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:




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

  1. Jason
    September 9, 2014 at 12:43 am

    That’s pretty funny Ray…I love how you translate truth into blame. There wasn’t a single point Glass made that was untrue. You may not like the truth, or that others will discover it, but it doesn’t change the facts. Harris just voted for a general “no strings” sales tax (Measure Q) that will give Petaluma the highest (next to Cotati) sales tax in Sonoma County. And yet in this video, he doesn’t mention a word about it. He talks about how exciting it is that the Rainier project has been split into two EIRs without once mentioning that a tax increase will be required to make it happen. He even goes on to talk about how much money the new shopping centers are giving us, without once mentioning it’s not enough to cover the traffic mitigation.

    He promised for years we would have Rainier without raising impact fees or taxes. Glass didn’t do that. Glass has been honest and Harris has been deceptive – he had every opportunity to mention the sales tax in this video. If he supports it and believes in it, why did he duck it? Harris also rarely admits his close relationship with the Republican party. That’s not going negative, that’s pointing out contrasts – ones he tries to avoid but the voters need to be aware of.

    Harris didn’t blame anyone in the video for two reasons:

    1. He already did that when he announced his run: “There is only one more thing we need to do to put this city on the road to real recovery,” he said, “and that is to elect a new mayor.”

    That’s not a positive statement, that’s a direct attack on the current Mayor –who was one of the initial proponents of the economic strategic plan Harris touts, worked very hard to make the theater district happen, and even got us the loan for initial Rainier funding that was going to be matched by redevelopment funds until those went away.

    2. Because he only has himself to blame for pushing projects through without adding anything to improve them or mitigate their impacts. I think the bifurcated sales tax suggested by Mayor Glass and Council member Teresa Barrett was a good idea – 1/2 percent special sales tax strictly for traffic relief and road repair, 1/2 percent for general use by the Council. That was a good and well balanced concept and it’s a shame that your candidate failed to show a shred of leadership on this issue. So much for fiscal responsibility. Measure Q is not that and your guy happily supports it….I remember he didn’t even want to increase the TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) that would have been paid primarily by out of town visitors – yet he now wants to stick the public with the bill for projects he approved without funding for the traffic mitigation he’s been promising….for over 12 years BTW.

  2. Ray
    September 5, 2014 at 1:02 am

    The funniest moments were when you said this wasn’t a debate (?) and yet like most debates, Glass was able to babble on for 19:35 blaming everything on the current council, without answering anything. When asked about increasing jobs, he spent 2:30 talking about a HS shop project making benches. I only wish you would have moderated so that he could have actually answered the questions. Harris took 7:13 to answer every question with blaming ANYBODY.

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