In the city's first by-district election on
In the northwestern district, the city budget, development and wildfire safety were identified as key areas of interest by the two candidates.
Petray said he is not a politician and that he is not accepting campaign contributions; donors are being directed to give to charity. After "agonizing" over the city's budgeting process this year, Petray said he thought his experience in finance could help the city.
"My desire is to be an advocate for the taxpayers," Petray said. "I want to be a fiduciary for their money as well and that means to make sure that all the money that is entitled to the city is collected and all the money that goes out is spent prudently."
Wernick, who was raised in
"Now I think I have the skill set to bring to the council and the background and experience," Wernick said. "I just think that I'd be a great addition to the council."
Wernick said Novato must find new revenue sources such as looking at increasing the city's sales tax rate back from a quarter-cent to a half-cent.
Other options include establishing a waste franchise fee and attracting new businesses by improving the city's permitting and planning processes.
"We just need to be a welcoming community," Wernick said. "I'm not saying Novato, but some cities have reputations of not being business-friendly and we don't want to be that kind of city."
Tax increases should be a last resort, Petray said.
"The hard solution is really digging into the budget and figuring out ways to become more cost-conscious and more efficient and looking at other revenue sources, which I have some ideas for," he said.
These ideas include establishing a waste franchise fee and creating a nonprofit supporting organization for the city, similar to what some hospitals have, to raise money for city programs.
To address the city's unfunded pension liability, which was at
Both candidates agreed that Novato needs a stronger focus on attracting developers to use the large, vacant properties in their district, including the Fireman's Fund property, the 17-acre
To promote business growth, Petray said the city could work collaboratively with the
Other issues important to Wernick include exploring creative ways to construct more housing for city workers and residents; maintaining a consistent level of city services; environmental protections and climate change initiatives; effective communication in
For Petray, other issues he'd like to address include creation of a fire safety plan and maintenance of the open space of the district.
As for cannabis industry expansion, Petray said he has concerns about the government "getting into the drug business," but said he would favor limiting expansion to delivery businesses only. Wernick said she supports the
The race for the council's downtown and northeastern seat is arguably the most contentious.
Similar to his council run in 2017, Morrison has not shied away from making public challenges. He is seeking to upend the current city structure and policies through his "Green Novato" initiative under which taxes and fees would be waived for green development and businesses.
Morrison said he was prompted to run after the council adopted the by-district election system. He described the city's district map as "gerrymandered to favor incumbents" and quashing the voices of minority voters. As for Lucan, Morrison called him "dishonest" and "misleading" about his statements on crime reduction and housing creation and said he has eroded public confidence in the council by being divisive with councilwomen
"A vote for him is a vote for incivility and lack of progress," Morrison said.
In response, Lucan has avoided aspersions and focused on issues such as continuing the construction of more senior housing; paying down the city's unfunded pension liability; building partnerships to build wildfire resiliency; and investing in paths and infrastructure such as electric vehicle charging stations to promote greenhouse gas reductions.
"I have the experience and proven track record of getting things done so I think I'm very well-positioned to continue to address these issues," Lucan said.
As the city faces forecast deficits in the coming years, Lucan and Morrison have widely different strategies.
Morrison said he would not support any new taxes, but would support eliminating taxes and fees under his "Green Novato" plan, which he said would stimulate business growth. Other initiatives under the plan include building micro-grids to make the city fossil-fuel free by 2029, and a "green showcase" on
"I do think what we call now the climate disaster is the biggest issue facing us and I do think that local solutions are important," he said.
Lucan said the city has built up strong budget reserves under his tenure, but said ongoing revenues will be required to weather an eventual economic downtown. To obtain this money, Lucan says the city will be collecting more transient occupancy taxes from new hotels under development and requesting tax payments from short-term rentals such as AirBnb; establishing a waste franchise fee; and loaning a portion of the
"If we did it would lower our CalPERS payments annually and save us a significant amount of money in the long run because that unfunded liability assumes a 7% rate of return," Lucan said.
To address pensions, Morrison said the city could use its credit to float a
To drive business growth, Morrison is again calling on the council to adopt the "Green Novato" initiatives. For Lucan, he said the city needs to update its general plan and consider other strategies such as offering 0% or low interest loans to promote restaurant development in downtown.
Both Lucan and Morrison said they support accelerating the minimum wage in the city, a proposal that the council approved on a first reading last month.
For recreational cannabis businesses, Morrison said he supports storefront retail sales, including in downtown. Lucan said he supports delivery cannabis businesses, but said he doesn't think Novato is ready for storefronts.
The most crowded race is for the seat representing Hamilton and the southern Novato neighborhoods.
With a background in communications, Galliani said she felt inspired to run for the seat because she sensed a lack of clear communication between council members and the public.
"I decided that people needed to get involved," she said. "We need to get involved. We need to move things along. Novato needs my help."
Hoch, a longtime Hamilton resident, said she decided to run because she felt it was important for the council to have a representative to tackle the issues her district faces.
"I think given the remaining issues in Hamilton and the future development that is going to occur, particularly all the properties at near
Peele said that after being active in
"I got this big burst of excitement and energy in a way that I haven't had for a while and that tells me something is right," Peele said about how she felt after deciding to run.
The top issue for Hoch is the city's budget. Hoch said her first actions would be to call for an independent auditor to assess the city's finances, develop a revenue forecasting plan and identify ways to bolster revenues and identify areas to cut costs.
Peele had similar views, but said she doesn't think that there is much to cut. Instead she said the city needs to take a look at taxation, but said outreach would need to be done first.
The city also needs to look at ways to attract new businesses such as restaurants and allow large companies to expand, Peele said.
Tax increases should be a last resort, Galliani said. Instead, the city should begin collecting transient occupancy taxes from short-term rentals like Airbnb, establish a waste franchise fee and streamline the permitting and zoning processes to allow businesses to develop.
Peele said the city should focus on creating more spaces for businesses to open while supporting existing businesses. Peele said she supports the city's effort to accelerate the minimum wage hike.
As for cannabis expansion, she said she'd be open to considering storefront retail dispensaries, but said outreach will need to be performed with stakeholders while checking in with other cities who have adopted similar regulations.
Determining how to tackle business development will require more community input, Galliani said. She said she supports a minimum wage acceleration, but one that business owners would agree to. Galliani said she has seen how allowing cannabis retail has benefited cities and is open to giving it a chance.
For Hoch, the city's priority should be supporting the businesses that are already here and allowing them to expand. The city should not accelerate the minimum wage hike until businesses are on board, she said.
Hoch said she didn't have an answer as to what extent the cannabis industry should expand in
Regarding pension liabilities, Galliani said all employees should get what they are promised. Once on the council, she said, she'll be able to explore more options. Hoch called for an independent assessment to determine the best course forward for paying down the liabilities. For Peele, she also said employees should get what they are promised. She said that the city should consider what benefits it can realistically offer down the road.
Other priorities for Hoch include creating a flood control oversight committee for the district to plan for levee and pump replacement and sea level rise planning. She is also seeking to launch a new planning effort and to update the decades-old Hamilton Base Reuse Plan. Another major initiative is emergency planning for southern Novato, especially for wildfire.
Priorities for Peele include wildfire, flooding and climate change resiliency; improving services for the homeless, including affordable housing development; and transportation and transit options, especially to get senior residents active.
Other priorities for Galliani include advocating for more workforce housing throughout Novato, improving voter registration in the district, creating more programs for community involvement and connectivity and refurbishing downtown Novato, among others.
Occupation: Certified public accountant
Education: Bachelor's degree in accounting,
Experience: Former finance chair, treasurer and trustee of the Hanna Boys Center; former Sonoma County Family Justice Center board member and president; former California State
Occupation: Community volunteer
Education: Associate's degree from
Occupation: Chief marketing officer for Mike's Bikes
Education: Master's degree in business administration,
Experience: Two-term city councilman;
Occupation: Environmental and educational nonprofit consultant
Education: Bachelor's degree in English,
Occupation: Real estate agent
Education: Bachelor's degree in chemistry,
Occupation: Vice president of sales at KGO Radio
Education: Bachelor's degree in liberal studies from
Experience: Novato resident for 30 years; chairwoman of the Measure A school bond campaign, 2001; former North Marin Council PTA president
(c)2019 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)
Visit The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.) at www.marinij.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.