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Olivares faults makeup of Santa Rosa charter committee

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Mayor Ernesto Olivares agreed Tuesday that the Santa Rosa City Council failed to create a Charter Review Committee that reflects the diversity of the community, and said he would set up a committee to explore the issue.

“I think we can acknowledge this has been a pretty big wake-up call for us,” Olivares said. “We thought we had systems in place to make this work for us, but it’s not working for us.”

Olivares noted that despite an existing diversity committee and annual report about diversity in city boards and commissions, it was “evident” from the make-up of the 21-member Charter Review Committee that the process was flawed.

“I do not believe we’ve done a good enough job in making the appointments that we need to to reflect the community that we serve,” Olivares said.

The city’s Charter Review Committee meets once every 10 years in a six-month process exploring ideas for improving the way the city operates. It recommends city by-law changes to the council, which then decides whether to put them before voters.

The diversity of the committee has been a hot-button issue in the past, and this year was no exception.

Ninety percent of the committee’s members are white, 75 percent are from the city’s northeast quadrant, the median age is 61 and most are City Hall insiders.

After the final appointments were made in mid-September, Olivares initially defended the make-up of the panel.

“Personally, I haven’t seen it as an issue,” Olivares said at the time. “I’m seeing diversity in our charter review appointments.”

The council later decided, on an split vote, not to increase the size of the committee to increase its diversity.

Since then, Olivares said he’s been in touch with leaders in the Latino community who expressed concern about the process and a willingness to discuss solutions.

A letter to the council, signed “Sonoma County Latino Leaders” but without individual names, said the make-up of the committee was “insensitive and socially unacceptable.”

Olivares said the council “can’t turn back the clock” on the appointments to the charter committee, which holds its second meeting Thursday.

But Councilwoman Susan Gorin reminded the council majority about its decision not to increase the committee’s size.

“So we did have an opportunity to add diversity to that committee and we failed,” she said.

Councilman John Sawyer shot back that two members of the council minority delayed making their appointments until the very end, and could have made more diverse appointments themselves.

Olivares said Sawyer, who sits on the council’s diversity committee, would head the new committee and members of the public would be encouraged to join. He said he expected to have more details, such as the appointment process, meetings and mission, at the council Nov. 1 meeting.





7 Responses to “Olivares faults makeup of Santa Rosa charter committee”

  1. hansutro says:

    You need to have the meetings in Spanish in order to have a fair cross section of the populace. Discriminating against so many voters in the West End, just proves that we need more Spanish Language in city politics and staff….

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  2. Liz (Elizabeth Gatley) says:

    @ Not A Chance
    Yes the charter review meetings are public on Thursdays at a location on Stony Point rd. it is listed on their website http://ci.santa-rosa.ca.us/government/Pages/CharterReview.aspx

    And yes I agree with Kirstin as well. A committee to advise a committee? what in the world is the Mayor thinking?

    Time for real citizen representation is now. Time for non politicians to run for city council is now.

    And time for lots of us to attend these meetings on the charter review and speak during public comment time is now.

    Remember if you do not start attending and making our voices herd we will loose our beautiful SR.

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  3. Skippy says:

    Diversity? Smokescreen!
    It’s all about race.
    Race is what guides all public policy decisions.
    Race is the weapon losers use to enforce mediocrity and revenge.
    Why not just say “These people are too white. We don’t want white devils deciding our fate, regardless of their credentials”.
    The overt racism of Big Govt. currently on public display, with the cheering choir of the sycophant Press in full support, would force tears from those who fought to end the institutional racism(Republicans)that was enacted and enforced by politicians(Democrats).
    Just be honest and say “No Anglos need apply”.
    At least racist Democrats of the 50′s and 60′s were up front about who they hated.

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  4. Not A Chance says:

    Kristen I couldn’t agree with you more. A committee to choose a committee is not a solution its a poor excuse.

    What all of this sounds like to me is that the mayor actually doesn’t give a crap. I mean, really? You choose to be diverse after the most important process the city participates in, the Charter Review, this is essentially a constitutional amending process for the city that only happens every 15 years. So now the minority, young, outside-politics communities are just going to have to wait to be represented because the conservative majority thinks the people here are too stupid to make decisions, like allowing kids to handle assault riffles, Ernie knows best!

    His coming out now and saying we’ll be more diverse in the future is a planned scheme. Becoming more diverse on future *meaningless* committees is a delayed slap in the face from the only member of the council who should understand what lack of diversity really means.

    He is a weak leader and a fake Democrat, who cuts pre-election deals with police and fire to make sure that everyone else gets screwed while his former colleagues ride high.

    One last note: the most important decision about politics that the Charter will make is district elections for city council. Meaning that areas like south west and south east Santa Rosa would have an equal voice as would the downtown and the JC neighborhoods. Those areas alone are too liberal and too Hispanic for Ernesto Olivares to stomach, this is his way to shore up the conservative majorities ideology for the next 15. I urge anyone who is concerned about this to pressure the Charter, the meetings should be public unless Ernie wants to really shut us out, our comments will have to wait till the end of the meeting, I’m sure.

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  5. Jim says:

    Diversity itself is useless. Though impossible, I’d prefer they get the best people on the counsel, regardless of their “diversity” characteristics. Unfortunately only idiots run for office, you now, those who cannot get a job in the real world.

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  6. Jim says:

    You have got to love politicians, a committee for the committee.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  7. Kirstin says:

    We don’t need another advisory committee to advise the city council on how to choose their committees. Besides, if the council is so incapable in and of itself to choose committees, what makes the mayor think this new committee to advise on diversity will be diverse enough? And it turns out it is diverse enough, then the council will have solved its “problem” just by making appointments to the committee.

    Council member Wysocky is correct that the answer is easy: announce committee vacancies, get applications, and then do the work to interview those who apply. Where the mayor and others on the council fell down with the Charter Review Committee was that they opened the applications process to the public only as an afterthought (actually, at the behest of Mr. Wysocky). Many of the council didn’t bother with the people who filled out applications; they just appointed people whom they knew already.
    If the council makes the effort itself to broaden its search pattern and is more willing to appoint people who are not insiders, it will produce a meaningful diversity.

    By the way, diversity just for diversity’s sake is useless. The point is to work to ensure that Santa Rosa’s people are properly represented in the city’s various endeavors.

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