Diane Trautman sits outside a Starbucks and carefully considers the question. For the next 58 minutes, she does this, rarely stopping to sip her beverage and regularly looking at her interviewer as she chooses her words.
With 12 years on the City Planning Commission (2002-2010 and 2012-16), including two turns as chair, and previous attempts at running for city council in 2000 and 2008, plus two attempts at being appointed to the council, the 25-year resident and CalArts graduate is a known quantity at City Hall.
And she’s trying again in November, attempting to wrest a seat away from Laurene Weste, Marsha McLean or Bill Miranda.
“I’m known in town. I have name recognition,” she said. “Republicans support me as well as Democrats. I want to listen to people. I don’t want to exclude anyone. … Two incumbents have been on the council for 36 years total. I understand it’s good for people to be on who have an understanding of the history, but when you become narrow in your preparation and thinking, and you become unable to hear voices that don’t agree with yours – their being out of touch is something I’m going to drive home.”
What Trautman, 63, currently sees on the council is an exclusionary quintet. If a person comes before the council and is either critical or offers an opposing viewpoint, “It’s not treated as a matter of disagreement. It’s treated as an insult to the councilmembers,” she explained. “So, there’s not a welcoming of different ideas, and that’s not helpful to anybody. … It seemed to be that everyone has to agree, and that’s a dangerous thing to do, and it leads to groupthink.”
At this point, she was reminded that she hadn’t specified any single member, so was she taking about anyone in particular? She sat back, again considered her words, and continued.
“I don’t see much courage in discussions from any of them,” she began. “Laurene tends to talk to people like children. Marsha takes offense when anybody disagrees. She’s really sensitive. … Marsha doesn’t want to run contrary to anyone. She has been insular in her thinking, and that doesn’t bode well for a city that’s growing. I don’t get a sense of any conviction from Bill Miranda. I don’t see any independent thinking from him.”
Trautman takes pride in her ability to consider all sides and viewpoints. She said that as a commissioner, she read everything, “made copious notes and I asked questions in public so the public would see I was looking at things more deeply. … (The council doesn’t) dig deeper than they have to. They look at it but largely rely on staff.”
And Trautman thinks that’s backwards. The council should set policy and the staff should carry it out, but she doesn’t think the current members have the vision to do that.
“The city council is supposed to create the vision for the city, the policies, the direction, the standards,” she said. “This means you’ve got to interact with those other entities, the county and the school districts. There’s not enough cooperation to solve some of the problems.”
A conservative such as Steve Petzold appreciates the liberal Trautman, saying he would consider voting for her and writing on Facebook, “Diane Trautman is thoughtful and measured with her words. It is safe to say that DT has the respect of current council members based on her years of service on the Planning Commission. … The democratic process benefits from her candidacy.”
A summary of Trautman’s priorities:
–She wants the city to be more aggressive in finding affordable housing, especially if the belief that there will be half a million people living in the valley eventually. Some of those housing options must be near transit centers.
–Public safety is more than just fire and police. People must be educated in safer driving and how to make room for cyclists and pedestrians. Find a way to make more walkable communities by looking at how other cities did it and adjusting to here.
–The city should work within the county’s homeless initiative to improve public safety and public health, especially of it wants Measure H funds.
–She wants to grow the local economy by reviewing city processes that seem to hinder small businesses. Also, maintaining existing buildings can keep rent lower than erecting new buildings.
–She wants to increase transparency in government by streaming all public meetings, not just the council and planning commission’s. She also wants a website redesign, develop better written policies, create a code of ethics, revise the council’s norms and procedures; and welcome community input on the questions of district voting, direct election of mayor and changing to a charter city.