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History repeats in Rohnert Park

My colleague Jeremy Hay reported today that two Rohnert Park City Council members walked out of a budget meeting in protest on Tuesday. “The departure of (Amie) Breeze and (Joe) Callinan … delineated a clear rift on the council that was strikingly personal in tone,” the story said.

For those of us who watch Rohnert Park politics, the rift is also strikingly familiar.

The council has been divided for years, with a 3-2 split and plenty of antipathy on display.

One camp promotes rapid retail (and, to some extent, residential) growth as well as generous pay and benefits for city employees.  Armando Flores, who served many years on the council, essentially argued that the city needed to keep growing or die.  On the opposite extreme was Jim Reilly, a one-time councilman who opposed any growth whatsoever.  Others in that camp are more moderate, but favor strict control.

Flores’ camp controlled the council for years, but Linda Spiro, one of its members, defected to the other side in the late 1990s.  A new, pro-growth majority was seated in 2002, but Vicki Vidak-Martinez soon decamped to the other side.  Power seemingly switched back yet again in 2008 when Callinan and Gina Belforte joined Breeze, but Belforte quickly aligned herself instead with slow-growth council members Jake Mackenzie and Pam Stafford.

The council’s current agenda is dominated by budget cutting rather than building, but who is building in Sonoma County or much of anywhere else these days?

Count on another electoral battle this fall when Stafford and Breeze are due up for re-election.  And, who knows, maybe yet realignment next year …

– Jim Sweeney





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