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Slow & Steady

By Jim Winston

TO PROTECT our environment and natural resources, we must manage our growth more responsibly. Sonoma County cities have been growing so rapidly that we seem to be outpacing our infrastructure and carrying capacity, which negatively affects our quality of life.

I'm sure this is no surprise to any of us. So‚ how can we responsibly manage our growth? Over the years, we have left growth management up to our elected officials; in return, we have gridlock traffic, reduced air quality, damage to our rivers, urban sprawl, and wastewater and freshwater problems. We must take growth-management power away from our elected officials and shift the power back to the voters. In November 2000, Healdsburg voters did just that. By a 56 percent margin, they passed Measure M, a growth-management initiative that restricted residential building permits to only 30 houses per year.

In past years, Healdsburg built more than 100 market-rate houses annually. Measure M focused only on market-rate housing; it exempted all low-income and affordable housing from the cap. Passage of Measure M brought the strictest slow-growth policies that exist in the state. As the author of Measure M, I am proud to say it's working. Developers are starting to focus on the construction of affordable housing, which I feel will bring more opportunities to all segments of our population.

Growth-management initiatives are a hard-line approach to getting the attention of our elected officials. Unfortunately, these initiatives seem to be the only tool left to save our cities from urban sprawl. While it's unreasonable to try to stop growth, we do need to manage growth in a visionary way. I have that vision for Healdsburg and other cities. What vision do you have for your city?

If we think progressively, we can make significant changes and manage growth wisely. I am now consulting with growth-control advocates in Windsor and Santa Rosa to place growth-management initiatives on the November 2002 ballot. I hope growth-management advocates in other cities will also be proactive in bringing real growth management to their cities.

Because I feel passionate about land use and growth management, I offer my services pro bono.

You will find growth-management initiatives are relatively easy to create--and they work.

Jim Winston is a Healdsburg activist.

For more information on the slow-growth movement, click on to citizensinitiative.homestead.com/slowgrowth.html.

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From the August 30-September 5, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.

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