By far the hottest topic of this election will be Measure R. However I believe the fundamental issue is not the approval or rejection of some ballot language. The real unspoken YES or NO question is this: Do we trust our city leadership to do the right thing?
I remember not long ago the City Council chambers were overrun by residents demanding that the Council take action about the high prices of housing - prices driven by unrelenting demand and a short if not dwindling supply. “Do something!” was the desperate plea.
After thousands of hours of collective effort spent by city staff, a special Housing Committee, and the community itself, the Council decided to propose the biggest “something” it could do - something it knew full well was going to be explosively controversial and potentially a political career killer for its members: replace the GMO with a series of rules overseen mostly by the Council.
With the GMO as is, we know we’ll see more of the same: More hotels, maybe a smattering of low-income housing, rising rents and housing prices, and almost certainly zero housing for middle-income earners. What happens to the Nu Forest property will be a poignant front-and-center example of that status quo.
Under the proposed GMO replacement provisions, the city will clearly have tremendous power to negotiate with housing developers. But as Spiderman’s Uncle Ben says, with great power comes great responsibility. Therefore the essential question for a post-GMO world is this: Do we believe that our city leadership will fulfill its responsibility to the community when evaluating housing development proposals?
I know the Council’s proposal isn’t perfect - but I also understand the complexities of the issues and I feel it is a pretty darn good compromise between profit and people. The Executive Director of the Housing Land Trust of Sonoma County even called the Housing Action Plan component "phenomenal." But most importantly I believe the status quo is unacceptable.
Our choice is not a simple YES or NO on the GMO, but on the fundamental question of whether we trust the leaders whom we vote into power. If we don’t, then it’s time to begin an entirely different conversation.
I say let’s give the Council’s plan a shot, and give our elected leaders the faith that they deserve.
And in the meantime, let's focus on electing the right leaders. Vote for a Healdsburg for Everyone. Vote Joe.