Improving Petaluma City Government

Even though government is bureaucratic and inefficient, let’s embrace the opportunity to review and improve our Petaluma City Government. Our citizens do not trust Petaluma City Government and this distrust is based on experience and years of frustration in interacting with various City Managers, the City Attorney, and the City Council. Anyone who has lived in Petaluma for 5 years or longer likely resonates with this reality. Our elected leaders must have healthy boundaries and communicate clearly with City Management and the City Legal Department to represent the residents of Petaluma.

Change does not occur overnight, but initiating and following through on new policies and practices to ensure integrity of process, less covering up for staff and management failures, and acknowledging where City Government practices need to change, will lead to Petaluma being a better community, served by our government. A small group of Petalumans is very invested in the “beloved town” and the “great work” occurring at the City of Petaluma, but most Petalumans realize this portrayal is more public relations and less substance, more “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” politics than actual service for all of Petaluma.

Susan’s many years of experience interacting with City Departments, 4 City Management teams, 4 Mayors and 5 City Councils, year after year, meeting after meeting, bring substance to the political declaration of the need for transparency and accountability in our government. Together, the new Mayor and existing and new City Council members will have an opportunity to set change in motion. Our community members want transparency and more honesty in government. The institutional Public Relations element of the current City Government is misleading. Our elected officials need to give clear direction to the City Manager and support each other in decisions that are best for Petaluma. Our elected officials need to persevere in achieving what we know is best for Petaluma. If there is resistance from City Management or the City Attorney or staff, then working through that resistance to support a best path, funding for various projects and priorities, and making things happen – the way our community wants us to – will create a new paradigm of action and achievement in Petaluma. In the Climate Change section of priorities, the importance of including all Petalumans who want to contribute to the process, not excluding Petalumans, will be important in all facets of our City government, to be fair and represent everyone in the City.

Many challenges are ahead, including ongoing uncertainty in our daily lives – Recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing, responding to climate-related emergencies of worsening wildfires, drought, intense storms and flooding, and standing with national movements such as Black Lives Matter to address social and racial injustice, bringing reforms to our local community.

In a broad sense, electing leaders who can consider complex issues, coordinate with our healthcare, educational and spiritual communities, and serve our citizens to the best of our capability can also lead to government that represents compassion and resilience.