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It’s hard to find fault with the Santa Rosa City Council’s decision Tuesday night to wait until November to fill the vacancy being created by the resignation of the city’s ailing mayor Bob Blanchard. Considering that the election is less than five months away and given the complications last year in filling Mike Martini’s seat when he stepped down, leaving it up to voters was the wisest choice. But it does add to what is becoming a lengthy and complicated ballot to go along with the presidential contest.

Local voters will now be deciding on five open seats on the Santa Rosa City Council – in two separate contests. One election will be to fill the remaining two years in Blanchard’s term while the other will be to fill the seats held by Jane Bender, John Sawyer, Lee Piece and Carol Dean (who, if you remember, had promised not to run if appointed to Martini’s seat.)

In addition, Sonoma County will be deciding run-offs for three open seats on the Board of Supervisors and a variety of congressional and state legislative races. Also, there’s the prospect of at least one countywide ballot measure – another attempt at passing a sales tax measure to support the SMART commuter train – while other local ballot measures, including one for Sonoma Valley Hospital, are in the works.

But it doesn’t end there. Voters will be deciding no less than 10 state ballot measures including one on banning same-sex marriage and one supporting a high-speed train. In addition, there are five other initiatives that are pending verification of the raw count of signatures and 20 – yes, 20 – other initiatives and referenda are still in circulation. These include a repeal of the voter-approved 2004 proposition funding stem cell research and a state ban on abortion except in the case of saving the mother’s life.

It’s not unusual to have that many initiatives in circulation at one time in California, and it’s very unlikely that many of them will ultimately qualify for the ballot. But there’s a potential that voters could be looking at 20 state ballot measures or more this fall. And not one of them calls for reform of the state’s initiative process, which is probably what is needed most.

– Paul Gullixson