Jim Petray – Remember that name if you live in Novato District 1 which is comprised of the San Marin neighborhood and Northwest Novato Blvd area. During the recent Novato Chamber of Commerce’s Candidates Forum held at Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical’s auditorium, Jim Petray emerged as the one approachable, seasoned leader capable of bringing together the various political factions in the Council that have, for the past seven years produced little more than unending and unnecessary political drama and paralysis.
Petray appears determined to run his campaign free of obligatory donations by any political insiders and influence buyers. Petray is a highly principled person with a strong set of ethics – just what Novato needs at this point considering the unsavory recent events still unfolding at City Hall. As a Councilmember, Petray, along with a newly minted interim City Manager Adam McGill, would be a formidable ethical presence.
Graduating from Santa Clara University with a Degree in Accounting, Petray shortly afterwards received certification as a Certified Public Account (CPA). Within his profession he is recognized as a senior professional CPA in San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma counties. His level of accounting expertise would be a tremendous asset on the City Council enabling clarity and comprehension by the Council of the City’s current financial issues.
Marie Hoch, long-time resident of Hamilton, who is running in District 5 that includes Hamilton, Bel Marin Keys, Pacheco Valley and Marin Valley, during discussions wisely used her previous experience as President of the Hamilton Field of Marin Owners Association and as a five-year member of the City of Novato Planning Commission to identify specific areas of immediate concern to residents in her District. Hoch appears determined to gather input from a diverse variety of sources before a decision is made rather than rely on an implied “right choice”.
Marie Hoch will compete against Amy Peele who is a retired Director of Transplant Clinical Operations at UCSF. Interestingly, both Hoch and Peele have strong Chicago area ties with Peele graduating from the South Chicago School of Nursing and Hoch graduating from the University of Chicago in chemistry and math. Both appear strong and competent.
Hoch has an edge in approachability because of her extensive previous experience in the sales and service sector with Corte Madera’s SL Corp’s enterprise computer software systems and as a successful real estate agent with Coldwell Banker. Hoch has repeatedly proven capable of making hard decisions without waffling.
Peele is very goal driven and an accomplished mystery writer. She also has strong political ties with County Supervisor Judy Arnold whose political cartel recently suffered a serious hit when member-in-good-standing City Manager Regan Candelario was by a unanimous City Council vote placed on administrative leave. Peele makes her decisions, but her strong political links with Arnold puts her deep inside the less-than-ethical Arnold/Novato Chamber of Commerce political camp.
Jim Petray’s opponent is City Hall insider Susan Wernick who serves on the Novato Planning Commission. She has the political and powerful monetary support of the Novato Chamber of Commerce as her recently passed husband Rick was very active within the Chamber serving as Board President in 2018. The Chamber’s PAC (political action committee) serves as an overwhelmingly large source of funding for its chosen candidates – making it easier for the Chamber to target districts where the Chamber-endorsed candidate faces a strong challenger.
Jim Petray can also be linked with the Chamber through the firm BPM in Hamilton of which he is a partner. BPM is a member of the Novato Chamber of Commerce. However, BPM’s participation in the Chamber has been more as just a member, not as a politically active participant.
The forthcoming district elections will define what the Novato City Council will be for the next two years. Councilmember Lucan is a long-time member of the Chamber’s political camp as is Denise Athas who is a past Chamber President and Member of its Board of Directors. The Chamber has held an inordinate amount of influence over the City Council with an obedient working majority of three for the past six years. With the upcoming election, there is the opportunity to break free of this special interest’s hold on Novato’s City Council.
If two independent Councilmembers are elected, i.e. Jim Petray and Marie Hoch, the Chamber’s three vote controlling bloc will finally be gone. Current odds are incumbent Eric Lucan will prevail in his race against Kevin Morrison. A Council with three independent members, including Pat Eklund, will prove far more responsive to the neighborhoods’ concerns rather than continue being dominated by downtown Novato’s business special interests.
If Peele and Wernick win their districts, the Chamber will have a 4-1 super-majority bloc. This would not be good for Novato residents. Why bother having the City Council actually meet to vote? Councilmembers could just “mail in” their votes as a formality. Under the 4 to 1 majority scenario, there is no point in wasting an increasingly cynical Novato electorate’s time witnessing pillow fight debates with predetermined outcomes.
More is to come on the individual district races as we approach the election on November 5th.
Now, Novato voters have the opportunity in the next election to break their City Council free from the Novato Chamber of Commerce insiders’ ironclad political grip on City Hall, and return the Council’s focus to the open and serious public discussion of the choices to be made in the interests of all of Novato’s neighborhoods.
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