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Santa Rosa council candidates outline visions for city’s future

By KEVIN McCALLUM

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The eight candidates running for Santa Rosa City Council fielded questions about district elections, gang violence, mandatory solar panels and bridging the

Santa Rosa City Council candidates speaks during a candidate forum at City Hall in Santa Rosa on Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

council’s ideological divide during a forum Monday, giving voters their best chance yet to size up those vying for four seats Nov. 6.

Two rival City Council members and six other candidates outlined how they would work to make the city a better place to live, in many cases offering stark differences over the future of the city.

The debate offered no surprises or direct confrontations, but Councilman Gary Wysocky did accuse Mayor Ernesto Olivares of being part of a council divide that Olivares now says he wants to heal through his endorsement of fellow candidate Erin Carlstrom.

“While Erin and I do not agree on many issues facing the city, we do agree on a vision for the future that heals the political rifts of Santa Rosa and focuses on bringing people together to solve the problems that are facing our community,” Olivares said in his opening remarks.

But Wysocky called the move an election year “stunt” and said Olivares’ unwillingness to work collaboratively was made clear from the moment he became mayor. He cited a letter Olivares sent to the Mayor’s and Councilmembers’ Associations of Sonoma County listing only the council’s four majority members as being able to speak for the city.

“Mr. Olivares, you sent a letter saying only these four can speak for Santa Rosa the very first morning you were mayor,” Wysocky said. “That was very inappropriate.”

The event was co-hosted by the League of Women Voters and American Association of University Women and could prove significant because it took place in the City Council chambers, was televised and will be replayed later in the month.

The upcoming election could be pivotal for the deeply politically divided, seven-member council.

Four council members, including Olivares, backed by business groups tend to favor fewer regulations on business, while three candidates supported by labor and environmental groups tend to give more weight to the input of neighborhood groups.

Asphalt plant operator Shaan Vandenburg, a father of two, said he hoped he could help the council move past the polarization.

“I think we just have to have some common sense and get back to what is the best thing for Santa Rosa,” he said.

All of the candidates stressed the need to foster a healthy economy that creates local jobs and helps the city balance its budget and provide essential services. Few expressed support for mandatory solar panels on large projects as a way to help the city meet its climate protection goals. And there were clear differences on such issues as district elections.

For the first time, Olivares publicly opposed district elections, which is on the ballot as Measure Q.

He said district elections would require the city to go from the entire city voting for each council member to carving the city into seven voting districts. This “takes away 85 percent” of the people’s ability to vote for council members, he said.

“Many of you would not be voting for a City Council member if we had district elections in place at this time,” he said.

Wine industry executive Hans Dippel and Vandenburg also opposed district elections, while Wysocky, Carlstrom, Julie Combs and Caroline Banuelos supported them as an important way to bring diversity to city politics.

Combs, a neighborhood activist, said that in 30 years, the city has had only four council members who lived west of Highway 101 and some neighborhoods haven’t been home to any council member.

“We have large blocks of the city that have never been represented, so there are democracy and fairness issues associated with Measure Q,” Combs said.

Omelette Express owner Don Taylor didn’t directly answer the question but suggested that, as a resident of the city’s northwest area, voters would improve the council’s geographic diversity by electing him.

Combs came out most forcefully on the issue of whether neighborhood groups have enough of a voice in the city.

She stressed her belief that “neighborhoods are the foundation of a healthy city” and said that too often the current council has dismissed the desires of neighborhoods.

She cited three projects — the Santa Rosa Avenue corridor plan, Bodean Co.’s asphalt silos project and the North Station Area Plan — that involved community groups providing significant project input.

“Each time . . . they were shot down from their position by the current council majority,” Combs said.

On the issue of working with the Latino community, Olivares, a retired police lieutenant and the city’s first Latino mayor, stressed his lifelong ties.

Carlstrom answered in Spanish and English, stressing her outreach to Latinos while she worked for the John Kerry presidential campaign in Arizona in 2004.

And Banuelos, who recently worked as a social worker, said she had long advocated for the Latino community and worked to get more involved in the democratic process.

“I always say we’ve got the numbers but we don’t have the votes,” she said.

Several candidates expressed interest in allowing some free parking downtown.

Vandenburg said it would help downtown businesses.

Carlstrom suggested the first 90 minutes be free in city garages.

Dippel, who stressed the city is well known as a great place to live, said parking tickets to people who are just getting a cup of coffee made no sense.

“One of the things I don’t want to be known for is having the world’s most expensive cup of coffee,” Dippel said, noting a $4 cup of coffee becomes $39 with a parking ticket.

Nine candidates are listed on the Nov. 6 ballot, but only eight are still running. Landscape architect Mike Cook withdrew last month.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin. mccallum@pressdemocrat.com.





11 Responses to “Santa Rosa council candidates outline visions for city’s future”

  1. Snarky says:

    The “bomb squad” of Sonoma County put out a press release that they “responded” to a gas leak of some type yesterday.

    Message to the “bomb squad”: let the experts of the utility company deal with gas leaks. You clearly don’t have enough to do to justify your extra “hazardous” duty pay and training expenses billed to the public taxpayers.

    We don’t need a “bomb squad” and we don’t need a “gang squad.” Get back in your patrol cars and do the work you should be doing…. routine patrol.

    Oh, and keep your uniforms on, too. I witnessed a Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy who thought he was clever yesterday… in the warmth of the day.. when he put on a civilian jacket to visit someone in the hospital. Clearly, he wasn’t supposed to be there and was attempting to cover his uniform. Everyone else was walking around in shorts… except him… with his un-marked, non-uniform jacket.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Snarky says:

    Just an FYI for you who worry about Santa Rosa “gangs.”

    The laws are on the books.

    The police are on the payroll.

    The courts are in place.

    Whats missing? EFFORT.

    The Press Democrat published an article and photo about four months back that showed a photo of two members of the “gang squad” … working on a COLD CASE from the 1970′s. Just so you know, cold cases are low priority and only worked when other issues are under control or when the department is overstaffed.

    There you have it. If the “gang squad” has time to work on a murder from about 1972, its either overstaffed or does not have enough “gang” activity to keep it busy.

    Disband the “gang squad” and put them back into regular police work. We need a “gang squad” as much as we need the overly hyped “bomb squad.”

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  3. Terry says:

    “She stressed her belief that “neighborhoods are the foundation of a healthy city” and said that too often the current council has dismissed the desires of neighborhoods.” Julie Combs Give me a break! These so called “Neighborhood Associations” and self appointed representatives of “the community” have driven out Lucas Films near Marin, are in the business of extortion (Deer Creek Village), and unless you do what I say I’ll accuse you of not listening to me mentality, are not the way leaders should govern. Are you kidding Julie? How about being a leader. I do not want a representative that will bow every time a group of NIMBYs led by thugs raises heck.

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  4. Missy says:

    How will they stop taxing us to death? Why are we being charged enormous amounts for Business Property Tax for OLD equipment? Why are we being charged more in SALES TAX than Marin County? This is an outrage! And yes that parking structure in the back of downtown Macy’s that CHARGES – they need to stop charging!

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  5. Terry says:

    “She stressed her belief that “neighborhoods are the foundation of a healthy city” and said that too often the current council has dismissed the desires of neighborhoods.” Julie Combs

    Give me a break! These so called “Neighborhood Associations” and self appointed representatives of “the community” have driven out Lucas Films near Marin, are in the business of extortion (Deer Creek Village), and unless you do what I say I’ll accuse you of not listening to me mentality, are not the way leaders should govern. Are you kidding Julie? Grow a pair and lead. I do not want a representative that will bow every time a thug group of NIMBYs raises hell.

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  6. Grapevines says:

    “Critic at Large” you left off one important issue, (at least important to everyone of them)

    How to stop anyone from West Santa Rosa from becoming a member of the (East Side) Santa Rosa City Council.

    Is there such a word as Measure Q-aphobia?

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

  7. Paul says:

    One more time…WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD.

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  8. Marc says:

    I have to agree with Critic at Large, They ignore the real problems that will take the city down and deal with little problems. We are in a crisis mode and if they cannot do the job we need to wake up and deal with them.

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  9. Chris says:

    @Critic at Large – Lots of discussion about all the issues you mentioned, but PD did not report on it. Debate should be repeat on tv if you want to hear all the discussion about these issues.

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  10. Paul says:

    #1 issues should be those PENSIONS and GANGS. Those two items will eventually bring SoCo DOWN. But it’s much more fun to talk about not wanting to be known for a $39 cup of coffee, which Mr. Dipell seems to think is just soooo important.
    These candidates appear to be whistling past the graveyard. They’re not going to solve one thing, given their chatter so far.

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  11. Critic at Large says:

    No discussion of the city’s deficit spending, its big pensions deficit, its crime ridden gang infested areas of town, its empty store fronts, its spending on 101 bike crossings, graffiti and the homeless issues downtown and in the creeks to name some of the real issues facing Santa Rosa.

    Instead they choose to discuss rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic like $4 cups of coffee, parking tickets and the importance of where a councilman lives.

    What waste of time and newsprint. It is typical of the League of Liberal Women and associated groups that get these meaningless meetings going.

    None of these candidates have the slightest idea of what to do or how to solve problems in Santa Rosa. All they do is talk, talk and talk some more.

    It is unbelievable that they can get away with it.

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