By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa’s new mayor, Ernesto Olivares, has announced plans to form task forces to explore economic development and pension reform.
But he’s already getting resistance from some fellow council members questioning the goals of the efforts.
Olivares told the council Tuesday that he was appointing newly elected councilman Jake Ours, former chairman of the Santa Rosa Economic Development Agency, to be chairman of the economic development task force.
“Everyone on the dais has been talking about jobs for quite a while. I want to focus our efforts towards that,” Olivares said.
Similarly, Olivares said he had appointed Scott Bartley, also a new councilman, as chairman of the pension reform committee. He said the goal was not to negotiate with labor unions, but to educate the council and the public about the issues and develop some recommendations.
He said his goal is to get both task forces running by Feb. 1 but his effort to reach out to get cooperation from fellow council members has yet to bear fruit.
He said at the Tuesday’s council meeting that had been “playing phone tag” with other council members about serving as vice chairs of the committees.
By Wednesday afternoon, Olivares said he had had conversations with Susan Gorin about serving as vice chairwoman of the pension reform effort and with Gary Wysocky about serving on the economic development effort.
Both said they need time to think about it.
“I’m just a little concerned that we are moving forward on these two task forces when the council as a whole has not had a conversation about the purpose of these task forces,” Gorin said.
Gorin has said she worries about the make-up of the task force given that council members can’t be seen as negotiating employee unions, which are likely to have some representation on the task force.
She has also noted that public safety unions endorsed, financially supported and vowed to work on pension reform issues with her opponents, Jake Ours and Scott Bartley.
But Olivares said the need for the task forces is clear and the time for debate has passed. “These are two very, very important issues for the community. I personally don’t believe that waiting is an option for us,” he said.
Wysocky said he is willing to serve but needs some clarification about how transparent the work of the task force will be and how it will differ from that of the council’s standing economic development subcommittee.
“I want to hear more details,” he said.
Wysocky said he planned to talk with Jake Ours soon about his vision for the task force before making a decision.
Olivares said he does not expect to serve on either committee, but rather to delegate the tasks to the chairmen and vice chairmen or chairwomen. Their jobs will be to line up people to serve on the task force who have experience in the subjects and are willing to serve, he said. The ultimate decision about who serves on the task force will be Olivares’.
Much like the mayor’s Gang Task Force that has been in existence for years, the goal will be to reach beyond city government, perhaps to other agencies or community groups or experts, for new ideas and best practices that can be put to work in Santa Rosa, he said.
That’s one way the task force differs from a council subcommittee, he said.
“We can’t say that we have all the answers for the community,” he said.