Community Conversations

Sonoma Valley Fund is proud to announce a new series of Community Conversations featuring David Bolling, former publisher and editor of the Sonoma Index Tribune.  In our first evening, David Bolling and Oscar Chavez were “in conversation” with Katherine Fulton.  The event took place on Monday, April 27th, 2015 at 7pm at the Sonoma Community Center, Andrews Hall.  Click on the video below to view the entire event in high definition.   Our thanks to KSVY and Bob Taylor for all of their help in video taping the evening.

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For many natives and newcomers alike, the Sonoma Valley can feel like paradise—blessed with an ideal climate, rich history, small town intimacy and big city amenities that have been woven together over time into a unique blend.  For other residents, Sonoma can be a challenging place to live, beset with limited opportunities.  One doesn’t have to look far to see the growing economic and ethnic divides, the lack of affordable housing, the strains on public education, the aging of the population, the stresses on the natural environment and the struggle to maintain a strong community in the face of growing numbers of tourists and part-time residents.

In other words, there are signs today that the Valley’s fabric is fraying, and could come unraveled if inequity increases, the tensions between tourism, wine tasting and town aren’t addressed, and our natural resources are not managed effectively.

Thankfully, Sonoma is also blessed with talented, diverse and passionate residents. Many leaders are already working to face these challenges. Existing efforts, however, are often fragmented and under-funded, even when they are not mired in short-term politics.  In addition, today’s proposed solutions often work at cross-purposes, or lack a cohesive vision for where our community is headed.  We haven’t defined how to balance the desire to limit growth and congestion with profound implications those decisions have for residents who want to make a living here.  We support efforts to improve our schools and send a larger percentage onto higher education, but we haven’t connected that goal with the need to build opportunities for those same kids to come back to in our community.

The Sonoma Valley Fund (SVF) exists to help champion and safeguard Sonoma’s long-term future.  To this end, we are launching a series of community conversations designed to do three things: 1) deepen understanding of the forces shaping the Valley, 2) make apparent the connections and tensions among various issues, and, 3) help catalyze the leadership needed to shape a vision and strategy for our collective future.

The series launched on Monday April 27, at Andrews Hall at Sonoma Community Center at 7:00 p.m. The first conversation drew on data and audience participation to create a common understanding of the current situation in Sonoma Valley, while challenging our imaginations about how the community could evolve for good or ill in the years ahead.

Sonoma residents with deep, relevant experience initiated the April 27 dialogue, including:

  • Katherine Fulton 2SVF board member Katherine Fulton, who has led many similar conversations around the world as head of Deloitte Consulting’s social sector practice, will moderate and engage
    the audience.
  • David Bolling will share what he has learned in nearly four decades of living in Sonoma, with half of that time covering the county as a journalist, most recently during nearly a decade editing the Sonoma Index-Tribune.
  • We also expect they will be joined by one or more additional panelists who can bring insight to the key issues, and the data that illuminates them.

Not every force that will shape Sonoma’s future can be influenced. But many can if we look ahead together and challenge ourselves to be creative and to assume responsibility for shaping the future we want.

Future agendas could address:

  • The limits of water and the limits of growth;
  • How to promote a more diversified economy while preserving the economic and aesthetic benefits of wine and tourism;
  • How to protect and develop the key cultural and recreational resources the community needs and wants;
  • How to expand the affordable housing stock required to preserve diversity and allow our children and neighbors places they can afford to live;
  • Addressing the expanding needs of an aging population;
  • Guiding the future of the Sonoma Developmental Center for maximum benefit to the community; and,
  • Addressing the motorized and human powered transit needs of the Valley.

Please join us on this journey. Topics for additional conversations will be chosen after April 27, based on the understanding and interest that emerges from the initial dialogue. Ultimately, the Sonoma Valley Fund, working with our parent Community Foundation Sonoma County, will use the results of the conversations to help us set priorities, convene leaders and stimulate action.