Dennis Pocekay – 2020 City Council

On behalf of the group, we asked pertinent questions of the City Council candidates who are running in the Tuesday, November 3rd election.

The questions:

How do you get around Petaluma?

I live at the far west edge of town, so I use an electric car for most errands, and especially since I began a busy campaign for city council. I leave my car parked while walking between errands downtown. I bike at least once a week for exercise, mostly in the southwest quadrant of our city. I have experienced most of our bike routes, including the Lynch Creek Trail, but I find it very difficult to do longer trips without traveling on streets that I consider less than safe.


What role does bicycling and walking play in your vision for the future development of Petaluma? If elected what strategies/tools/resources would you utilize to realize this vision?

In my vision for Petaluma, bicycling and walking are extremely important. There are no easy solutions to our traffic issues; we simply have to get cars off the road. Bicycling infrastructure costs less than automobile infrastructure, and improving it will increase ridership AND rider safety. We will then reap the twin health benefits of increased physical activity and cleaner air. If we emphasize affordable housing near transit, the table will be set. We can then institute bike- share programs, and incentivize employer actions such as workplace showers (the lack of which kept a sweater like me from biking to work). I would consider the small city of Davis, CA as a model, and study what has worked there. I consider the local biking community as the critical resource in fitting best practices to the realities of biking in Petaluma. I would ensure that they have a seat at the table. And we will still need to improve our public transit system for walkers and bikers.


What are Petaluma’s biggest transportation challenges? What policies or projects would you promote to address these challenges?

Our biggest transportation challenge is getting cars off the road. I would like to build affordable housing near transit and give preference to families that agree to give up their cars. How about 12 parking spaces for 50 families, each occupied by a community shared electric car (or similar)? I also think we need to consider charging for parking when a car does not contain at least 3 people, to incentivize employers to flex schedules and allow telecommuting, and to encourage transit use and biking.


Petaluma streets are increasingly congested and worn if elected, how would you propose to improve infrastructure in the City?

In terms of road repair, it seems the situation has improved a little in the past 2 years since repeal of the gas tax was defeated. To go further, improvements in infrastructure depend first on finding additional revenue to balance the city budget. This might come via the sales tax we are voting on this November. If this fails, the only solution may be utilizing funds currently being held for a new cross-town connector. Other sources could include a Cannabis dispensary, a partial repurposing of the fairgrounds, an increase in TOT, or a parcel tax. Our traffic congestion is a different problem. The Rainier connector is not possible in less than 6-8 years, and we must seek improvements sooner. We must improve our public transit, and revisit all ways to decrease trips and share rides. We should revisit traffic engineering. I would also try to develop incentives for getting folks on bikes, including electric bikes.


What is your position on SCTA’s Go Sonoma sales tax measure and what should Petaluma use the money for if it passes?

I am in favor of the measure. Petaluma should use as large a portion of the funds as it possibly can for bike, walking and transit infrastructure and safety.


Why should people who care about street safety, bicycling and walking issues vote for you?

Because I am a frequent walker, a regular biker, and interested in a healthier and safer Petaluma. Cycling and walking are excellent forms of exercise that are accessible to most ages and associated with better health. I have a track record of working hard to address issues I am committed to. If elected, I will be a tireless advocate for these issues and will work closely with community groups and like-minded council members to change the city’s allocation of resources.


What role do you think bicycling and walking play in addressing the climate crisis? How can these forms of active transportation help the city meet its climate goals? 

Bicycling and walking are very important in addressing the climate crisis, both in terms of replacing automobile trips and improving the fitness of users such that they bike or walk even MORE next year. And though Petaluma’s walk and bike scores are middling at best, I think they can be markedly improved by relatively modest improvements in our public transit system (so fewer errands require a car, while we continue to improve the safety of our major bike routes). We must do these things to get to carbon neutrality YESTERDAY.


How would you define transportation equity, and how would you work to improve it in Petaluma?  

I define transportation equity as fairness in the distribution of the costs and benefits of transportation. In light of the progression of economic inequity in this country over the past 50 years, I believe that those in the lower half of the income distribution should pay little for public transit. In my vision for the city, we have an expanded (especially in lower income areas) and entirely free public transit system, paid for by taxing those of us with the highest incomes (to leverage federal and state dollars). We should also incentivize low-wage workers’ utilization of bikes, electric bikes, and electric cars.