One of the biggest stories of this election is the role of public safety unions in Sonoma County races. We’re used to seeing public safety heavily involved in elections in Rohnert Park. But this year we saw big spending and aggressive campaigning by police and firefighter unions in races in Santa Rosa and Petaluma and in the 2nd District supervisorial race.

 Public safety supported David Rabbitt for supervisor and he won. Union-backed candidates also won two of the seats on the Santa Rosa City Council and two on the Petaluma City Council. We also saw a former fire chief elected to the council in Petaluma, a former police chief elected to the council in Healdsburg and a former police chief re-elected in Cloverdale.

The question is how is this going to play out when it comes to reducing retirement costs for public employees, particularly public safety? Public safety takes up a significant – and growing – portion of municipal spending.
Santa Rosa public safety unions had promised the candidates that they supported to meet with and confer about reducing pension benefits.

We’ll see how soon that occurs and what progress is made. In the meantime, don’t be surprised to see more of an active role of public safety unions in future local elections.

– Paul Gullixson

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