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Codding spending a key in Rohnert Park election

By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

An independent political committee funded by Codding Enterprises, one of Sonoma County’s most prominent developers, played a dominant role in Rohnert Park’s City Council election last year, campaign finance reports show.

The Protect Rohnert Park committee spent $62,309, nearly as much as the $70,567 spent by all six candidates together. In the campaign season’s final two weeks, it more than doubled the combined spending of all the candidates and competing committees.

“The contributions we made . . . were in the best interest of Rohnert Park,” said Kirstie Moore, Codding Enterprises’ development manager. “We think that the City Council as elected has the ability to lead Rohnert Park back to financial stability. That’s really the bottom line.”

The company is based in Rohnert Park and has major property holdings there. It is developing Sonoma Mountain Village, a $1 billion multi-use project on the city’s south edge.

The committee’s spending surprised all the candidates. “Whoa,” said Pam Stafford, an incumbent and former mayor whom the committee backed, upon hearing the figure.

Not surprisingly, it rankled those targeted by the committee.

“I think they hijacked the election,” said John Borba, whom the committee opposed. He spent $18,859 and finished a close third in the race for two seats, behind Stafford and Amy Ahanotu.

The committee, which plastered the city with signs for Stafford and Ahanotu, aimed most of its critical direct mailers at controversial former city manager Carl Leivo.

But in an election with 20,321 votes cast, Borba finished just 314 shy of victory and likely suffered by association. Each flier attacking Leivo noted that the committee also opposed Borba, and at least one referred to him as Leivo’s running mate.

Asked why the committee targeted Borba — who, like Stafford and Ahanotu and unlike Leivo had expressed support for Sonoma Mountain Village — Moore said: “It was always our impression that John Borba was running on a slate with Carl Leivo, whether that’s right or wrong, I don’t know.”

As a whole, independent political committees had an outsized role in the election, the city’s second most expensive after a 2004 recall contest, which cost $207,000.

Including the Protect Rohnert Park group, three committees spent $94,875 through the fall of 2010, more than half the $165,446 in total spending.

That level of involvement is not new, said political consultant Brian Sobel, who was not involved in the Rohnert Park election. It’s just more visible than in the past, when there were fewer regulations governing independent committees and their activities, he said.

“Rohnert Park’s always been very active with respect to campaigns; people are willing to spend money,” Sobel said. “There have always been quiet committees, consortiums of people who had an interest in the outcome.”

Two of the three committees in the 2010 Rohnert Park race opposed Stafford or supported Borba and Leivo, whom the council dismissed in 2005. Leivo led all candidates in individual spending but finished fourth by a significant margin.

The city’s public safety officers union, always a major player but luckless in this election, spent $23,469 on fliers and signs supporting Borba and Leivo.

A committee named Citizens for Change, formed to oppose Stafford, spent $9,101 on at least four fliers slamming her for her decisions as a councilwoman.

Stafford questioned that figure, saying, “I don’t know how they could have done it with that little money; they got the best bargains in the world if they did it for that little.”

She said that as the target of that committee, which charged her with using city funds irresponsibly, she found the Protect Rohnert Park committee’s spending on her behalf startling but not excessive.

“I’ve never had anybody do anything like that for my benefit before — it’s surprising that it cost that much, I can’t say I’m troubled.”

Her campaign expenditures were $15,763.

Leivo, who spent $22,958, was the bullseye for the Protect Rohnert Park attacks. A series of fliers — one of which likened him to lightning-rod Republican political operative Karl Rove and said his ambition was to control the city — painted him as dangerous to the city.

He declined to comment on the issue the impact of Protect Rohnert Park committee efforts.

Ahanotu, who came in second by 341 votes over Borba, spent $8,239 on his campaign. He discounted the effect on the race or his candidacy of the Protect Rohnert Park spending.

“You can spend $3 million and not win a campaign,” Ahanotu said.

“The campaign was won or lost based on the ideas that the candidates brought to the discussion,” he said. “And if you ask anyone in Rohnert Park, I was knocking on doors every night. My wife was knocking on doors.”

Former Rohnert Park police officer Roger Schwanke, who finished sixth, spent $4,748. Former city fire commander Jack Rosevear, who came in fifth, did not file a campaign finance report.





13 Responses to “Codding spending a key in Rohnert Park election”

  1. Grey Whitmore says:

    Your surprised.

    Know the story of Huge Codding, Santa Rosa Plaza and Coddingtown Mall?

    I my opinion, the Codding Family is not above using every trick in the book to stall, spend and block to gain financial advantage. And that is only going on after looking at their history in Santa Rosa.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  2. @Phil
    That’s right. It’s a return to feudalism. These two-bit princes like Codding are no match for the big guys, but they’re trying to get as big as possible. Clem did that and got a little too thin.
    But Dennis Hunter is doing it by reinventing himself as a ‘green loan banker’. Cap and trade is the next big thing and we’ll be bled for that. Hunter has set himself up as the broker in Sonoma County.

    So, listen, LA21 is NOT just a land use plan, John Hudson. You can’t just put it on the ballot. It’s pervasive. Land use, energy regulation, new laws, community oriented policing, asset based community development. People need to get with it and quickly.

    Please take a look at Democrats Against UN Agenda 21 to see how this is directly affecting you here in Sonoma County.

    Did you know that Valerie Brown is on the national board of ICLEI? Who is she serving?

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  3. Phil Maher says:

    @Sam-

    I didn’t forget about that. The fun thing about all these ICLEI member cities is that they’re being forced into the real world of diminishing returns. Regardless of where you are in the spectrum, “Green” costs money. Just as you or I would have to spend more to comply, these cities will be forced into competition, and will all end up fighting for the same resources, financial and otherwise. Water? Who gets enough to flourish? Land? Who draws the lines? Bottom line? Who gets the biggest part (if any)? Codding sees an opportunity. I can’t blame them for that, but don’t give me some song and dance about how it’s for some greater good. Buying politicians is the way it’s done when you want something, period. Any capitalist who calls himself altruistic is a liar. It’s all about winner take all. Wallstreeters understand this, and that’s why they rule. You either play well, or die. What most of these local hacks fail to realize is that under Agenda 21, and more specifically, LA 21, their Fiefdom’s days are as numbered as any. In the bigger picture, they’re nothing but pawns themselves…a means to an end…like some sort of weak minded cultists. Regardless of any “deals” or Utopian agendas, ideologies and wish-lists, the one immutable fact since life crawled out of the primordial sludge is: only the strong survive. These meaningless little cities are built like houses of cards…weak links in the chain…forged by idiots who delude themselves with a “vision”, but little/no practical sense whatsoever. Bottom line: they may fancy themselves diabolical and influential as hell in their own little plebeian brains, but they fall far short of being mean and heartless enough to really rule the hood. They play the game poorly, and there’s a steep price to be paid for that shortcoming.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 3

  4. John Hudson says:

    I have read Agenda 21 and heard have heard Codding’s representatives speak before the RP city council. They do sound like they are following Agenda 21 when they talk about people who live in Sonoma Mountain Village being forced to adopt the lifestyle of Agenda 21. However, this article is about corruption, bribery and stealing. Codding was given $880,000 in redevelopment money that should have been used to improve conditions in the area declared to be blighted to create the redevelopment agency and which paid the taxes that made up the money. Instead, Mayor Stafford, Jake MacKenzie, and Gina Belforte stole that money from the people who should have benefited from it and gave it to their political ally, Codding. Codding returned the favor by financing Stafford’s re-election campaign.

    Anyone who wants to do something about Agenda 21 can put together a local initiative drive. Most planning regulations are local. If you want to put an anti-Agenda 21 measure on the Rohnert Park ballot, for example, it will take about 2,000 valid signatures. The city council would be powerless to change it without voter approval.

    However, the people who actually live in RP have a profoundly corrupt city council to deal with. They are brazenly trying to cancel the Measure L election result without voter approval. Apparently they don’t think they can get it and are acting like a Third World military junta. We will defeat them again!

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 4

  5. @Phil Mayer

    Phil, as sharp as you are, and I generally agree with you, you drop the ball when you don’t follow up on the Sustainability issues. The Codding development is supposedly a One Planet Community. What does this mean to you? It’s not just a touchy feelly term. It actually has meaning to them and just sounds nice to those who are not familiar with UN Agenda 21/Sustainable Development.

    Yes, you should be concerned when your own tax dollars are being used to subsidize projects like this, and when their political contributions are electing like-minded supporters to political office.

    Instead of dismissing this as tin-foil hat, why don’t you take a couple of minutes to read about it? It’s not some esoteric, fantasy thing—it is having a huge impact on your life, right now, through regulation, zoning, restrictions, water use regulations, energy goals, food production limitations, rural land restrictions, failure to pave county roads…the list goes on. Read up! Click on my name above.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 6

  6. No…really? Wow.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 6

  7. John Hudson says:

    Codding didn’t buy the city council with his money. He bought it with about 5% the tax money we gave him as a gift.

    Thumb up 24 Thumb down 6

  8. Fed up with the Codding's says:

    The best City Council Codding money could buy.

    Thumb up 27 Thumb down 6

  9. Phil Maher says:

    And…anybody want to lay odds on who ends up with the State Farm property, and, whether the city subsidizes it?

    Thumb up 31 Thumb down 6

  10. Phil Maher says:

    “The contributions we made . . . were in the best interest of Rohnert Park,” said Kirstie Moore, Codding Enterprises’ development manager. “We think that the City Council as elected has the ability to lead Rohnert Park back to financial stability. That’s really the bottom line.”

    Yep, I’m sure. Such civic-minded benevolence just warms the heart. It’s sure nice to know that a 1,280% ROI for Codding Enterprises’ Sonoma Mountain project, nor probable support for any other future projects, had anything to with it. Do you think people fools?

    Codding Enterprises- Saving the local economy…one enormous block of redevelopment money at a time.

    Thumb up 35 Thumb down 7

  11. Fishy says:

    Funny how after the election is bought and paid for the city council donates $800,000 to Codding. Even during a budget crisis.

    Smells fishy to me.

    Thumb up 32 Thumb down 5

  12. John Hudson says:

    What happened in the last RP election is obvious. Pam Stafford, Jake MacKenzie, and Gina Belforte voted to give Codding $880,000 in redevelopment money. Codding returned the favor by paying for Stafford’s re-election campaign.

    Codding also took the lead and paid for much of the campaign against RP Measure L, the sewer rate roll back,in 2008. The campaign against Measure L was paid for entirely by the building industry with a little bit from the building industry’s PACs. Not a dime came from the People of Rohnert Park. They bombarded us with two different television commercials and six or seven slick mailers prepared by Herb Williams, the developers’ favorite political consultant. We had no campaign for it. The victory of Measure L was a real People’s victory! Every “respectable” in Sonoma County was on the side of the developers. Now the city council is going to try to cancel this election result. The present city council is as corrupt as any Rohnert Park has ever had.

    Thumb up 29 Thumb down 7

  13. Funny says:

    Funny how after the election was bought and paid for the city council voted to give Codding $800,000 in city funds. Even during a budget crisis.

    Smells funny to me!

    Thumb up 29 Thumb down 7

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