Petaluma Councilmember Mike “Incremental Gains” Harris Has His Spinal Tap Moment

Petaluma Pete (a.k.a. John Maher of Maher Marketing), among everyone’s favorite ambassadors of our little big town, scored big-time this week after interviewing the 2014 mayoral candidates – City Councilmember Mike Harris and current Mayor David Glass – and posting the resulting video on YouTube.

Pete came up with a clever means to get relatively straight answers from the candidates. He sat them down on different days in Sara Sass’s barber’s chair and asked them a few questions while Sass worked her magic with scissors. Sass is the owner of the recently-opened Boulevard Barber Shop, on the corner of Western Avenue and Petaluma Boulevard.

Pete asked Glass and Harris five questions on topics of current concern to Petaluma residents, including traffic, jobs, economic development and the future of the Petaluma fairgrounds. Though there were no big surprises coming from the candidates as they spoke without the wiggle room politicians often seek when asked direct questions, their answers illuminated a few stark contrasts in the candidates’ respective visions for our town.

The most glaring difference between the two came when both were asked the question, “Are you satisfied with the current Petaluma traffic flow and, if not, what needs to be done to improve the situation?”

To which Mayor Glass responded, hitting Harris hard on his repeated votes for commercial and residential developments which have added, and will continue to add, thousands of automotive trips to our roads and pollution to our air:

“We need traffic relief now, because council majorities have been influenced too heavily by the developers and you can see what’s going on in this campaign.  There’s signs everywhere on empty lots and those people represent empty lots very well. You’ll see my signs on lawns at residences because I will represent the people that live here very well. So people will have a clear choice.”

Elsewhere in the interview Councilmember Harris struggled to differentiate himself from Mayor Glass, speaking in vague, boilerplate terms of the need for more jobs, more economic development, and of course, completion of the Rainier cross-town connector and interchange.

In response to the traffic question, however, Harris appeared to want to provide specifics, yielding an unintentionally amusing comment reminiscent of Nigel Tufnel’s Spinal Tap hilarity.

Harris sought to remind voters that, unlike our state and federal representatives, as a council member he’s in the same boat as Petaluma voters and has to live with the traffic as well. After pointing out his support for the Rainier connector, Harris continued:

One of the big things, I think we’ve done some smart things, is for the longest time it was actually one project and now we’ve split it into two project study reports, just the official process that you have to do with CalTrans, because as CalTrans expands 101 through Petaluma they’re going to actually raise the freeway, we’re going to go underneath, not subterranean but at grade, underneath the freeway. So, it’s good – we’re coordinating with Cal Trans, and we’ve split it into two projects, there’s two project study reports, and we can really make some incremental gains for traffic relief in town.”

Did you catch that? Rest easy, Petalumans! We have not one, but two project study reports re: Rainier going on, so eventually, someday, presumably under Mayor Mike Harris we will be able to “make some incremental gains for traffic relief.”

Come to think of it, I’m not sure if I’m reminded more of Nigel Tufnel or Molly Ivins in this case.

Ivins, the late progressive Texas writer and humorist who once unsuccessfully tried to refer to a New Mexico chicken festival as a “gang-pluck” in the pages of the New York Times, years later wrote that the first rule of digging a hole is, when you find that you’re standing in the hole you’re digging, you might want to stop digging and get out.

So the question to Mike Harris is, if you’re frustrated with traffic like the rest of us, why are you still voting for unfettered development after development which are adding ever more vehicles to our streets?

Nigel Tufnel, played by actor Christopher Guest in Rob Reiner’s mockumentary film, Spinal Tap, was equally enamored of incremental gains:

Nigel gives the rockumentary’s director, Marty DiBergi, played by Rob Reiner, a tour of his stage equipment. While Nigel is showing Marty his Marshall guitar amplifiers, he points out one in particular whose control knobs all have the highest setting of eleven, unlike standard amplifiers, whose volume settings are typically numbered from 0 to 10, believing that this numbering actually increases the volume of the amp (“It’s one louder”). When Marty asks why the ten setting is not simply set to be louder, Nigel pauses, clearly confused, before responding, “These go to eleven.” – Wikipedia

see video here:

With neither candidate having an abundance of hair up top to begin with, Sara Sass’s magic with scissors was, in part, to look busy and professional throughout the nearly thirty minutes of interview time, and presumably to do so without making funny faces at the fascinating speech that flowed from the mouths of the candidates. In this she performed admirably.

Check out the Boulevard Barber Shop at Western Avenue & Petaluma Boulevard, in downtown Petaluma.

Check out the full twenty nine minute interview with Mayor David Glass and Councilmember Harris here:




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