WatchSonoma Watch

Names of Santa Rosa City Council applicants made public


Santa Rosa on Wednesday revealed the names of a diverse group of residents hoping to be appointed to the vacant seat on the Santa Rosa City Council.

The 17 people seeking to fill the last two years of Susan Gorin’s term include working professionals and retirees, the financially secure and those struggling to find work.

Santa Rosa City Council chambers at city hall.

Some seem to be taking the process very seriously, submitting long resumes and thoughtful, articulate answers to questions. Others cracked jokes or offered only two-word answers.

Most are from the east side of town, but several residents of the underrepresented west side of the city said they hoped their selection could resolve that imbalance.

The applicants see a wide range of issues facing the city, including balancing the budget, overhauling pensions, improving pedestrian safety, fighting homelessness and restoring a spirit of collaboration to the polarized City Council.

And while many are well known for their civic involvement or previous political campaigns, others are relative unknowns with little public service to their names.

The council plans to begin interviewing candidates at 2 p.m. Monday. It could make a decision that evening or the following day before its regular council meeting.

Four applicants are hoping the council will do what voters declined to in the 2012 election.

Don Taylor, 53, owns two Omelette Express restaurants. He has run for council unsuccessfully four times, and came in fifth in November.

Caroline Bañuelos, 53, is a former homeless services provider and current grade-school tutor. She is a member of the Planning Commission and came in sixth place in November, just 17 votes behind Taylor.

Mike Cook, 33, is co-owner of a Santa Rosa landscape architecture firm. The former member of the city’s Design Review Board dropped out of the last council race. His name remained on the ballot, however, and he was the seventh-highest vote getter.

Hans Dippel, 52, is a sales and marketing executive with a Cotati-based wine industry services firm. Dippel came in eighth in the November election. He also ran in 2008.

Other candidates have a wide range of professional experience and varying degrees of civic involvement.

Curtis Byrd, 57, is a community relations specialist for Blood Centers of the Pacific. He is also a planning commissioner and divinity student.

David Rosas, 50, is a telecommunications software analyst. He is a community activist from the city’s southwest neighborhood who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2008.

Robin Swinth, 45, is a former Hewlett-Packard engineer. She is a member of the city’s Board of Public Utilities.

George Steffensen, 55, is a retired union official. He is a former member of the Cotati-Rohnert Park School Board.

Roy Sprague, 69, is a retired firefighter. He was a battalion chief for Cal Fire in Glen Ellen for 17 years.

Gary Saal, 61, owns an intellectual property licensing firm. He has served as a trustee of the Mark West Unified School District board and hopes to bring a minor league baseball team to the city.

Zachary Rounds, 34, is a water-quality regulator with the state Department of Public Health. He is the youngest applicant for the vacancy.

Jeffrey Owen, 48, works at Exchange Bank in the Special Assets Department. He serves as a commissioner on the county’s Open Space District.

Karen Lovvorn, 75, is a retired nurse and diabetes educator. She lives in a mobile home park on the city’s west side and wants to represent that community.

Douglas Krikac, 61, is an unemployed lumber salesman. He has no political or government experience and little hope of being appointed, he said.

Robert Malm, 72, is a retired container-ship captain. He served on the Sonoma County grand jury.

Barbara Ramsey, 68, is past president of the Sonoma County Medical Association Alliance and Foundation. She has been a member of the city’s Community Advisory Board since 2008.

P.W. Hughes, 61, is a pharmaceutical salesman for Pfizer who is retiring March 1. He has been active in the establishment of the Southeast Greenway.

Gilbert Cobb, 63, a retired trade show installer, submitted his paperwork, but withdrew late Wednesday. He said he lacked “the necessary community experience and organizational backing.”

The release of the application information concluded a 13-day nomination period during which the city kept information about the process secret.

Officials would not release information about who picked up application packets, who returned applications before the deadline, nor allow the public access to the documents.

The Press Democrat filed a request to view the documents under the state Public Records Act, but the city claimed they were not public documents, citing a so-called “deliberative process exemption” to the law.

Who took out nomination papers but never returned them remains unknown. City Clerk Terri Griffin said her staff did not keep track of how many people requested packets or who they were.

One resident who took out papers but never submitted them was Tanya Narath. The executive director of the Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy said she opted not to apply because of the demands of performing both her job and council duties.

“I really think being on the council should be almost a full-time job,” Narath said.

Narath and Swinth met with representatives of three of the city’s most influential labor unions last week.

Tim Aboudara, president of the city firefighters union, called the sessions a “meet and greet” to give both the applicants and the unions a better sense of the issues important to one another.

“It was not an endorsement interview like you would see during the election,” Aboudara said. “They asked as many questions of us as we asked of them.”

The fact that the employee unions were privy to the identities of some of the candidates before the public or even the council raises additional questions about the wisdom and fairness of the city’s new policy of keeping the application process confidential.

Mike Reynolds, president of the city’s largest union, the Santa Rosa City Employees Association, said he found the meeting informative.

“They seem like both very qualified ladies,” Reynolds said.

But he said he had no plans to share his thoughts or opinions on the two candidates with members of the City Council prior to the selection.

“That would be inappropriate,” he said.

Alan Schellerup, president of the police officers association, said he tried to impress upon both candidates just how much work the job is and how complicated issues like pensions and compensation are.

“It’s not just show up on Tuesday for two hours and go home,” Schellerup said. “I think it was an eye-opener for both of them.”

To view the candidates’ applications online, go to http://ci.santa-rosa.ca.us/news/Pages/CouncilApplications2013.aspx

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


10 Responses to “Names of Santa Rosa City Council applicants made public”

  1. Laura Gonzalez says:

    Rumor is public safety has informed City Council they want Dippel (who hasn’t been on any boards or commissions.) Why did they only interview some of the candidates? Why do they have the power to “inform” the council of their choice like that? Is this more back room deals like they did with Ours and Bartley last time? Where’s the transparency? This is sounding like a done deal. IS THIS EVEN LEGAL???? And why Dippel who came in 8th place? I thought the hang up with Don Taylor was that there “wasn’t a mandate from the public.”

  2. Phaedra Glidden says:

    Mockingbird ~ UN Agenda 21/ICLEI is not a conspiracy theory, it is a fact. I highly recommend you do your research about this. Otherwise, you sound like a silly bird parroting what others tell you, kind of like the “Mockingbird” you name yourself after.

  3. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    James Bennett-you of the ICLEI and Agenda 21 conspiracy theorists are the last person this county needs on the city council or in ANY public office.

    Caller-you are right. Dan is more conservative. I voted for Banuelos and I wouldn’t have voted for Carlstrom too if I had known she was presenting herself to the voters as a diehard progressive and she’s now shown her true colors.

    I say replace Susan with someone of like politics since we voted in Susan. I don’t want the board loaded with conservatives in a predominantly progressive city. We need balance.

  4. Kirstin says:

    @Caller: I assume you would make the same statement about Caroline Bañuelos who also lost and was 17 votes behind Don Taylor?

    @James Bennett: I completely understand reluctance to fill out the property disclosure form for the chance to speak for 15 minutes before the council and the public. I would think that would be restrictive for a number of otherwise potential applicants.

  5. Caller says:

    @Juvenal — good point. City Council appointing Don Taylor because he lost by less than other losers would be as silly as Mitt Romney being appointed in Obama’s absence.

  6. James Bennett says:

    I owe the Watch Sonoma County forum an explanation, as I posted that I would be obtaining an application packet for council eligibility. I did, the package includes a “Form 700″ that requires disclosure of real estate holdings, business interests, values and income from same.
    I don’t really care to have my private business public when the only upside would be a short opportunity to speak some truth. My chances of being selected from this council are approximately zero.

    We don’t need inordinate intelligence or skill sets to be an admirable city council representative. Just someone that has a rudimentary understanding of what makes a town work. Namely; a fertile small business (most jobs come from sml. biz) and real estate climate. In our area a favorable environment for tourism helps. AND, a genuine loyalty, desire to be of service, a respect and adherence to the oath. An empathy for what small business and most citizens are dealing with right now would be nice. The central dynamic to the whole thing is working for the people, but our ICLEI membership has subverted that.

    Next week The North Bay Independent alternative newspaper will go to print. That’s my little contribution toward protecting our freedoms. I think it will be more effective than saying the same crap over and over on this board. Or watching SR Council twitch and squirm or get up to use the wash room when I take my 3 minutes.

    I hope we find a way to come together this year and recognize the significance of our engagement right now.

    I guess necessity is the mother of invention.

  7. Juvenal says:

    @Over Easy

    “Don Taylor came in closest in the last election and should be bumped in as a matter of fairness.”

    Similarly, if Barack Obama should become unable to perform the duties of the presidency, would you support installing Mitt Romney as President–”in all fairness,” since he “came closest”? Never mind that this would violate the Constitution.

    If you think that runners up should be considered to be sitting on the bench waiting to play, legislate that…

  8. Caller says:

    @Over Easy -
    The public chose the top four candidates in the election, so Don Taylor was rejected by the public. He was REJECTED more times than any other candidate.

    Also, it’s possible that, if the top four candidates were out of the picture, Banuelos or another candidate might get more support than Taylor. You’ll never know.

  9. Steveguy says:

    To those that think Dan Taylor should be a shoe-in… Tiffany Renee could make the same claim if it was Petaluma.

    Beware your thoughts and feelings.

  10. Over Easy says:

    Don Taylor came in closest in the last election and should be bumped in as a matter of fairness. Than man deserves the chance, who else has tried so hard so many times to get the spot?
    I’m not sure why he would really want it but he deserves it in my book.