Russian River Valley News
Community Government Participation
By Vesta Copestakes
This column has been reprinted with the permission of Neighbors of the Russian River Valley.*
Those of us who live in this river valley paradise are 100% aware of how wonderful it is to reside among trees, blessed by a river running through us, and a stunning coastline within minutes of our home. People moving here may not be aware of the contributions of involved citizens who came before them, the families who established roads, phone service, environmental regulations, policies that support the integrity of what we value, etc. But over time, if they choose to do more than take up residence, they will know that roads are named after founding families who still live here, laws that protect our coast and forests were the result of activists, and the work continues as I write.
Without citizen time and energy, what we value could have disappeared. That’s why we continue to stay active in local government, citizen groups centered around current topics or long-term issues, clubs and organizations that bring people together, and nonprofits that support the people who live here. Without this involvement we are powerless or dependent upon others to make decisions for us.
Recently we read massive documents on the state-mandated Housing Element that is seeking to build low income and workforce housing in unincorporated communities. We commented at public hearings and sent our concerns to county officials who included our feedback on the document that went to the State for review. Many of us got what we wanted and others are still fighting the process to achieve their goals.
In Forestville the latest topic of discussion is Canyon Rock quarry’s request to build an asphalt facility at their aggregate mining operation. Our government serves us by asking us to consider what we want to know as they enter the Environmental Impact Report phase of this process. It’s a long and very detailed examination of all the ramifications that could impact Forestville and surrounding neighborhoods. Our first questions and concerns have been submitted and now we wait for a draft of the first EIR to read and offer feedback to the county.
This is all part of what we call Governance. We are fortunate to have many opportunities to let decision-makers know what we think on development, services, infrastructure, improvements, etc. We have both the right and the opportunity to be part of our home in ways that other countries and communities do not. It’s part of what we value in Sonoma County. We don’t sit back to wait until all we can do is complain…we can be part of the process.
Lower Russian River Governance Study
5th District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins established a Governance Study specifically to ask for public input on what works and what does not work as she and government agencies seek to serve those who voted for them. This is a broad-spectrum process that is open to all input, especially seeking what needs to be changed. Please visit the Governance Study webpage to learn about what has been accomplished so far and to sign up for updates: rivergov.com/home
5th District LRRMAC Elections
The Lower Russian River Municipal Advisory Council is finishing up work on the 5th year of this council serving our river communities. In the final months of 2023 we have the opportunity to let 5th District administrators know who we feel will best represent our priorities as the MAC makes recommendations to the entire Board of Supervisors when they vote on local issues. This is an important role that is best served by people who are willing to learn historic details as well as present and future concerns for our towns. SIGN UP for District 5 News at sonomacounty.ca.gov so you can stay informed and offer your input.
Being Part of the Solution
Because the media has been hit so hard by economic changes, we can no longer depend on that venue for staying in touch with what issues come before our governing bodies. We have to be proactive and seek out information on policy changes, commercial and residential development, environmental reviews, etc. Sonoma County government has more opportunities than you may realize for being informed about the hundreds of topics addressed weekly by those we hire and vote for to manage our home. Water and wastewater matter to you? River water quality important? Developers scaring you with their plans? Human rights a concern? You have access to ALL of the topics our county government covers. One website is your open door to information: sonomacounty.ca.gov. Choose what interests you most and sign up for updates.
* River Valley News column will be published in the November 2023 Neighbors of the Russian River Valley (Best Version Media), a monthly magazine distributed to neighbors in the Russian River Valley. Reprinted with permission. For more info, go to their Facebook page, here.