By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Six candidates seeking three Petaluma City Council seats on the Nov. 6 ballot continued to try to differentiate themselves Thursday during a wide-ranging forum at City Hall.
Incumbents Tiffany Renee, Mike Healy and Gabe Kearney are seeking to retain their seats. Kathy Miller, Jason Davies and Alicia Kae Herries are challenging. Renee is seeking a second term, Healy a fourth and Kearney is asking voters to continue his tenure on the council. Kearney was appointed to fill a council vacancy in 2011.
Questions ranged from whether the candidates supported a parks parcel tax on the ballot and continuing to fight the Dutra asphalt plan south of town — which all candidates did — to several queries about city economics and how to pay for services reduced by recent budget cuts.
On balancing the city’s general-fund budget, Miller said passing the Measure X parks tax would increase tourism and that the city “needs to roll out the welcome mat to business.”
Herries also wants to increase tourism and invite high-tech and “head of household jobs,” while Davies advocated for working to reduce the city’s 30 percent vacancy rate in office space before encouraging new development.
Kearney said his vote to reduce a fee developers pay to fund low-income housing has already shown results and wasn’t just “lofty ideas of how we might bring businesses to town.”
Herries and Renee said they support increasing the city’s hotel tax on overnight visitors to raise revenues to fund city services.
Asked about how to restore police services that have been cut in the past several years, Healy said he would support enacting a temporary sales tax of perhaps eight years.
Davies, Kearney and Renee all backed increasing Petaluma’s community-oriented policing efforts to reach young people before they become involved in drugs, alcohol or crime.
Miller, Kearney and Healy touted their recent endorsements from the city’s police and fire unions.
On transportation, candidates stressed that fixing Petaluma’s notoriously decayed roads was key.
Davies, Healy and Miller all said reaching a long-term agreement with the city’s garbage hauler for increased franchise fees to pay for road maintenance was a priority. Healy and Miller added that funding the Rainier Avenue cross-town connector is a top goal as well.
Renee said she wants to continue to advocate for federal transportation dollars and a sales-tax increase to fund street maintenance. Kearney and Herries advocated for increased local transit ridership.