Here’s an open letter to Petaluma citizens from fellow resident Don Lewis Jr., who recently took a closer look at the campaign financial filings of Petaluma City Councilmembers Mike Healy, Kathy Miller, and Gabe Kearney, all of whom are up for re-election on the upcoming ballot. The trio has been widely criticized over the past year – including here at RR – for failing to represent the 59,000 + residents of Petaluma as adequately as they have addressed the needs of developers who have business before the Council.
On the subject of campaign finance – many thanks to the citizens of Petaluma, who overwhelmingly approved Measure R in November of 2004, and the members of Petaluma Tomorrow, the group that pushed the citizen’s initiative. It dramatically limited the influence of large campaign contributions in Petaluma elections, forced the disclosure of every significant contribution to campaigns, such as those detailed below, and helped prevent special interests from disguising their donations. – RR
Correction: this post has been corrected to reflect the fact that Bill Wolpert has filed his 460 form detailing his campaign donors through September 24, 2016. You may view it here:
Greetings fellow Petalumans!
My name is Don Lewis Jr. and I’ve lived in Petaluma pretty much my entire life. To many of us, the rapid growth of Petaluma has been exciting, yet also increasingly frustrating. While it’s true our city leaders have worked hard to maintain the charm of downtown Petaluma, it often feels like every area aside from downtown is ripe for development without any apparent serious thought put into the effect on traffic, the environment, or the quality of life for those living here and trying to traverse the city for work or school.
When deeper thought is put into proposals, and discussions are raised about additions like bike paths, easements, designing to reflect Petaluma’s heritage or various ways to try and be conservative with resources, there’s an almost automatic pushback from a majority of our City Council members, particularly Kathy Miller, Gabe Kearney and Mike Healy, who are all running for reelection this November.
I had been noticing this divided Council for some time and it really crystalized in a recent re-vote over a proposed apartment complex near the Petaluma marina. In short, Miller, Kearney and Healy voted for the project (along with Chris Albertson) while Mayor David Glass and Teresa Barrett voted against the project. Bill Wolpert, the sole non-incumbent candidate running for City Council this November, also voiced concerns about the project as well as ways to make it better. An Argus-Courier article about that vote can be found here:
While the need for affordable housing in Petaluma is obviously incredibly important, it’s my opinion that the apartment complex being proposed is, frankly, quite unattractive. It’s also being proposed in an area that’s one of the few remaining ways to get in and out of Petaluma without being stuck in traffic. While Lakeville is indeed increasingly busy, it’s still a major route for those who live in Petaluma and work in the wine industry. Plus, who hasn’t taken Highway 37 into town to avoid the 101 parking lot? I fear 90 apartment units will make Lakeville even more busy, thus deadlocking those trying to drive in town.
This divided Council vote on the property led me back to the City of Petaluma website, where I had last looked at a list of campaign donors for Mike Harris when he was running for mayor. At that time, it struck me that a majority of those donating to Harris’ campaign were from Basin Street Properties as well as other companies who stand to make a lot of money by continuing to develop Petaluma. Seeing this list of donors (which is free and available to the public) reaffirmed my decision to vote for David Glass (he had zero campaign donors). That website with links to all campaign contributions is here:
So when I read about the aforementioned City Council divide that seemed to heavily favor the ideas and plans put forth by the General Council of Basin Street Properties, Paul Andronico, I returned to the City of Petaluma webpage to look at who was giving money to our City Council members. Not surprisingly, a majority of the money raised for Kearney, Miller and Healy is from Basin Street Properties employees, and associated realtors, developers and architects. Councilman Chris Albertson also has many of the same campaign donors but he is not up for reelection like the other three I mentioned are.
To be clear, there’s nothing shady or inherently “wrong” with campaign donations from those with vested interests in what a candidate can help them with. We also are fortunate in that the maximum amount an individual can give to a candidate is $200.00. However, I know I don’t feel that companies seeking to profit and over-develop Petaluma have my best interests in mind as a citizen and when I see City Councilmembers seemingly always voting for projects spearheaded and involving their top tier of campaign donors, I feel as though their vote is going towards whatever entity will keep them in power.
So, after looking through each City Council candidate’s list of donors, I decided to research who these donors are. Below I included a link to each individual City Council candidate list of donors and I also outlined who these people are. Again, this is nothing new in politics and the information is right there, free for anyone to see. However what bothered me about the donor list is not just the special interest groups giving the maximum amount, but also the fact that of all the donors who donated $200 each to each candidate’s campaign, only 3 are from Petaluma.
Please read the info below and share it with like-minded citizens. Or maybe even those who don’t share our mindset but might want to know who the people are they are voting for come November. It’s my hope that Petaluma can elect officials who want to maintain the feeling and look of Petaluma for all of Petaluma and put more thought into the development of our town.
Link to Kathy Miller’s donor list:
Link to Gabe Kearney’s donor list:
Link to Mike Healy’s donor list:
Bill Wolpert has yet to list his campaign donors as of this writing.
City Council Members Mike Healy, Gabe Kearney and Kathy Miller have ALL EACH received the maximum donation of $200 from the following contributors:
$200 from Robert Comstock, (of El Segundo, CA) CEO of Comstock Housing who is contracted to build the newest Riverfront Apartment complex as well as the proposed Courtyard Marriott.
$200 from Ebrahim Bebreel (of Los Angeles, CA) Managing Director at Maryland estates inc.
(unclear how he is related to Petaluma or the City Council members).
$200 from Michael Bastin (of Los Angeles, CA) unclear what he does for a living.
$200 from Paul Andronico, (of Fairfax, CA) lead counsel for Basin Street Properties.
$200 from Robin Andronico, (of Fairfax, CA) teacher in Ross Valley School district, wife of Paul Andronico.
$200 from Matthew White, (of Incline Village, NV ) CEO of Basin Street Properties, the company in charge of overseeing the Marina Apartment complex.
$200 from William White, (of Sausalito, CA) Chairman of Basin Street Property, the company in charge of overseeing the Marina Apartment complex.
$200 from Patricia White, (of Sausalito, CA) retired. Wife of William White of Basin Street properties.
$200 from Howard Baldwin (of Sunnyvale, CA), a real estate writer.
$200 from Eugene Ceccotti (of San Rafael, CA), CEO of Shamrock Materials (will they be hired to work on hotel and/or apartment development?).
$200 from Henry Hansel (of Santa Rosa, CA), owner of Hansel Automotive.
$200 from Steven LaFranchi (of Petaluma, CA), civil engineer, owner of Steven J. LaFranchi and Associates, engineers and land surveyors.
$200 from Natasha Nicholson (of Petaluma, CA).
$200 from BDE Architecture (of San Francisco, CA) they were the firm who designed the Maria Dr. apartment complex. This $200 is on behalf of the firm itself.
$200 from Arline Klatte (of Petaluma, CA), it states she is in real estate.
$150 from Megan Aasen (of San Francisco, CA), she is an associate of BDE Architecture.
$200 from Alexandre Koularis (of San Francisco, CA), he is an associate of BDE Architecture.
$200 from Robert Stein (of Berkeley, CA), he is a real estate attorney, unclear if he is related to Petaluma development.
$200 from Keegan & Coppin (of Santa Rosa, CA), they are the representatives of Basin Street Properties.
$200 from Glen Dowling (of San Rafael, CA), he is the Managing Director of JLL which is in charge of selling lease investments and counts Basin Street Properties as a key client
$200 from Michael Wright, (of Santa Rosa, CA), owner of Wright Contracting who works with Basin Street Properties
In addition to the above, City Council members Gabe Kearney and Kathy Miller each also received $200 from Jon Ennis (of San Francisco, CA), who is the owner of BDE Architecture.
Mike Healy also received $200 from Gary Imm (of Petaluma, CA – retired). Imm is a well-respected Petaluma citizen who has also opposed Mayor Glass and City Council woman Teresa Barrett in the past and voted with Healy/Miller/Kearney.