Measure X: Good for Petaluma's future
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 10:02 a.m.
I’m always looking out for the future — my future and the future of the many communities I inhabit. That’s why I support Measure X, a carefully crafted solution to a serious Petaluma problem. During my eight years on the Petaluma Recreation, Music and Parks Commission, I witnessed a hardworking and underfunded city parks staff struggle creatively with declining revenues and increasing demands. The root cause of the problem — a dysfunctional funding mechanism — was well known by commissioners, staff, and the City Council.
Money for new and improved park and recreation facilities was coming almost exclusively from development impact fees. We were trapped in the unsustainable loop of growing to keep up with growth. And Petaluma wasn’t immune to the budget pressures that plagued the entire state. With insufficient funds, long-planned projects were put on hold, and staffing was cut.
This wasn’t like Field of Dreams “build it and they will come.” “They” were already here, getting by as best they could. I saw group after group of parents and their kids step up, asking for and offering to help rather than suffer inadequate, dangerous, or non-existent facilities. We knew what it would take to get us out of the hole: a well-designed ballot measure and a vigorous campaign capable of convincing two-thirds of the voters to approve it. These things are not easy, but thanks to hundreds of volunteer hours from Petaluma Friends Of Recreation, we now have them. We just need your vote.
Let me answer some objections offered by a recent letter writer from the Sonoma County Taxpayers Association. First, this isn’t “budgeting by ballot box.” Measure X doesn’t constrain the City Council on how to spend its general fund. Nor does it create a slush fund for unaccountable spending on anyone’s “privileged” projects.
Measure X has a clearly defined scope of work and funding mechanism, with flexible and transparent governance. The projects were selected through a lengthy and open public process, not by a “small group of activists.” This is local democracy at its best, and a Citizens Oversight Committee will ensure the money is properly spent after the measure is approved. Most of these projects have been top priorities with Petaluma going back into the last century. That helps explain the unanimous support from current City Council members and candidates.
The finances are sound. While covering the great majority of the costs, the measure leverages some contributions from other sources, including citizen’s groups, reducing taxpayer costs and giving the user groups some skin in the game.
These groups have already donated a tremendous amount of time and money to recreation, and there’s no reason to expect that won’t continue. It’s one of the things that makes Petaluma a great place for kids. Investing in upgrading some of the workhorse facilities, like the Community Center and Prince Park, will reduce routine maintenance costs and allow some facilities to be used for more of the year, increasing use fee revenues. Overall, Measure X will have a positive impact on Petaluma business, both by bringing families in for events (and shopping), and by making the city more attractive to new businesses.
As the nation debates health care, and how to give citizens skills for prospering in the global economy, Measure X provides the opportunity to improve health and job skills, here and now in Petaluma. The learning made possible by these projects is every bit as important as what is learned in the classroom; with schools cutting back on physical education and the arts, community-based activities become that much more important.
I’m not the only one whose involvement with youth sports built a foundation for a healthy and prosperous adulthood -— you don’t have to be a national champ to have your life changed. The same can be said about theater and the arts, or any other of the activities directly supported by Measure X. Business is a team sport; business is a performing art.
Issues at the global, national, and state level are more than just a little crazy right now. Let’s at least invest a buck a week in our local community’s ability to deal with whatever the future brings.
(Bruce Hagen is a utility conservation program manager and everyday voter.)
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.
You'll find a number of new technology features available from this site. With personalized news sent straight to your mobile device.
post your stuff
Petaluma360.com is here for you to post your comments, photos, news and events with the community. Post it now!
Have something to say? Join the conversation!
Upload your photos of community events, holidays, pets, cute kids, breaking news and more, and vote for your favorites!
Submit your area events to encourage others in your community to attend.