At this time last year, April – 2008), Petaluma was riding high with its Sesquicentennial Celebration as a city. A special City Council presentation was made by “Mr. William Howard Pepper” and “Mr. Isaac Wickersham” that outlined various events that lead up to the Declaration of Petaluma as an incorporated City on April 12, 1858.
Headlines such as: Local Government Formed in 1858 and City Charter Critics have appeared in local newspapers over the years in recognition of this significant date. As the story goes, “By 1858, the town was facing some serious problems due to growth; muddy streets, insufficient water, lack of fire protection – but, it had a newspaper and a vocal editror, who was ready to plug for incorporation. There were demands for free schools, fire-proof buildings, sidewalks and crossings. Some kind of municipal organization was needed to handle local affairs.”
A committee of citizens voted 31 for incorporation and 28 against it, and went out to gather signatures on petitions; but, enough people did not sign. The only argument against incorporation was – “it will subject us to the expense of one or more salaried officers, and that our business community cannot stand this additional taxation.”
In other words, the citizens needed to incorporate the town in order to plan for and manage its future expansion as a City. (That was back Then.) Fast forward to Now. Another headline: Petaluma council cuts city planners (4-11-09). Obviously, it was a tough decision to make; but a majority of the City Council believed that it was necessary due to the fact that “development was not generating enough fees to support it.” Then, on (4-18-09): Petaluma parks director may get promotion. The current City Manageris proposing that a newly created Assistant City Manager position be created in order to “take on more general administrative tasks such as budget development, organizational consolidation and efficiency planning,” as well as continue to oversea parks and recreation.This change in assignments, will come with a 10 to 15-percent increase in salary.
The original Act of Incorporation stated in Section 4 that: The corporate powers and duties of the city of Petaluma shall be vested in five Trustees, who shall be elected by the qualified electors of the city and on the third Monday in April in each year; and shall hold their offices for the term of one year, and until their successors are chosen and qualified.
That was back Then ,the City Charter was modified later, so that stipulation no longer applies. BUT, if it did; guess what? This Monday (4-20-09) is the third Monday of April 2009. What a difference 151 years make. Stay tuned for more Then & Now observations.