By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A veteran fire official, a banker, a planning commissioner and the mayor say they will be candidates in Rohnert Park’s November City Council elections.
Jack Rosevear, fire commander at the city’s public safety department, and Amy Ahanotu, a Redwood Credit Union branch manager, are among four who say they will run for two seats that are open for election. Both will be first-time candidates.
The seats they are running to fill are held by Mayor Pam Stafford, who said she will be a candidate, and Councilwoman Amie Breeze, who has not said whether she will run.
John Borba, chairman of the city’s planning commission, said he will make another play for the voters’ favor. He ran for the council in 2008 when three seats were contested, finishing fourth by 216 votes.
“If I hadn’t come close I probably wouldn’t run again,” said Borba, 49, an attorney. “I’m not running against any particular councilmember; I think I have something to offer that could be good for the future of our town.”
The major issues facing the city, he said, “continue to be the balance between the fiscal dilemma we’re all in, plus we have to continue to provide excellent services to people.”
Councilmembers will be steering a city in tough fiscal straits, though that has been eased by the recent passage of a half-cent sales tax measure that more than halved the city’s deficit.
Still, the deficit stands at $1.5 million, even after a year when the city cut nearly $6 million from the general fund by eliminating 34 positions, furloughs, cutting amenities including some city swimming pools, and slashing services such as park maintenance.
“I think it’s going to be a vigorous debate over the future of Rohnert Park and how one maintains a healthy community,” said Brian Sobel, a political consultant.
“Rohnert Park is very much at a crossroads financially,” Sobel said. “The citizens have to decide whether the current council has the people in place to take them to the next level, that level being one of financial security.”
Stafford, 61, a fitness trainer who has been a councilwoman since 2006 and mayor since November, said the city is now in the right track.
“I think that we’re starting to turn some things around here and I’d like to stick around and see some good things happen,” she said.
Rosevear, 50, who said he is retiring in August after two years as the city’s fire commander, said the council needs to broaden its focus.
“The city has been hell bent on making cuts and has not been focused on finding new revenue,” he said. A 15-year resident of the city, he said he also was motivated to run in part by his experience as an employee of the city.
“Based on the level of frustration I have felt as a taxpayer and now as an employee, I feel compelled to run … and help get the city back on track,” said Rosevear, who before joining the city was deputy chief fire marshal for the county’s Fire and Emergency Services Office.
Ahanotu said an often fractious council is something that needs to be addressed so that the city can move forward.
“We need to start to bring city council together,” said Ahanotu, 52, who also is chairman of the board of directors of the Rohnert Park Chamber of Commerce.
“I understand that there are different opinions and that’s good, but we need to start putting those opinions together and start to solve our pressing right now,” he said.
He said that as a banker, “I think I’m positioned to provide the leadership required to get RP in the right direction. What does Rohnert Park need the most? Leadership. Leadership that can work together … and produce results.”