Tuesday night’s election results show Sebastopol voters favor keeping the city council the way it is. Leading the race with nearly 30 percent of the vote was 14-year council veteran Sarah Glade Gurney.
“Our voters like the direction we are going,” Gurney said.
Patrick Slayter and Una Glass followed behind Gurney by a narrow percentage of votes, placing all three incumbents ahead of newcomer Vaughn Higginbotham.
Gurney, Slayter and Glass held signs on election day on the corner of Main Street and Bodega Avenue and watched election coverage together at Glass’s residence on election night.
Slayter said the vote validated that the council is on the right track. That track encompasses long-term goals.
“Long range vision is very important,” Slayter said.
Glass said while the council is not perfect, voters seem to trust the moves the councilmembers are making and what the council has accomplished in the last several years.
Gurney, 65, is a retired lawyer who moved to Sebastopol more than 40 years ago and has served on city council since 2004. Gurney said she wanted to run for re-election to continue working for her community and to complete several pending projects.
Slayter, 52, is an architect who has lived in Sebastopol since 1997. He has served on the city council for eight years. Slayter said it’s his desire to continue representing Sebastopol with a non-confrontational and collaborative style that is appreciated and respected by local residents.
Glass, 65, is the former executive director of Coastwalk California and has lived in Sebastopol for 29 years, serving on city council since 2014.
Glass said she was seeking re-election to continue her work preserving Sebastopol as a progressive, green small town where people care about each other.
Higginbotham, 22, said he was thrilled when he saw the initial results of the race showing he gained 775 votes.
“I want to thank everyone that supported me during the campaign and encouraged me to take this journey,” he said Tuesday night.
Tax measures supported by voters
Two tax-related measures will help millions of dollars to the city for years to come. Measures Q and R needed a simple majority vote to be approved, and they got it plus more. Tuesday night results showed overwhelming support by voters, with more than 68 percent approving Measure Q and 71 percent in favor of Measure R.
Mayor Slayter said he was pleased with the voter support on the measures.
“We are trying to set the city up for success,” he said.
In 2012 voters passed a half-cent sales tax with an expiration date of March 31, 2021. Measure Q will extend that sales tax indefinitely, unless voters choose to repeal it.
City attorney Larry McLaughlin reported last month that the sales tax provides $1.4 million in annual revenue. Those funds support programs and services, including police, fire, public works and administration. The revenue also represents approximately 15 percent of the city’s annual budget.
McLaughlin said the current sales tax rate in Sebastopol is 8.875 percent, including 6 percent for the state, .875 percent for the county, .25 percent for SMART and 1.75 percent for the city. The city’s portion of the revenues generated from the sales tax is placed in the city’s general fund.
Measure R will increase the city’s transient occupancy tax or TOT from 10 to 12 percent, until repealed by voters. A so-called bed tax is charged to visitors who stay overnight in a hotel or rental room.
According to a city staff report, the current TOT in Sebastopol is equivalent to 10 percent of the cost of a room by night and generated approximately $514,000 in fiscal 2016-17.
Increasing the city’s TOT rate to 12 percent allows an increase in the annual revenue up to approximately $617,000. City staff recommended raising the TOT to align Sebastopol with what surrounding cities are charging.
According to the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, areas in Sonoma County charge between nine and 12 percent for TOT: Cloverdale, 10 percent; Rohnert Park, 12 percent; Sonoma, 10 percent; Healdsburg, 12 percent; Santa Rosa, 9 percent; Windsor, 12 percent; Petaluma, 10 percent; and unincorporated county, 12 percent.
McLaughlin said the TOT is levied on the gross rent charged by the operator of a hotel, motel or inn for the use or possession of any room. Individuals that stay for a period of 30 consecutive days or less are subject to the TOT.