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Did Santa Rosa promise voters free parking at Howarth Park?

An aerial view of Howarth Park (Source: Bing maps)


Santa Rosa Councilman Gary Wysocky says the City Council promised voters it wouldn’t charge them to park at Howarth Park if they passed Measure P, last fall’s quarter-cent sales tax to support city services.

Mayor Ernesto Olivares says that’s not how he remembers it, noting that he cautioned fellow council members against spending the $6 million in additional tax revenue before the tax was even passed.

Who’s right? Turns out, they both are.

At its July 27, 2010, meeting, the council agreed to put Measure P on the November ballot. It also passed the Howarth Park parking proposal, which called for charging drivers up to $5 per day to park at the popular Summerfield Road facility.

But the council postponed implementing the plan until after the election, worried it might hurt Measure P’s chances at the ballot box.

“I think it will create a serious backlash,” Councilwoman Jane Bender said at the time.

The council approved the parking plan to go into effect Jan. 2 unless Measure P passed, in which case the plan would be revoked. Measure P passed with 57 percent of the vote, and the parking plan was not implemented.

Now the city’s parks and recreation department has again pitched the plan as a way to raise $520,000 in revenue and avoid deeper service cuts.

Nine pay stations could be up and running by September, Marc Richardson, director of parks, recreation and community services, told the council.

But Wysocky called the return of the parking plan “a neat little 180.”

“We did promise the citizens that if they passed Measure P, we wouldn’t implement this, so I have a real issue with that,” Wysocky said.

The remark is similar to ones he made last year when voting to place the tax measure on the ballot and for the parking plan. He said he felt the tax was regressive, and if the measure passed, relief should be granted to those who need it most.

But Olivares, who was the lone vote against the plan last year, disputed Wysocky’s characterization of the council’s action as a “promise.”

“I don’t know that there was ever a commitment made by this council to not put the parking in there,” Olivares said Tuesday.

The agreement was that it wouldn’t go forward in January, and it didn’t, Olivares said.

Olivares did warn his colleagues last year against promising how they would spend a tax not yet approved.

“I don’t want us to move forward believing that the tax measure passage in November, if it does, is going to solve this issue for us, because we don’t know what things are going to be like then,” Olivares said last year.

And now, the city may yet be able to find cost savings through creative measures, like partnerships with nonprofit groups or restructuring, Olivares said. If not, requiring people to pay for parking may no longer be avoidable.

“If it’s between taking cops off schools and out of downtown or the parking (plan), well, I’m sorry, we may have to do that on a temporary basis to make this work for us,” Olivares said.

17 Responses to “Did Santa Rosa promise voters free parking at Howarth Park?”

  1. The Observer says:

    I say we REPEAL MEASURE P and all voter taxes- and use this money to pay the park. I am NOT paying it twice.

    Hey City Council Leaders… Easy giveth Easy Taketh away.

    Remember we hold the wallet- your constituents. You are not our boss- you work for us. If we don’t like you- we taketh your power away and you will be shamed to your family as “RECALLED” or “VOTED OUT” of office- and we can also pass resolutions limiting YOUR power- and shove the taxes where the sun dont shine. Lets start with OLIVERAS- he turned on us.

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  2. Kirstin says:

    At the meeting the council was told the kiosks will accept paper money. Also, there will be an all-day parking rate — $5 is, I believe, the amount they were considering.

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  3. Fumed says:

    To “Let’s be Reasonable”:

    The problem is not $2, it is 2 hours. When I am out taking recreation, I do not know in advance how long I will be out.

    That, of course, does not compute with the fee-trap-setting mentality of the city of Santa Rosa with respect to parking. Or it does compute, in a way that they nastily and cynically want it to.

    This mentality is all about setting (then paying for enforcement coverage) stringent limits that are designed to be easily violated, so people end up paying large penalties for the heinous crime of not guessing correctly.

    A park is not an downtown business, shopping, or entertainment district.

    I am happy to pay park day fees, as long as the fee covers the whole day, is otherwise in line with what the park offers, and can be paid in paper currency.

    Crane Creek Regional Park, for example, offers little for $6 unless maybe you are riding a horse.

    Beach parks like Doran, Crown, or Coyote Point, are easily worth $5-8.

    Sugarloaf is just about worth $8.

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  4. Stop Crying says:

    Waste of money paying people to tend to pay stations. People will just park on Summerfield and walk in- duh.

    If the City wants to generate revenues, then just open a co-op and grow some pot near the lake. Great sun, water source, and fantastic area for growing. Then they will have plenty of money to pay the Police to close down the compeition in the area and have a monopoly in the pot market!

    Vote me in as City Council so we can have smoke outs to make decisions- like in Berkeley!

    BTW, in case you are not aware, the CITY of BERKELEY grows pot, so don’t think this is far fetched.

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  5. Fumed says:

    Existing parking pay stations throughout the city do not work, because they do not accept currency. They demand a high price that is more in line with currency than with coin payment.

    The one time that I tried to use a debit card, the device failed.

    I am not going to make a special trip to the bank to obtain and lug around a few pounds of quarters for the supposed privilege of shopping or taking recreation in this overpriced third world dump of a “city”.

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  6. John says:

    I for one voted fro measure P to keep Howarth park access free to the public and for services other than police and fire. We can have more than enough police and fire services if we stop paying too much for each individual. If fees are introduced, I will walk into the park, as I will not support this backhanded taxation to keep inflated salaries and benefits for Public Safety workers. This was NOT what the public voted for in measure P.

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  7. On To Truth & Justice says:

    Wysocky is like one of those disagreeable relatives you have to put up with at every family Christmas reunion. He has nothing to add to the party but insists on telling you what you should do with your life.

    He is bigger than life and has a personality to prove it. Wysocky, there is no free lunch, not even for socialists like yourself.

    If you want to play in the park you have to pay at the gate in this economy.

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  8. Pearl Alquileres says:

    Just make the parking fees payable in Pesos.

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  9. Chris says:

    As long as police and fire continue to make six figures a year, there will forever be budget woes.

    Thumb up 24 Thumb down 1

  10. The Hammer says:

    Close the park and save all that money in park maintenance. A very small percentage of the citizens of the area use it anyway. Most of us don’t need the park.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 27

  11. Phil Maher says:

    Why is it that anytime elected officials get in the same room together it’s like the Star Chamber meets the demolition derby?

    City council chambers all over Sonoma County have become like social clubs for stupid people.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 4

  12. Lets be Reasonable says:

    What’s the big deal about paying $2 for parking 2 hours at one of the best parks in Sonoma County? You pay more than that just driving to the park! This way, folks using the park, pay for the park.

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 25

  13. Bill says:

    Recall all of them! Parks are for citizens who paid taxes to create them and maintain them.

    Stop electing government employees. They don’t have the proper perspective to govern.

    Thumb up 28 Thumb down 7

  14. Dave Madigan says:

    I have said this before and I will continue to repeat it:

    We don’t give drugs to drug addicts.
    Why give money to politicians?

    Just Say No To ANY Tax!

    Thumb up 28 Thumb down 10

  15. paul says:

    I doubt that the parking will cover the nine pay stations. It’s a walk in park, thus only punishing west Santa Rosa and west county. The biggest thing Santa Rosa could do is promote use of the city instead of charging for it, and then spending the money on “studies” and “plans and planning”. Neutral revenue generation from the public drives down business, just as raising rents drove out small businesses, replacing them with “mall” crapola. It seems that Santa Rosa’s aim of emulating San Jose has sure cornered the local market on stupidity and anti-public actions; can’t lower the bar fast enough to keep up with “big business attitudes”, where you can charge a fee do it.

    I can stay away and so will others

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  16. Brian says:

    “If it’s between taking cops off schools and out of downtown or the parking (plan), well, I’m sorry, we may have to do that on a temporary basis to make this work for us,” Olivares said.

    With respect, Mr. Olivares’ comments, tenor, and straw man choices are reminiscent of a political era from decades ago.

    Managing a community that affords its citizens minimal services and conveniences is an essential role of a council person. Keeping promises and being empathetic to one’s consituents is part of the job. Certainly, we don’t want the SR Parking infantry running hourly missions around one of Sonoma County’s most treasured recreation areas. And it really shouldn’t be a choice between another feeding trough for the parking department and public safety.

    Constantly beating the same drum (police/fire), protecting a union that pays your generous pension, and threatening your own citizen’s sense of safety is an irresponsible approach to governing.

    Mr. Olivares should recuse himself on police/fire issues, just as John Sawyer used to do on a regular basis when he owned a downtown business. And Bartley and Ours should return the campaign money that they accepted in their hisrotic backroom deal with the Police/Fire unions. This is getting dirtier by the minute and Santa Rosa is certain to keep getting the short end of the billy club.

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  17. cyclist says:

    Now that the measure P had passed. Then it free to do what you want? They have sold us down the river. Your constituents must be happy. We know who you are and we will not forget.

    Thumb up 29 Thumb down 6

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