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In 2-way race for Santa Rosa mayor, 1 big puzzle

Santa Rosa City Council rookie holds key vote Tuesday, when panel picks one of own for post


The official election results are in, but who’ll be the next mayor of Santa Rosa remains anyone’s guess.

Once new City Council members Erin Carlstrom and Julie Combs are sworn in Tuesday, the new council’s first order of business will be to select a mayor from their ranks.

It’s usually a predictable decision, with the gavel (and an extra $400 per month) passing to the most experienced member in the majority who has not yet held the post.

But this year all bets are off.

Erin Carlstrom.

The election of attorney Erin Carlstrom has upended the city’s political apple cart, making the 29-year-old political newcomer the swing vote on the issue and leading to intense speculation about whom she’ll support.

Carlstrom says she’s taking the decision seriously and has been listening closely to a variety of viewpoints.

“I’ve just been in a mode of listening and trying to craft a decision — which I’ve not yet made — on how we can put together a productive council,” Carlstrom said late last week from Salt Lake City, where she is attending a conference of the Young Democrats of America.

Supporters who have spoken to Carlstrom since she returned from a post-election Mexican vacation say she’s not tipping her hand.

Stephen Gale, head of the Sonoma County Democratic Party, had lunch with Carlstrom and a handful of other supporters to congratulate her on her win and discuss the upcoming mayor decision, among other issues.

A number of scenarios for the mayor’s post were discussed during their lunch, including whether the gavel should pass to Gary Wysocky, Scott Bartley, Jake Ours or Julie Combs, Gale said.

Those four appear to be the only ones prepared to accept the post, Gale said.

That’s because the mayor can’t serve successive terms, which puts Ernesto Olivares out of the running. Susan Gorin is stepping down before her first meeting as a new member of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, expected to be Jan. 11. And Carlstrom has indicated she’s not considering herself for the mayor’s job, Gale said.

Ours said he has “minimal” interest in the job and thinks Bartley “will make an excellent mayor.” Combs said she backs Wysocky for the position, calling him the progressive with the most experience on the council. “It’s his turn,” she said.

That would appear to make the choice a two-way contest between Wysocky and Bartley, who are on opposite sides of the ideologically divided council.

The four members who’ve been in the majority for the past two years tend to favor fewer regulations on businesses, while the three in the minority often give more weight to environmental and neighborhood concerns.

Carlstrom’s politics would appear to align more naturally with Wysocky’s. Both won the endorsements of groups emphasizing the importance of the environment, organized labor and neighborhoods.

But Carlstrom was also endorsed by Olivares and vice-versa, a move that created great consternation among her progressive supporters and left many to wonder where her true political allegiances lie.

And unlike Wysocky, Carlstrom won the backing of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Rosa firefighters’ union. Both backed Bartley two years ago.

All of which has left even political insiders scratching their heads over Tuesday’s vote.

“I’m talking to people and they have no idea,” said political consultant Terry Price. “It may truly and absolutely be decided that very night.”

Price worked on the campaigns of Combs and Gorin, both of whom have said they support Wysocky for the post.

Dennis Rosatti, executive director of Sonoma County Conservation Action, was one of those who attended the lunch meeting with Carlstrom. The group endorsed Carlstrom during her campaign, and Rosatti said he made it clear the group wants to see Wysocky become mayor.

“She listened and was very open, but she didn’t really indicate how she was going to vote or go,” Rosatti said.

Wysocky said he had “a very healthy exchange” with Carlstrom after Green Eggs and Ham, a post-election breakfast discussing sustainability issues. But he said he’s not sure if he has Carlstrom’s support.

“If I get the nod, it would be an honor. If I don’t, that’s those council members’ decisions,” Wysocky said.

Bartley said he hasn’t spoken to Carlstrom, has no idea how she’s leaning, and considers her to be “sharp and capable.”

Bartley served on the Planning Commission with Nick Caston, Carlstrom’s husband and current campaign consultant. The two clashed during the contentious debate over an environmental report on the Lowe’s Home Improvement store proposed for Santa Rosa Avenue, a report that was rejected.

Bartley was sharply critical of the decisions by Caston and Michael Allen not to abstain from the vote despite their leadership roles in a group that openly opposed the project, the Accountable Development Coalition. Bartley said their participation may have been legal but didn’t “pass the smell test.”

While he has pondered the upcoming vote, Bartley said he isn’t spending much time fretting over what he can’t control.

“It’s really Erin’s decision to make,” he said.

While she didn’t hint whom she’ll support for mayor, Carlstrom did say she hopes the new mayor continues the practice of allowing the vice mayor to be involved in the process of setting meeting agendas.

That power, along with the power to make appointments to local and regional boards and commissions, is one of the few the mayor’s office holds.

Carlstrom said she hoped the new mayor would take a “bipartisan” approach with regard to the selection of a vice mayor. She said she could envision a mayor from one side of the aisle and a vice mayor from the other. “I think that’s one scenario,” she said.

If the council cannot make a decision Tuesday, Olivares, who spent the weekend cleaning out his office in City Hall, will remain mayor until his replacement is named.

The council also could decide to postpone the decision until after a replacement for Gorin is selected, an equally politically charged process that’s expected to get under way in January.

(You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater)

17 Responses to “In 2-way race for Santa Rosa mayor, 1 big puzzle”

  1. Caller says:

    Kevin McCallum, thanks for clarifying that Wysocky declined to be on the Economic Competitiveness Task Force since the Economic Development Subcommittee already existed. I’ll stop spreading that he claimed to be on the subcommittee he wasn’t really on. :) I would actually agree with Wysocky that it didn’t make sense for the ECTF to be created with the subcommittee already existed. However, the creation of the ECTF did bring attention to economic development, revitalize efforts, and bring people to the meetings that weren’t attending subcommittee meetings. It would have been nice if those people just made it to the subcommittee meetings, but this Olivares’ formation of the task force got the job done.

    However, even though Wysocky made a good point that the task force was redundant to the subcommittee’s purpose, it was in Olivares’ purview to create it and Wysocky still refused to serve on it, thus not participating in either group. So, it would seem that Olivares was correct in saying Wysocky refused to participate, and in my opinion, Wysocky hasn’t made economic development a priority.


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  2. James Bennett says:

    Bartley won, we’ll be screwed at a little slower rate.

    I watched ‘em take the oath.

    To protect the Constitution against enemies both foreign and domestic.

    ICLEI is a foreign enemy.


    They take directive from them.

    They are accountable to them.

    They impose their brand of societal sabotage against our sovereignty as a community. Our economy. Our property rights. Reduce our public officials to change agents for their oppressive globalist ideology, hardscape and fiscal crashing.

    Last I read 136 cities had kicked ICLEI out. 136 out of approximately 600 charters.

    Those that called us names like tin foil hatters, conspiracy theorists might be glad they did so under assumed names one day. How about Teabaggers? I don’t consider myself one, but can you imagine the heat from referring to a Muslim or Jew with a less than flattering name? Yet even in mainstream media folks that support adhering to our Constitution, smaller government, fiscal responsibility can be openly marginalized.

    If we were to cut past the left/right BS, the name calling that’s really appropriate is traitor. Those that don’t adhere to their oath are literally in treason.

    They are aiding, abetting and offering protection to a foreign enemy.

    It’s like there’s a toxic smell making our community sick.

    Some of us know where it’s coming from.

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  3. Erica says:

    As Vice Mayor, Erin will help Mayor Bartley create a balanced path forward for our city.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  4. kevin mccallum says:

    Since it has been raised here, I felt it appropriate to note that a related story has been changed to reflect the following correction:

    A story that ran on page B1 Saturday Nov. 24 about the robo-calls targeting Santa Rosa City Councilman Gary Wysocky misstated his service on a city committee. He does not serve on the council’s economic subcommittee.
    Wysocky mentioned the committee by way of explanation for why he didn’t think it was necessary for Mayor Ernesto Olivares to form the Economic Competitiveness Task Force.

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  5. Snarky says:

    Today’s example of your public employees at work…..

    San Diego Union Tribune, Online
    December 04, 2012

    “”Chula Vista Teacher Arrested On Child Pornography Charges”"

    “A first-grade teacher in Chula Vista has been arrested on suspicion of possessing child pornography and attempting to lure young boys to send him nude pictures, the San Diego Police Department said Tuesday.”"


    Now you Press Demo readers… back to your “local” reports of drunk drivers.

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  6. Allen v Carlstrom? says:

    As mentioned below, rumor has it that Erin Carlstrom thinks the Santa Rosa City Council is a stepping stone to the Assembly. But hey! All the supporters Allen has left are going around town saying he will use a “new path” back into office.

    So when Wes Chesbro terms out, it will be interesting to see if its Carlstrom and Allen competing for that office. ..and if there’s a better third choice than the has been and the wanna be.

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  7. Caller says:

    Obviously if both sides are so concerned with who becomes mayor there is something critical at stake. From Carlstrom’s alliances and her husband’s, it appears she’s more likely to vote for Wysocky than Bartley. However, from what I’ve seen the many people on the “business-friendly” side would be horrified with Wysocky as mayor, but I don’t think people on the “progressive” side would be horrified with Bartley as mayor. I think someone who is unbiased would see Bartley middle ground, or at least the lesser evil.

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  8. Snarky says:

    Regarding the Mayor of Santa Rosa, does anyone recall the time when former Mayor Sharon Wright was fined for, uh, an indiscretion … maybe by the FPPC ?
    Can’t recall the details, actually.

    Well, I know the Press Democrat loves to “report” on DUI’s and whatever intersection the SRPD claims to be “watching”…. but the following is far more important for paying subscribers.

    After all, the following proves further that corruption has reached a new record in California state and local government.

    December 3, 2012
    Sacramento Bee, Online

    “”California Watchdog Agency Fines Mayor Kevin Johnson $37,500″”

    “”The state’s political watchdog group announced today it has fined Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson $37,500 for failing to report millions of dollars in donations he solicited for various non-profits, including the group he tasked with developing a financing plan for a new arena.”"

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  9. Uh... says:

    Snarky, in response to your question, “Whats verbal abuse?”… The verbal abuse Wysocky inflicts on speakers and other council members, but especially city staff, at every single council meeting he attends.

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  10. Vinyl Rules says:

    I’m already getting sick of these breathless articles about Carlstrom and she hasn’t even been sworn in yet. I guess the PD, and anyone that took the time to read this article, is playing right into her hands. She hoodwinked us all.

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  11. @Dan says:

    Hopefully she’ll ask why Gary Wysocky claimed to be on the Economic Development Subcommittee.

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  12. Demosthenes says:

    Anyone who thinks this is a merit-based vote for Carlstrom is kidding themselves. She’ll make the decision that is the most politically advantageous to her and her husband. Smart money says she’s already made a deal that trades her vote on Mayor for her vote on the new appointee…whatever puts her in the best position.

    She has an Assembly race to run in two years, after all.

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  13. RICHARD says:

    RE: ” The four members who’ve been in the majority for the past two years tend to favor fewer regulations on businesses…”

    Yes, the gang of four [ Ernesto Olivares, Scott Bartley, Jake Ours, John Sawyer ] do favor less regulation. They also give our money and resources to special interests Eg chamber of commerce and favored developers. They also take away from groups doing good for the community Eg Fish.

    The gang of four is also deceptive: they claimed they would have the police contribute to their pension. But they gave the police a pay rise to cover the cost of the pension contribution.

    Hey hey ho ho the gang of four has got to go !

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  14. Snarky says:

    Whats verbal abuse?

    Oh, you mean when he questioned the local police about their foolish attempts to impress Sonoma County youth with their police weapons?

    Uh, the cops deserved abuse on that one.
    Their foolish behavior was utterly stupid.

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  15. Sue St. Claire says:

    In the old Soviet Union they had a saying in the Presidium, “anarchism is order, government is chaos.”

    That is what is happening in the new soviet republic of Sonoma County. The members of the Santa Rosa Presidium begin to battle it out to see who will in the end act as chairman and chief representative of the public unions in the city.

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  16. Uh... says:

    A vote for Wysocky is a vote for verbal abuse.

    Thumb up 34 Thumb down 13

  17. Dan J Drummond says:

    I hope Erin asks lots of questions, because questioning is the door of knowledge. It’s a fine day for young ducks.

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