Of Course Bill Wolpert Supports the Rainier Connector

Petaluma Tomorrow has endorsed Bill Wolpert, an exceptional candidate for City Council. Wolpert recently released this statement on the Rainier Connector:

Of Course Bill Supports the Rainier Connector

My name is Bill Wolpert.  I’m running for Petaluma City Council.  And I’m learning that local politics is a full contact sport.

I’ve been accused by a robo call, paid for by my opponents, of being opposed to the Rainier Connector.  The accusation is untrue.  I believe that the Connector must play an essential role in Petaluma’s future.  It’s true that I have questions about the Connector for which we all need answers, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t support the Rainier Connector.  I’d like to be a part of the discussion about how it happens.

Providing stronger physical connections between the two sides of Petaluma is crucial to the community.  Eastside families should be able to easily travel by bus or car to enjoy an evening stroll in downtown.  Westside residents should be able to bike safely to SRJC or to conveniently deliver their kids to a soccer match.  Emergency responders need alternatives to get to the hospital and transit providers need more routing options. Those are elements of a healthy town.

But all of the crosstown connectors, existing and proposed, from Old Redwood Highway in the north to the Caulfield Crossing in the south, have challenges ranging from proximity to capacity to construction cost.

For many years, the Rainier Connector has been perceived as the next crosstown connector to be built, but it isn’t immune from the challenges.  It’s an alternative with many attributes, including good proximity and connectivity, but it’s not a magic bullet.

Here are my concerns about the Rainier Connector and the questions that we should all be asking.

  • Interchange – A 2004 advisory ballot measure described the Rainier Connector as the “Rainier Cross-Town Connector and Interchange Project”.  The connection to Highway 101 was a key project element.  But even now, twelve years later, Caltrans hasn’t approved an interchange at Rainier.Questions: Do we think Caltrans will approve the interchange?  If never, how does that affect the traffic relief?  When can we get clarity on this key issue?
  • Cost – Although my opponents bandy about an unexplained cost of $34 million, the Rainier Connector will be far more expensive.  Although barely more than a half-mile in length, the cost is usually estimated at $60 to $80 million.  Measured in dollars per mile, the Rainier Connector would easily be the most expensive street ever built in Petaluma.Question: Given that the interchange remains an uncertainty, how do we get a handle on the cost?
  • Burden on taxpayers – The robo call claims that the Rainier Connector can be built without taxpayer dollars. Really?  Let’s look at just one element of the financing.  The City holds an $11 million loan to help build the Connector.  The interest on the loan is now being paid with your taxes.  After the funds are spent, they must be repaid with your taxes.  That $11 million is your taxes building the road, despite what my opponents may say in their robo calls.Questions: After we have a firm handle on the cost, how do we put together a financing plan?  How much of that must be generated from new taxes?  And given the many other community needs, from restoring a full complement of police officers to repaving streets, how do we agree on spending priorities?
  • Traffic relief – Traffic engineers measures capacity with letter grades from A to F.  The traffic study done for the Rainier Connector Environmental Impact Report projects many of the traffic improvements at no more than partial grades, such as changing a C into a C+.  Any improvement is good, but the projected improvements are less than many seem to expect.Questions: For the final configuration, what will the traffic relief be?  Can we improve the traffic through stronger multi-use paths, more frequent transit service, or further walkable development?
  • Readiness to build – Despite the expectations of some, the Rainier Connector won’t happen anytime soon.  It can’t be built until Highway 101 is widened through Petaluma, a project that may be a half billion dollars down the Caltrans priority list.Question: What is a realistic schedule for construction?
  • Public support – The proponents of the Rainier Connector often point to the 72 percent approval achieved by a 2004 advisory ballot measure, a ballot measure that assumed a connection to Highway 101 but failed to provide an estimated project cost.  However, when a ballot measure was placed on the 2014 ballot to fund a portion of the Connector with a sales tax, only 44 percent voted in favor.   That’s a significant difference.

Question: Once we have a firm handle on configuration, cost, taxpayer impacts, andtraffic  relief, what will the public support be?

I believe in the Rainier Connector.  I’m convinced that it must be a part of Petaluma’s future.  But we need to have real conversations about what it will be, how it will work, and how the costs will be paid.  Robo calls with half-truths and outright deceptions don’t help.  Good leadership will help.  I’m committed to providing good leadership.

My opponents want the Rainier Connector to be a divisive issue.  I want accountability and a transparent process.  I hope you agree with me.

Posted in News and Updates | Tagged | Leave a comment

Petaluma Tomorrow Council Watch Report, October 17, 2016

Petaluma Tomorrow
Council Watch Report
October 17, 2016

 

Attendance
Councilmembers Mike Healy, Chris Albertson, Kathy Miller, Gabe Kearney, Vice Mayor Dave King, Teresa Barrett and Mayor David Glass present.

 

Key Issues and Commentary

 

Lots of fun for public policy wonks in this meeting.

 

  • The city moved forward with its railroad Quiet Zones application after much pleading from the public.
  • The city agreed to expand its sewage storage capacity in the event of an emergency while everyone sought to avoid visualizing what 4 million gallons of crap looked and smelled like. Poop storage at 10 cents a gallon is worth pursuing, the council agreed.
  • The changing role of food banks is worth pondering if you have a moment. Take a tour of the Redwood Empire Food Bank and you’ll learn a great deal and appreciate the organization all the more, according to the Mayor. It’s far more than simply an emergency food pantry.
  • Councilmember Barrett once more noted in Council Comment that transportation continues to be the hard nut to crack in our response to climate change.

 

Proclamations

 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month – October 2016. Jane Gaskill of the Sonoma County YWCA accepted this proclamation from the city.

 

According to the CDC, on average, 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the U.S. Over the course of a year, that equals more than 10 million women and men. 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 7 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. The most at-risk population is of women between 18 – 24. Of that population, only 55% will report being victimized to the police.

 

National Park System Centennial – 410 nationally significant sites in the U.S.

 

Red Ribbon Week – a national campaign to encourage school kids of all ages to avoid drugs and alcohol and lead healthy, active lives which began here in Petaluma.

 

Presentation:

 

Redwood Empire Food Bank
David Goodman, CEO of the REFB, gave a brief presentation to the public.

 

82,000 people, 1 in 6 in Sonoma County, don’t get enough food to eat and obtain food assistance from the REFB, which also serves Lake, Mendocino, Del Norte and Humboldt Counties.

 

REFB gives $700,000 worth of food annually to Petaluma organizations. It also sells some foods to those same organizations at greatly discounted prices.

 

For example, COTS spent $11,000 at REFB last year for $525,000 worth of food. For every dollar they spent they received $46 worth of food.

 

REFB distributes 7.5 million pounds of fresh produce annually.

 

Open Counter Demonstration

 

Petaluma Economic Development Manager Ingrid Alverde gave the public a demonstration of the city’s new, now award-winning Open Counter online permitting tool.

 

Approval of Proposed Agenda

 

Approved by unanimous vote.

 

3. Consent Calendar
A & D  removed to be considered separately.

 

A. Resolution Authorizing Award of Contract for the PIPS Odor Control and Hopper Street Emergency Pumping Storage Improvement Project.
B. Resolution Accepting Completion of the Construction Contract for Transit Signal Priority Phase I Project, City Project No. C65101402.
C. Resolution Authorizing the Execution of a Professional Services Agreement for Design and Engineering Services for the Petaluma Community Sports Fields Baseball Field Project and Authorizing a Revised Project Budget.
D. Resolution Authorizing Approval of a Contract Change Order to the Community Center Roof Overlay and HVAC Replacement Project to Overlay Fire Station 2 Roof.
E. Resolution Receiving the Arbitration Panel Award and Ratifying the Tentative Agreements Executed of the Duly Authorized Representatives of the International Association of Firefighters, Local 1415, Unit 7. STAFF REPORT MADE AVAILABLE WITH AGENDA REVISION NO. 1 – THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2016.
F. Resolution Ratifying the Tentative Agreement Executed by the Duly Authorized Representatives of the American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees, Local 675, Unit 1 – Confidential, Unit 2 – Maintenance, Unit 3 Technical/Clerical. (Brodhun) – STAFF REPORT MADE AVAILABLE WITH AGENDA REVISION NO. 1 – THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2016.

 

Items B, C, E & F approved by unanimous vote.

 

Mr. Healy wondered what the options were on 3A re: the storage of 4 million gallons of raw sewage, if there’s a problem with the force main.

 

According to Dan St. John, city needs some emergency sewage storage capacity available, in case of a catastrophic failure. The Primary Influent Pump Station forcemain is 35 years old and cannot be inspected, as it is in continuous use and cannot be shut down. 4 million gallon emergency storage would give us less than 24 hours’ capacity. It’s the most important pipe in our sewage system. Replacing the forcemain would be a $10 million project, by today’s estimates. This emergency storage would cost about 10 cents per gallon to construct, as opposed to the Paula Lane storage tank, which cost about $1 per gallon to build.

 

Healy noted that this is a much larger decision to make, given the possibility that this would take the old treatment plant out of consideration for future development.

 

Ms. Miller noted it was difficult to tell from the staff report where this storage capacity would go. Also, are there other possibilities for location?

 

Mr. Albertson asked if there were alternatives and ultimately offered to move the item.

 

Teresa Barrett noted that we do know the implications if we’re not prepared for such an emergency (earthquake, etc – today’s the anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake) , drawing people’s attention to the cost in fines to the city if it were forced to dump sewage into the Petaluma River in an emergency. Fines would be in the millions. Barrett called putting off this investment irresponsible.

 

Approved by a vote of 5-2, with Healy and Miller dissenting.

 

Item 3D approved by unanimous vote of 6 – 0, with Mr. King recusing himself

 

4 New Business

 

A. Introduction (First Reading) of an Ordinance Repealing and Replacing Sections 17.20.010, 17.20.040, 17.20.050, and 17.20.060 of the Petaluma Municipal Code to Adopt the 2016 California Fire Code, California Building Standards Code, Title 24, Part 9, Based on the 2015 Edition of the International Fire Code.

 

California changes and adjusts its fire code every three years and these are suggested changes from the 2013 code.

 

Mayor Glass asked about the 4th of July celebrations and fireworks at the fairgrounds in relation to fire code enforcement, as this was the best opportunity he’d encountered to do so. He noted having spoken with a southern California city mayor of comparable population to Petaluma’s, who said they’d issued 17 $1,000 citations in one season for illegal fireworks use on the 4th. Glass thought Petaluma had not issued a single citation. What would it take to actually enforce the fire code?

 

Last 4th of July, he said that he’d seen PFD personnel in close proximity to illegal fireworks, who’d responded by doing nothing.

 

Chief Thompson unequivocally noted that those personnel were mistaken, and should have acted.

 

Approved by unanimous vote.

 

B. Resolution Authorizing the Filing of a Notice of Intent with the Federal Railroad Administration, California Public Utilities Commission, Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit, North Western Pacific Rail Road Company and North Coast Rail Authority to Establish a Quiet Zone in Petaluma City Limits from Corona Road to Caulfield Lane.

 

Dan St. John – 60 days to comment on the notice of intent, meant that the Quiet Zone ought to be ready by the new start time for SMART, recently delayed to spring 2017.

 

Approved by unanimous vote

 

5 Public Hearing

 

A. Public Hearing to Hear Testimony Regarding the Formation of a Landscape Assessment District for Avila Ranch Landscape Assessment District (LAD) and to Declare the Results of the Balloting, Ordering Improvements, and Confirming the Diagrams and Annual Assessment.

 

Approved by unanimous vote of 6 – 0, with Mr. Kearney recusing himself

 

B. Resolution Approving the 2016 Petaluma Transit Short Range Transit Plan.

 

Transit Manager Joe Rye gave an update on Petaluma’s Transit Plan. As recipients of some federal aid for transit, the city is required to update its plan every four years. From 2012 to 2016 we more than doubled our ridership, according to Rye.

 

Mayor David Glass thanked Mr. Rye for the many improvements to Petaluma Transit’s service and its growth, noting there had been many issues with it in the past – seven, eight years prior, but has been improving ever since.

 

Approved by unanimous vote.

 

Council Comment

 

Councilmember Chris Albertson read a list of events from Petaluma Downtown Association – October 28, the Petaluma International Film Festival; followed by the Dia de los Muertos event downtown; Nov. 11 O + Fest from 4 – 6 pm. Veterans Day parade that day as well.

 

Albertson noted the collapse of talks between St. Josephs and the Petaluma Health Care District.

 

Councilmember Kathy Miller reiterated Albertson’s point about the Petaluma Hospital and reassured the public that the hospital would remain open.

 

Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee reviewed the North River Apartments project at its recent meeting, which has a Class 1 bike path. City staff is attempting to figure out a fifty foot gap between the end of that trail and the Lynch Creek Trail. The gap is due to an existing city pump station. Also 93 covered bicycle spaces associated with the project.

 

Miller on the SCTA meeting: CalTrans is looking at removing the trees near the freeway due to the recent fire – some damaged, some not – and is now likely to move forward with that and build the sound walls there, once the trees are gone.

 

Barrett asked Miller to clarify the tree removal. There was previously no plan to do the tree removal until the widening work on 101 was done, stated Miller, but now CalTrans is inclined to expedite removing the trees and getting the sound walls built afterwards.

 

King – SCP had a 4.5 hr meeting. JPA was finalized following a lengthy discussion.

 

King said the SCP Board committed $2.5 million over a 9 month period to a combination of rebates toward the purchase of electric vehicles from participating dealerships, in an effort to reduce the use of petroleum in our transportation system. No Petaluma dealers are participating.

 

Barrett – The Petaluma Arts Center successfully raised $65,000.

 

She recently attended the Climate Forward conference in San Francisco, sponsored by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

 

The real problem in the Bay Area is transportation, the primary source of greenhouse gases – 40% of the overall. Transportation creates 58% of Petaluma’s ghg emissions (56% in Sonoma County) because we have little heavy industry.

 

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission doesn’t appear to have any strategic plan to address this problem yet.

 

“Transportation really does seem to be the hard nut to crack.”

 

Mayor Glass congratulated the service clubs of Petaluma for the new Petaluma Police Department’s substation at Walnut Park.

Adjourned at 9:42 pm

Posted in Council Watch | Leave a comment

Council Watch Report for October 3, 2016

Petaluma Tomorrow
Council Watch Report
October 3, 2016
Attendance

 

Councilmembers Chris Albertson, Kathy Miller, Gabe Kearney, Mike Healy and Teresa Barrett present.
Key Issues and Commentary
Just days after a fire that destroyed several homes on Stuart Drive, that event remained on the minds of many at this City Council meeting, including the perpetually racist Kathryn Babrowski, who prefaced her latest public indictment of her Latino neighbors and the PDD with a shower of praise upon the Petaluma Fire Department.

 

An otherwise brisk and business-like meeting was slightly derailed by a discussion of item 5B, which Councilmember Chris Albertson took to be more akin to a set-aside fee benefitting Lafferty Ranch. Adding Lafferty to the parks available to receive funding, or building a bigger pie, suggested the City Manager, was what it was all about.

 

Workshop

 

Council Watch did not attend the staff’s public workshop which occurred immediately prior to the Council’s evening session. This workshop on Quiet Zones is worth reviewing, and may be viewed at the city’s webpage here. Public commentary received by the city about this agenda item overwhelmingly supported the city’s pursuit of Quiet Zones in Petaluma.

 

Quiet Zones will be on the October 17, 2016 City Council agenda.

 

Proclamations

 

Fire Prevention Week:  October 9-15, 2016

 

General Public Comment

 

Kathryn Babrowski paused to extend her thanks to the Petaluma Fire Department for their tremendous job putting out the Stuart Drive fire near Highway 1o1, before painting a self-portrait of a woman besieged by malicious neighbors at the Littlewoods Mobile Villa mobile home park.

 

2. Approval of Proposed Agenda

 

A. Approval of REVISED Agenda for Regular City Council/PCDSA Meeting of Monday, October 17, 2016. – Revision No. 1 – Monday, October 3, 2016.

 

Approved by unanimous vote.

 

3. Consent calendar

 

A. Resolution Approving Claims and Bills for August 2016.
B. Resolution Accepting Completion of Work by the City’s Weed Abatement Contractor and Authorizing the City Clerk to File a Notice of Completion with the Sonoma County Recorder’s Office and Authorizing City Staff to Release the 10% Retention Fee for Services Performed by the City’s Weed Abatement Contractor.
C. Resolution Ordering the Summary Vacation of an Existing Storm Flow Retention Pond Easement on Assessor Parcel Number 150-020-036, Petaluma, CA.
D. Resolution Authorizing Execution of First Amended Agreement with the Sonoma County Water Agency for the Petaluma River Stream Gauge Installation Project.
E. Resolution Ratifying the Tentative Agreement Reached by the Duly Authorized Representatives of the City of Petaluma and the Peace Officers’ Association of Petaluma.

 

Approved by unanimous vote in its entirety.

 

4. New Business

 

A. Resolution Amending the Classification and Compensation Plan by Establishing the Classification and Pay Range of Deputy Police Chief, Authorizing the Position Allocation of One (1.0) Deputy Police Chief, and Eliminating One (1.0) Police Lieutenant.

 

Approved by unanimous vote.

 

B. Resolution Proposing Formation of the Avila Ranch Subdivision Landscape and Lighting Assessment District; Resolution of Preliminary Approval of Engineer’s Report for Avila Ranch Subdivision Landscape and Lighting Assessment District; and Resolution of Intention to Order the Levy and Collection of Assessments for Avila Ranch Subdivision Landscape and Lighting Assessment District and Setting a Public Hearing.
This is the first of two required public meetings on this landscape assessment district.

 

Three resolutions in this item approved by unanimous vote of 4-0, with Kearney recusing himself.

 

C. Resolution Authorizing Award of Contract for the Petaluma Community Sports Fields Restroom Improvements Project.

 

The next step in improving the Petaluma Community Sports Field project, which involves the purchase and construction of a prefabricated restroom facility.

 

Approved by unanimous vote.

 

5. Public Hearings

 

A. Public Hearing and Action to Adopt Resolution Confirming the Cost of Abatement of Weeds and Confirming Approving of the Forwarding of Unpaid Bills to the County Assessor’s Office for Collection as Assessments.

 

Approved by unanimous vote.

 

B. Resolution Repealing and Replacing the Current Park Land Development Impact Fee Resolution for Future Development within the City of Petaluma, Resolution No. 2014-037 N.C.S., Adopted March 3, 2014, to add Funding for Lafferty Ranch Improvements.

 

One Lafferty Ranch neighbor on Sonoma Mountain Rd. – also a member of the Petaluma Service Alliance – noted that organization’s recent work on Walnut Park – so necessary yet long overdue thanks to a lack of funding – with the city’s desire to now spend funds on a trail outside city limits. He called for a vote of Petaluma’s citizenry on whether or not they wanted to spend city funds on this.

 

Gabe Kearney sought to clarify where this funding was coming from. These are not funds we could be using to fix potholes.

 

Councilmember Chris Albertson took everyone to task at length about the expenditure of funds on a project outside of town when there are so many projects in town that need money. He mentioned a great number of projects and organizations in need of funding.

 

“All these items are items in the city limits. All these items have a funding need.”

 

“I don’t want city money, resources that could be spent here in city limits, going five miles up Sonoma Mountain,” Albertson continued.

 

He also mentioned McNear Peninsula and other projects that might be considered for funding, inside city limits, unlike Lafferty.

 

Councilmember Teresa Barrett asked city staff why this adjustment to the Park Land Development Fee is written in such a way that it is 99% about Lafferty?

 

It is all about Lafferty in a sense, suggested Danly, as this resolution means Lafferty is now being added back to the mix of projects available to be funded.

 

City Manager Brown suggested the city is simply “making a bigger pie.”

 

Barrett responded that she’s comfortable with pursuing the development of Lafferty as a city park and with raising the park impact fees, but “what I’m never comfortable with is designer legislation,” a set-aside for Lafferty, “and I would never have supported that.” Seeing it’s not, she happily supported this.

 

Approved by 4 – 1 vote with Chris Albertson dissenting.

 

Council Comment

 

Mike Healy mentioned that the technical committee of the county water agency met and Lake Mendocino was at 90% of capacity, Lake Sonoma was at 87% of capacity, both very good. Water savings in August was 23%, due to pretty darn good habits the people of Petaluma have continued.

Adjourned at 8:25

Posted in Council Watch | Leave a comment