WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa faces test in replacing Gorin



On the day that Susan Gorin will be sworn in as the new Sonoma County 1st District supervisor, her former colleagues on the Santa Rosa City Council will begin the

Susan Gorin (PD FILE, 2012)

politically delicate task of replacing her.

Several key questions facing the council Tuesday will determine how they’ll go about filling the vacancy.

Should they let the voters decide in a special election?

Should they take applications from residents, conduct interviews and appoint someone themselves?

Or should they just cut to the chase and award the seat to the next highest vote-getter from November?

Answering these and other questions about the appointment process will be a test of sorts for the recently realigned council, now led by Mayor Scott Bartley with newcomer Erin Carlstrom as vice mayor.

The answers also could help determine the balance of power on an ideologically divided council split between three members backed by business and development interests, two supported by environmental and neighborhood groups, and one, Carlstrom, with backers from both camps.

“It’s going to make for some interesting council-watching in the near future,” said Tim Aboudara, political director for the Santa Rosa Firefighters IAFF Local 1401.

Whether to hold an election may prove the easiest decision. An election would be expensive and probably couldn’t take place until November.

The county registrar estimates a special election would cost taxpayers between $167,000 and $292,000. And, because of the way the law is written, the next available date for an election might be Nov. 5, according to City Attorney Caroline Fowler.

That’s because the council presumably wouldn’t opt for an election until it at least tries to find an appointee, Fowler said. That process of advertising for the opening, taking applications, interviewing candidates and making a decision could take several weeks.

The council has until March 1, which is 60 days from the date Gorin resigned, to select an appointee. If the council can’t decide or chooses not to appoint someone, an election would be held at the next regular election date at least 114 days out. That could make it hard to hit the June 4 election date, leaving Nov. 5 the earliest possible election, Fowler said.

That puts additional pressure on the council to make the decision soon because otherwise it risks months of 3-3 gridlock on controversial issues.

All of which tells Aboudara that the council is almost certain to go through some kind of appointment process.

“Because of the cost and time involved, they are going to have to pick somebody,” Aboudara said.

But if history is any guide, the appointment process can be a challenging, politically polarizing endeavor.

One reason is because an appointee could end up deciding key issues and also a significant leg up on the competition for the next election.

That became a divisive issue in 2007, when three-term councilman Mike Martini resigned.

To defuse the concern about the incumbency advantage, that council ultimately required potential appointees to promise they wouldn’t run in 2008. Out of a pool of 21 applicants, the council selected Carol Dean, in part because of her non-binding vow not to run.

But after 10 months on the council, the West End resident and member of Board of Public Utilities decided to run. She was vilified for it and lost in 2008.

Whether to again require such a pledge is one of the questions the council will need to grapple with Tuesday.

Stephen Gale, head of the Sonoma County Democratic Party, said given that history he doesn’t think requiring such a pledge makes sense. All it will do is limit the pool of candidates unnecessarily, he said.

Other issues include what kinds of questions would be on the application, when the submission deadline should be and how the interviews would be handled.

Last time, interviews were held over two days in the council chambers. Applicants also were required to submit a nomination form with 20 signatures from registered voters.

A simpler but potentially perilous route would be for the council to simply appoint the highest vote-getter from the November election.

That was Don Taylor, owner of the Omelette Express restaurants and the fifth-place vote getter. Following the election, some suggested Taylor was the logical choice for the appointment, something Taylor said he would welcome. But it’s unclear if such a plan has any support on the council.

Planning Commissioner Curtis Byrd said he would be disappointed to see the city do anything other than open it up to a full application process.

“Our city deserves an open process,” said Byrd, who said he plans to apply if allowed the opportunity.

Other names that have surfaced in recent weeks as potential nominees include: Robin Swinth, a member of the city Board of Public Utilities; Donna Zapata, executive director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Judy Kennedy, a neighborhood activist; Tanya Narath, executive director of the Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy, and former City Council candidates Caroline Bañuelos, Hans Dippel, Mike Cook and Shaan Vandenburg.

Asked after she was elected how she was thinking about her role in selecting Gorin’s replacement, Carlstrom said she would seek someone who was independent-minded and could work with both factions.

“I really want us to kind of get away from this idea that we go into a room and everybody knows where everybody’s vote is going to lie down,” she said at that time.

She added this week that she would like to see someone with a “track record with the city” and an interest in city issues.

In this situation, so soon after a contentious election, Gale said he expects the council will shy away from those who recently have been “highly visible competitors” in the political arena.

“It’s hard to be able to bridge differences that may be too fresh,” Gale said, “and someone who has less baggage in that respect can be a better candidate for appointment.”

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

12 Responses to “Santa Rosa faces test in replacing Gorin”

  1. Reece says:


    Since when does anyone leave a job because they MIGHT want to get another job, for which they MIGHT be hired? That would be RIDICULOUS. And she’s not a shellfish.

    “The council should follow this principal: No one with a background as a social organizer, union organizer, social activist, environmental activist, need apply. They should all be rule outs (sic).”

    How many levels of freedom and rights does this stance trample on? And yet I’ll bet you’re an Agenda 21 type. Typical.

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  2. Grapevines says:

    As far as replacing Gorin, I suggest the next stray dog the Humane Society picks up. Sure can’t be any worse.

    Now how can we replace her on the BOS also??

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  3. Steveguy says:

    James is right, the Plan is for a regional government, with willing local government entities having to ‘toe the line’ for useless bells and whistles for the ‘feel good’ concept of saving the planet. In the meantime, they squeeze freedoms and have a heavy regulatory hand.

    The shift of governance has been going to UNELECTED Boards, Agencies, and Commissions. They are receiving more and more ‘funding’ annually that results in a power shift from local to the large cities. ( and Sacramento )

    The Progressives are relinquishing control over local case by case decisions to some ‘Board’ that meets in Oakland or SF. THEY will decide, not us. They get rewarded by being appointed to positions that perpetuate the Plan at unsustainable levels. The only fiscal sense that seem to have is their own and their cronies.

    There are big bucks in fleecing the public trough. Big bucks. Like the recent $40 million Public Utilities building, SMART scam, proposed new Courthouse for $160 million, a bike bridge for 20 million ( while the SMART Train Jennings bike/ped overcrossing was said to cost ‘just’ $2 million- and you know that is an inflated price.

    Nice to be back

    Steve Mosher

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  4. Liz says:

    First off my biggest problem here is Susan Gorin, she should have never continued to hold her seat on city council if she wanted to run for supervisor. It should not have been allowed! It is not fair to the people of Santa Rosa and I believe quite shellfish of her to hold her seat incase she lost the supervisor race.

    Because she left us in this position I believe the best choice for the city is to award the seat to the next highest vote-getter from November.

    Awarding the seat to the next highest vote-getter from November is the best choice for all. First off it is the person the residents of Santa Rosa voted for. For the city to appoint someone of their own choosing is not fair to the people of Santa Rosa. And to hold a special election is not something the city can afford or should spend money on.

    I truly hope our council members do what is fair and right for the citizens of Santa Rosa.

    It’s time our elected officials start working for the people who elect them and not for special interests or for themselves.

    I truly hope residents of Santa Rosa show up to council meetings to speak out on this issue.

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  5. Ken says:

    The replacement process for Gorin might be politically “delicate” to a nominal degree, but no one, no one at all, is indispensable. Newcomers can and might even do a better job. The less time entrenched public servants are in office seems to be the best of all options for those of us who watch them. In this case the “drinker” (pol) at the public trough is simply changing troughs. Santa Rosa will definitely survive.

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  6. Nora Gonzales says:

    The council should follow this principal: No one with a background as a social organizer, union organizer, social activist, environmental activist, need apply. They should all be rule outs.

    The council needs a new member with a business background and ties in the business community. But most importantly, someone willing to take on the heavy lifting of cutting the public pensions down to size and reducing the city bureaucrats who are non-essential to running basic government.

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  7. Reece says:

    I guess tin foil hats don’t do well in the rain….

    Gorin’s replacement will be Robin Swinth, who’s Bartley’s bff (or is she Ours’ bff?). They’ll try to pawn it off as non-partisan, because Gorin appointed her to the Board of Public Utilities, but don’t be fooled. It should be between Don Taylor or Caroline Bañuelos, who were neck and neck.

    At what price did Carlstrom sell her soul? Stay tuned.

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  8. Carlstrom's Choice says:

    So Carlstrom doesn’t want to say who…chances are she can’t say because she’d be admitting to a deal made prior to the election.

    She’s clearly not going to vote for Caroline Bañuelos because those two despise each other. She’s not going to vote for Gary Wysocky’s appointee to the Planning Commission, because she also despises Wysocky.

    Oh what tangled webs we weave…

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  9. James Bennett says:

    Juan: You can write; does that mean can read too?

    The Plan is called One Bay Area (in conjuntion with Plan Bay Area). Typical of plans rolling out across the Country it imposes regionalism. The plans use a miriad of funding, zoning, taxing and policy manipulations socially, civically and financially engineered to coerce all the people out of country, rural even suburban life into the UN Agenda 21/Sustainable Development model called Smart Growth.
    One Bay area would seek to forfeit our freedom of choice in terms of where and how we live, our transportation options, privacy, ability to travel and much more. It is a HUGE step toward globalism; which is what all this ICLEI / Agenda 21 talk is about.

    I predict that any public official that goes along with this unconstitutional tyranny will wish they could use a pseudonym, like you “Juan.”

    I am actually finishing my own newspaper right now called The North Bay Independent. My motivation being to inform/engage regarding the One Bay Area Plan. That our American Dream is in the balance. Since our local government and their publication is not doing so.

    You’d think that an appropriation close to $330. billion of our money, with so much profound effect would be the subject de jour. I’m sure that our representation would welcome an opportunity to interact with their constituents on this life changing subject.

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  10. Vinyl Rules says:

    Of course we have no idea where Ms. Carlstrom will go vote-wise. This coy act will only last so long for her.

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  11. Juan Lock says:

    For the last time, people, the UN doesn’t give a flying fudge about local governance, they’re much more concerned with mucking about in wars, genocides, and revolutions. They’re not coming to take away your property, so stop whining. You might try fashioning a gag from the leftover hat tin foil…

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  12. James Bennett says:

    Yeah, she’s a tough act to follow.

    Sounds like they’re shakin’ the progressive tree though.

    If this wasn’t a UN outpost that installs based on adherence to the Agenda, Don Taylor would be the natural choice.

    MTC and ABAG are comin’ to town in a few months to bribe the councils into going along with their regional/globalist Plan.
    This composit of representation and the significance of how they vote on this is issue can not be over stated. If there was ever a time to get politically engaged and bring accountability to your representation. THIS IS IT.

    There will be lots of heat over this deal City Hall, hope you remember your oath, ’cause there will be reminders.

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