Three-term Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane and former Santa Rosa City Councilman and Mayor Chris Coursey are running in the March 3 primary election for the District 3 seat on the county’s Board of Supervisors.
At a forum last week in Santa Rosa, Coursey, a former journalist, said he is running for supervisor because he believes local governments can change society despite voter cynicism and apathy toward government.
Zane, who has master’s degrees in theology and family counseling, said she wants to be “the voice for the voiceless.”
District 3 includes most of Santa Rosa, the most visible location of the county’s nearly 3,000 homeless people according to a 2019 point-in-time survey.
The largest homeless encampment, 250 people along the Joe Rodota Trail in a county park located in west Santa Rosa, is outside of District 3, and it is one of two hot-button issues in the county leading up to the primary election.
The Board of Supervisors in December approved spending $2 million for a 90-day emergency camp comprised of 60 mostly one-room portable shelters in the Juvenile Justice Center complex on Los Guilicos Road in east Santa Rosa for the most vulnerable Joe Rodota Trail campers who were ordered to vacate the trail by Jan. 31.
Coursey said the Los Guilicos camp is a stop-gap effort that helps clear the trail, but is not a solution.
“We need more creative solutions. The campers will end up somewhere in the community. Ninety days gets us past the March election and through the winter, but it helps only a small percentage of the homeless.”
Other county districts have to provide housing for the homeless, possibly safe parking in public spaces, he said.
“Los Guilicos is nothing short of a miracle.”
“It has hot showers, bathrooms and meals.”
The county, however needs more supportive housing for people suffering from mental illness and substance abuse issues, she said.
Coursey and Zane said they support the county’s other controversial issue — a 30-year extension of a quarter-cent sales tax for the operation and expansion of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit train system that is on the March 3 ballot.
Zane said the train is “a game changer” for Sonoma and Marin counties and San Francisco that takes cars off congested U.S. Highway 101 and reduces vehicle emissions.
Coursey, however, said SMART general manager Farhad Mansourian and the Board of Directors need more transparency regarding train ridership numbers and how decisions are made. SMART made a “last-minute” decision to put the tax extension measure on the ballot, he said.
“SMART will need a tax subsidy for as long as it exists. Tell voters the truth why a tax extension is needed.”
In closing statements, Zane said her three terms on the Board of Supervisors have demonstrated her concern for vulnerable residents of the county and collaboration with her staff and local, state and federal elected officials.
“I will fight and work hard for you.”
Coursey said he and Zane agree on broad policy issues but they have different approaches.
“I collaborate for the best outcome and I don’t care who gets the credit. I don’t have all the answers, but it’s a chance to learn.”