WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa vows to find funds for chamber’s jobs program


A sharply divided Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday supported finding ways to fund a job creation effort by the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.

A majority of council members praised the Building Economic Success Together program and vowed to find the $60,000 per year the chamber requested the city contribute toward it for five years.

“We all have a vested interest in what happens with our economy,” Mayor Ernesto Olivares said. “We’re not going to get anything done if we don’t do it together. That’s a fact.”

But other council members took the chamber to task for its political activism, especially its activities in the 2010 City Council election and its plans — since abandoned — for the new program to keep a “scorecard” on politicians who support key business priorities.

“Until you get out of politics, you’re not getting my support, because it looks bad,” Gary Wysocky told chamber President Jonathan Coe.

Susan Gorin, whose rivals were supported by the chamber’s political action committee last year, said she couldn’t trust the BEST program would be completely apolitical, given its ties to the chamber.

“There are really good reasons why nonprofit organizations absolutely refrain from partisan activities, because it taints everything else that you do,” Gorin said.

The council debate closely mirrored the comments of members of the public who addressed the council.

Supporters of the program noted it has worked elsewhere and the county is in urgent need of job growth.

Brett Martinez, president of Redwood Credit Union and a member of the BEST board of directors, said his organization sees the financial stress people are under every day.

“The issue today is people are struggling and we need to do something about it, and we need to do it together,” Martinez said.

The group estimated that with $3.25 million, it could create 4,000 new jobs by helping local businesses expand and attracting new businesses to the area. They argued that the effort would complement Santa Rosa’s economic development work.

But several critics of the program questioned the political and economic ties between the city and chamber.

Judy Kennedy, a neighborhood activist, noted the chamber and the council have been “cozy for a long time” with many benefits for the chamber. The two groups have a “symbiotic” relationship that could also be characterized as “cronyism,” she said. She noted that Coe sit on at least three city boards.

“I find this somewhat outrageous, really,” Kennedy said.

But Olivares said he didn’t see anything wrong with the city being “cozy” with the chamber.

“That’s not always a bad thing,” he said. “We have to have a partnership, a relationship, to get things done. We have some common interests in making sure that we have a great place for everybody to live.”

The council agreed on a 4-3 vote to return next week with changes to the language of the resolution that made it clearer that it supported the nonpartisan efforts of BEST, and that the city would try to find the money this fiscal year, if possible.

City staff had recommended supporting the measure and finding the money in next year’s budget.

16 Responses to “Santa Rosa vows to find funds for chamber’s jobs program”

  1. kyle says:

    @Chris – Well, first the bike coalition as a non-profit doesn’t and hasn’t endorsed any candidates. Closes relationships have been Bob Blanchard, and Gary Wysocky…
    you’re kidding, right? What about Ex mayor Gorin?

    These crackpots yield so much political clout it’s nauseating.

    At a recent luncheon, I was fortunate enough to hear from SCBC, and when prompted for an explanation of their power (re: Humboldt) was coquettishly met with downcast eyes and a humble explanation of “it’s been in the general plan for a long time”.

    The next question related to the proposed overcrossing, and I swear to you, she was positively glowing with rapture as she took credit on behalf of SCBC for “getting that through”.

    SCBC still runs the city, because the new majority on City Council is afraid of the propaganda machine branding them as anti-bike, anti-environment, anti-whatever in the next cycle.

    SCBC may be a nonprofit, but they are a lobbying organization under their spandex.

    Cars for transportation, bikes for recreation.

  2. RICHARD says:

    Mr Billy C

    Without assenting to be labeled “progressive”, maybe I can help explain the difference.

    This action undermines representative government in Santa Rosa. No organization involved in elective politics ought get public funds. The chamber/BEST will spend those public funds to get its friends elected and they will vote to give the chamber/BEST more public funds.

    It is one thing to advocate for what one thinks will be a public improvement and support candidates who agree. It is another thing to lobby for public funds and also be involved in elective politics. The chamber/BEST will be given public funds, cash money to spend at its own discretion. Non profit tax exempt organizations are prohibited by law from engaging in elective politics.

  3. Chris says:

    @Billy – Well, first the bike coalition as a non-profit doesn’t and hasn’t endorsed any candidates. Closes relationships have been Bob Blanchard, for whom the ED of the bike coalition served as a member of his committee, and Gary Wysocky who had been a past president of the non-profit.

    The chamber, on the other hand, operates both a taxpayer subsidized tourism program (which I actually support) and a partisan Political Action Committee which it uses to elect the people that then continue to grant it taxpayer money to fund its operations. In order to be endorsed by the chamber, a candidate must hire the political operative of the chamber, Herb Williams. While I doubt Williams is actually a bad guy, no candidate in over a decade has been endorsed by the chamber that did not pay Herb Williams to run their campaign.

    Pay to play politics at its worst.

  4. Billy C says:

    I am having a hard time understanding this.
    Perhaps a friendly progressive can help.
    The Council members that have been endorsed by the bike collation have helped funnel millions of dollars towards Bike statues,lanes,green-ways and bridges.On top of that they would like 10′s of millions more for the approximately .03%
    of our biking population. BUT they cry foul when the Chamber supports a few business minded folk? Who are asking
    for $60K a year to bring in MORE MONEY??
    For the entire county?
    What am I missing ? Keep in mind that I am one of the .03% hard core bikers and do own a business so I have a foot in both sides of this. Please go easy on me.

  5. good one says:

    @ken:well, the majority voted for pro business council memebers for a reason! Cause we want more business here in Santa Rosa. THATs why the were elected! Personally I do want Lowe’s here, as well as other sources of employment. And if it takes some capital from the City of SR, better than see the money wasted on empty bike lanes!

  6. Ken says:

    Sam is right. Anyone who can’t see that the “pro-business” majority are just the hired hands of the Chamber is blind. These bozos don’t even try and HIDE their backroom deals. Just a big ol’flipping of the bird to the people of Santa Rosa. No money for HP, but we have money for a private enterprise. Hmmmmm…..

    Sheeple, what more do you need to see that 2+2=4?

    Don’t vote for the sell-outs next November!

    Actually, vote for Sawyer in the supervisor primary, so he can’t run for CC again, and then vote against him in November. That’ll show him.

  7. Social Dis-Ease says:

    The minimal amount of engagement, feedback and accountability that the WSC blog offers is making a difference. In the absence of genuine community interaction with the citizens this might be one of the closest forums we can utilize to communicate.
    The whole dynamic that is local politics and decision making is similar in S.R. to many ICLEI towns (nationally too) that being a faux charade passing itself off as genuine Democracy to the casual observer. Our’s now is to be much less casual in our observance.
    BTW at this point the Chamber is one of hundreds of credible sounding NGOs and agencies serving to implement and manufacture consensus for Agenda 21 objective. There’s A LOT of that going on, that’s a big tool in their totalitarian tool shed.
    EPA, Sierra Club, American Lung Association…it’s a long list.

  8. Money Grubber says:

    From what I can see, the City of Santa Rosa is already trying to “find” those extra funds by illegally raising property taxes in violation of Prop 13.

    See the Press Democrat story of yesterday. I’m waiting to see litigation vs. the City/County for the violation of raising property taxes 25% when housing prices locally are still flat or declining.

  9. Kat says:

    so if the chamber backed the other three council members would the shoe(s) be on the other foot?

    until you get real people in the office who will work for the people of SR it’s going to be the same years to come so just deal with it.

  10. Sam Mardson says:

    Who is shocked at another political payback by the so called “Pro-Business” Majority? Bartley, Ours and Olivarez were endorsed by the Chamber and now they are paying back their supporters, the same way they did with the cops. They are so transparent they don’t even try to hide their backroom deals. After all they are the same “Good Old Boys” who have been ruining our City for a long time.

  11. Antonio Watley says:

    Once again the pro business majority sells out to their special interest cronies. The only “Got JObs” action these clowns have provided is for the Chamber of Commerce’s hired PR Flacks and “consultants”. Meanwhile the lights are turned off on my street and the city wants to charge for parking. I’m disgusted with them like all the other taxpayers on this board and I will work to defeat them and make sure John Sawyer doesn’t get to keep enriching his friends as a Supervisor.

  12. RICHARD says:

    BEAT, a subsidiary of the chamber of commerce, is a tax exempt corporation. They wont pays taxes but they want all the tax revenues their friends on the council will give to them.

    This is a trickle-down, trickle-down has not fulfilled its promises it is a scam.

    The City can not afford this, remember:
    the City solicited money from the public to keep the pools open.
    the City allowes hotels/chamber to spend room taxes on themselves.
    the City defunded school crossing guards.
    the City convinced the people to increase the sales tax because it was so poor.
    the City laid off staff and reduced services.

    This action undermines representative government in Santa Rosa. No organization involved in elective politics ought get public funds. The chamber will spend those tax funds to get its friends elected and they will vote to give the chamber tax funds.

    The Chamber and the City have a history of unethical dealings.

  13. Jon D says:

    @Dave Madigan – well said and guess who the 4 of the 4-3 vote are. I didnot attend the council meeting but I know who the 4′s are.

  14. Average Joe says:

    The BEST program is really not a program. What it is, is hired consultants. That’s right, hired consultants.

    The BEST program wants to bring more jobs to SR, well who doesn’t? Its all mom and apple pie window dressing with no real solutions.

    The chamber and the BEST team are all well intended folks but there is no real tangible output from the program other than lining the pockets of the consultants.

  15. Kirstin says:

    The aim of the BEST program is extremely important to reviving the economy/jobs here: we do need more companies that MAKE things and sell them elsewhere. Those kinds of jobs will strengthen our economic base here and expand the choices for workers. We cannot rely so much on construction and retail jobs as we have been doing.

    However, developing jobs should left primarily to private enterprise. One of our problems in this country is that we have allowed government to get too involved in areas (such as economic development) that are not really government’s responsibility and which government usually does not carry out well or efficiently.

    So, the Chamber should go ahead with its plans, but seek its funds from its members (who will benefit). The Chamber says that the cities and county will benefit from the increased tax revenues that more manufacturing here will produce. If that is a benefit, so be it.

    However, the cities and county should do their part too: stop trying to do the job (economic development) that belongs to private enterprise, and reduce red tape that is acting as an impediment to the private sector. If the local governments were to do that, the Chamber’s members would be more than compensated for the contributions they would make to BEST.

  16. Dave Madigan says:

    This should make it quite clear that the City is NOT broke. The City Council has the money for the things that THEY wish to pay for.

    Remember this when they charge for parking at Howarth Park. Remember this when they says that can’t afford to keep all the fire stations open. Remember this when they raise fees all over the place.

    Most importantly of all, remember this in the next election. Vote the bums out!