2014 race heats up early
Published: Monday, November 4, 2013 at 3:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 4, 2013 at 3:01 p.m.
While no one in Petaluma will be headed to the polls to vote on Nov. 5, that hasn’t stopped council members and city staff from gearing up for next year’s election.
There are no local elections or ballot measures in Petaluma this year, but the 2014 Petaluma City Council race is already taking shape. Several candidates are planning to run for four open seats. Meanwhile, city staff is preparing for next year’s election, working to hire a firm that will conduct polling on a possible sales tax measure.
Adding to the 2014 election mix is the Petaluma Health Care District’s decision over who will run Petaluma Valley Hospital. The district’s 20-year lease with St. Joseph Health is expiring in a few years, and the district must decide whether to renew the lease with St. Joseph or explore other options. Depending on its decision, the district may have to put the matter to voters.
Here’s an update on the 2014 candidates and campaigns already underway.
City Council race
Mayor David Glass announced his re-election campaign during the summer of 2012 with former Mayor Pam Torliatt, who will be running for a City Council seat. Soon after, Councilmember Mike Harris threw his hat into the mayoral race.
“It’s not like I’m actively campaigning,” said Harris, who has recently been photographed at many public events throughout town. “I’m just doing what I’ve always done — going to events that I’ve been invited to.”
Harris, who held a small fundraising event last week, admits that he hadn’t planned on announcing his campaign so early. He says he did so to keep pace with Glass.
Glass, who held a campaign fundraiser event in late September with Torliatt, said his campaign is going well.
“There were several hundred people (at the event), mostly from Petaluma and some from throughout the county,” said Glass. “It was great to see so many friends.”
But he added that because the election is more than a year away, campaigning is taking a back seat to his current mayoral duties.
Along with Glass and Harris, Vice Mayor Chris Albertson and Councilmember Teresa Barrett are also up for re-election. While Alberston has submitted paperwork to the city declaring his intent to run, he said he really remains undecided.
“I’m discussing it with people right now,” said Albertson on Monday. He said he was leaning toward running because he’d enjoyed his time on council, but added, “I haven’t made a firm decision yet.”
Meanwhile, Barrett said she probably won’t know if she’s running until much closer to the actual November 2014 election.
“I believe it is months too earlier — at least half a year too early — to have this discussion,” she said Monday.
Torliatt did not return requests for comment.
Petaluma has long been politically divided between candidates who tend to favor more development and those who don’t. Glass and Barrett often vote similarly on planning issues, tending to favor a “slow growth” approach to development with an emphasis on increasing sustainable projects and encouraging small, local businesses but voting agains large-scale retail developments such as the incoming Deer Creek Village shopping center. Glass was first elected mayor in 2002 and served until 2007. He then was elected back to the City Council in 2008 and then ran mid-term for mayor in 2010. Barrett was elected to the City Council in 2006 and has served ever since.
Harris and Albertson often vote alike on development issues. Harris, who says his focus is on fiscal stability and economic growth, tends to vote for development projects. Albertson, a former fire chief for the city, has also voted for some of the biggest development projects in recent years, such as Deer Creek Village. Harris has been on the council since 2002. Albertson was elected in 2010.
Besides the incumbents, former Vice Mayor and Councilmember Tiffany Renée says that she is not currently considering joining the 2014 City Council election race. Jason Davies, a local businessman who ran unsuccessfully for the City Council in 2012, said that he has not decided if he will run.
The most recent campaign contribution disclosures, from July, show that Harris has about $20,000 in available campaign cash. Glass had about $8,000 and Torliatt had about $4,800. Albertson said he hasn’t raised any funds yet.
Sales tax measure
Facing a projected $2.3 million general fund deficit by 2017, primarily due to rising employee retirement and healthcare costs, the city directed staff to study placing a sales tax increase on the 2014 ballot. A half-cent sales tax increase could raise up to an additional $5 million annually for the city and could be used to pay for things like street repair and parks maintenance.
But in order to pass a tax increase, city staff has stressed the need to gauge public support. Polling on a sales tax is expected to cost the city between $20,000 and $40,000, with a full-fledged campaign and ballot measure estimated to cost about $300,000.
The city is hoping to select a polling firm by the end of the year.
Health Care District vote
The Petaluma Health Care District, which owns Petaluma Valley Hospital, may also place a measure on the 2014 ballot if it decides to continue having an outside health care provider run the hospital.The district’s 20-year contract with St. Joseph Health to run the hospital is expiring in 2017. As the contract nears its end, the Health Care District has been looking at running the hospital itself, renewing its least with St. Joseph, or contracting with a new outside health care provider.
If the district decides to run the hospital itself, the matter will not come before the voters. But if the hospital decides it wants to renew its lease with St. Joseph, or sign a new lease with any other health care provider, it must put it to the voters.
(Contact Janelle Wetzstein at email@example.com)
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