Advisory group may strengthen lower river's political clout

An elected local advisory council could improve the lower Russian River’s political clout with the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins told an audience in Guerneville last week.

An elected lower river Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) would help all five county supervisors stay abreast of lower river issues, said Hopkins.

“I can go to bat for you guys all day long, and I do,” said Hopkins, but when its time for county government to get things done along the lower river and in the unincorporated west county “you have to be able to count to three votes” on the five-member Board of Supervisors, said Hopkins.

“I need your help, is what I’m saying,” said Hopkins. “I need a formal body” with the responsibility to weigh in on river issues before the Board of Supervisors.

MACs elsewhere in Dry Creek Valley and the Sonoma Valley have been effective in helping supervisors get a better understanding of issues and needs in supervisorial districts outside their own turf, Hopkins told the audience of about 60 people who showed up last Wednesday night at the Guerneville School multi-purpose room. The meeting was the second exploratory meeting this year to address the formation of a lower river MAC.

Last week’s turnout was small compared with the packed February MAC meeting Hopkins hosted at the Guerneville Vets Hall.

“We had a good turn out of community members who were receptive to the proposed MAC boundaries,” said Hopkins in a social media message following last week’s meeting. “We will be moving forward to create districts within the boundaries that will serve as starting points for those interested in serving on the MAC.”

Hopkins said it appears nine elected members may best serve the large lower river geographic advisory area tentatively comprising Forestville, Guerneville, Monte Rio and Cazadero. “We are interested in dividing the proposed boundary into nine equally populated sections,” said Hopkins. Residents in each section will be able to vote for their representative through a caucus with a date to be determined, but the election will not coincide with the June primary.

Hopkins said she hopes to have the new lower Russian River MAC up and running by next January.

River residents in the audience last week conveyed a wait-and-see attitude regarding the proposed nine districts’ boundaries. Each proposed district would have an approximately equal population, so a more densely populated area such as Guerneville might require two or three districts while more sparsely populated areas toward the Sonoma coast would have larger geographic districts.

District reps would be voted in for two years and could run for re-election (and serve an additional two years, or one more term), according to last week’s proposal.

“In addition to the MAC members, we would like to enable the MAC to rely on advisory committees to help best understand the pulse of the communities and their unique and collective needs,” said Hopkins. “These advisory committees would likely be composed of community members active in organizations like fire districts, park districts, school districts, parent-teacher organizations, chambers, business districts, etc.,” said Hopkins.

“I’m totally in support of this because now we don’t have anything,” said Guerneville resident Herman Hernandez. “We might have our special districts but we can only do so much,” said Hernandez, who serves on the elected Russian River Recreation and Park District Board of Directors.

“Look where the money goes” when the board of supervisors allocates county spending, said Hernandez. “Lynda’s right. The money goes to the Highway 101 corridor. And if you’re not there [at the supervisors’ meeting] or if you’re there by yourself you better be ready to lobby,” said Hernandez.

The process of creating a river MAC will probably require another town meeting to unveil proposed district boundaries and discuss the election procedure for the district representatives, said Amie Windsor, Hopkins’ field representative

For more information, Windsor can be reached by email at amie.windsor@sonoma-county.org