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The People's Voice

District elections will finally bring democracy to Santa Rosa

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All you need to know about the opposition to Measure Q, which would enable each region of Santa Rosa to elect its own city council representative, is "Who?" "Where?" and "Why?"

Who is campaigning against Measure Q, or opposed putting it on the ballot? Here's a sample: Herb Williams, campaign manager for dozens of developer-backed candidates; Janet Condron, former city councilwoman who earned failing grades on the Sonoma County Conservation Action environmental report card; Doug Bosco, former congressman and behind-the-scenes powerbroker.

Where do they live? In affluent areas of east Santa Rosa.

That's no coincidence. Since Santa Rosa's founding, councilmembers have come almost exclusively from wealthy eastside neighborhoods, their campaigns financed by business and development interests.

Why? Because the current system suits Santa Rosa's power elite just fine. They have controlled a majority of the city council for all but two years in living memory. While advocates for neighborhoods, inclusion and quality of life fought unsuccessfully to be heard, these council majorities cheerfully rubber-stamped proposals ranging from expanding an asphalt plant in the middle of town to ridgetop McMansions in Skyhawk.

Right now, every Santa Rosa City Council election is a pitched battle between bags of business community cash on one side and outspent, grassroots campaigns for neighborhood and environmental advocates on the other. Those loyal to the wishes of ordinary voters are outgunned, and they usually lose.

If that's democracy, it's democracy Citizens United–style. The game is rigged to favor candidates funded by interests who hope to profit from city council decisions.

Giving each region of the city its own representative will give people-powered campaigns a fighting chance. City council members will be more accountable to voters, not special interests. And when a neighborhood has a concern, they'll have an advocate at city hall.

Real democracy in Santa Rosa is long overdue. Vote yes on Measure Q.

Mark Green was founding executive director of Sonoma County Conservation Action from 1991 to 2000, and was named Sonoma County Environmentalist of the Year in 1997. He writes on politics and culture at http://greendragonblog.com; follow him on Twitter @MarkGreenFuture.

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