, they can’t buy hot tubs and they can’t afford a sustainability consultant.

    What is needed a real plan for local job and economic growth, not a vaporware proposal from the plant Pluto. Think carefully before you vote. There is a lot of hot air out there.

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  12. Voice of Reason says:

    ‘Upholding the city’s progressive values’? Who decided the whole city is progressive? The fact is that those who are progressives have been holding the city hostage to some very far left ideology that I’m sure a lot of people don’t agree with. There needs to be a balance and not blanket statements made by the League of Women voters that’s obviously drank the kool-aid of progressivism.

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