WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa seeks applicants for council vacancy


The six current members of the Santa Rosa City Council aren’t wasting any time working to appoint someone to fill the remaining two years of Susan Gorin’s term.

The council on Tuesday declined to hold a costly special election in June or November or to fill the vacancy by appointing the next highest vote getter from the past election.

Instead, they opted to begin immediately soliciting applications from members of the public interested in the post, fast-tracking the process to get the seat filled as quickly as possible.

Susan Gorin (PD FILE, 2012)

“We’re flying with maybe half a wing here,” said Councilman Jake Ours. “We need to make sure the council is all seven members. I want to get it done as soon as possible.”

The application period opens Thursday and closes 12 days later, Jan. 22, at 5:30 p.m. Public interviews are scheduled for Jan. 28 and 29, with the council hoping to appoint someone at its Feb. 5 meeting.

The council is scheduled to have its biennial goal-setting session on Feb. 14 and 15, where the council’s priorities are outlined. Some council members stressed a desire to have the new council member seated by then.

The council unanimously agreed that the cost and delay involved in a special election made it an unwise choice. Estimates are that an election would cost taxpayers between $167,000 and $292,000, and that it couldn’t happen before June or November.

That left the question of whether the seat should just go to the next highest vote getter from the previous election.

Resident Elizabeth Gatley said that would be the “most cost-effective and fair thing” for the council to do. In addition to saving time and money, it would honor the will of the voters, and “save us from the unfair thing of letting the council just appoint someone,” she said.

“It’s a publicly elected seat and residents of Santa Rosa should have a say in who gets to have that seat,” Gatley said.

But there was little support on the council for that approach, either.

The top four vote getters in November were elected to four-year terms on the council. They were Ernesto Olivares, Julie Combs, Erin Carlstrom and Gary Wysocky, in that order.

Mayor Scott Bartley said the fifth place finisher wasn’t clearly favored by voters over the next candidate. Restaurateur Don Taylor, who has run unsuccessfully for council four times, received only 17 more votes than sixth-place finisher Caroline Bañuelos.

“I don’t feel the voters gave me a clear mandate that there is another person who is right there that they would have voted for,” Bartley said.

That left the council with little else to do but follow the appointment process used when three-term councilman Mike Martini resigned in 2007 to focus on his Sebastopol wine business.

There will be one key difference, however. In 2007, some council members were so concerned that the person the appointed would later enjoy the advantage of incumbency that they required applicants to promise not to run in 2008.

Board of Public Utilities member Carol Dean made that pledge, was appointed, broke the pledge 10 months later, and voters ousted her in 2008. Given that history, Bartley said it made no sense to try to require such a pledge this time around.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” he said of the idea.

He noted that he and Ours will be the only current council members potentially running in 2014 along with the new appointee.

Notices of the application process will be published not only in The Press Democrat but other media as well, including the city’s website.

Appointees will have to fill out a nine-part questionnaire, with broad questions such as why they want the job, what they think the two most pressing issues facing the city are, and whether they have any business relationships that might create conflicts of interest.

Residents will be able to submit their own questions to City Clerk Terri Griffin, who will pass them along to the City Council members for consideration during the interview process. Those will be due Jan. 22, as well.

Applicants will also have to file a nomination form with the signatures of 20 registered voters, something all council candidates had to do to qualify for the ballot.

Ours said he supported requiring the signatures because “the person that wants this job should put some effort into it.”

Application packets will be available from the city clerk’s office in City Hall beginning Thursday. The interview process later in the month will also be fully public and televised.

One former council candidate, Mike Cook, attended the Tuesday council meeting. The landscape architect and father of two young daughters dropped out of the race in September when it was clear he wasn’t getting the financial backing or endorsements he sought from the business community. Cook said he would be applying for the seat.

Taylor, who also attended the meeting, said he wasn’t sure whether he would apply given the council’s decision not to appoint him as the next highest vote getter.

He noted he has a “stellar resume” of business success and community involvement, but said it’s possible the council is looking “to get someone fresh and new.”

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

12 Responses to “Santa Rosa seeks applicants for council vacancy”

  1. indievoter says:

    Go get ‘em Jim! Not only are you very politically active and engaged in the community, but you are a small businessman with two successful businesses. That puts you ahead of the pack already. The problem in Santa Rosa is we have a city council made up of followers and no leaders. You are the right person at the right time to step up and fill the vacancy on the Santa Rosa City Council.

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  2. R.B. Fish says:

    @ Mr. Bennett… for Godsakes don’t lower yourself to be part of sludge of corrupt politics. Unfortunately, most of us are out of comfort zones and it will become more comfortable in the near future. Many of us are looking for leadership.

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  3. Phaedra Glidden says:

    James Bennett, I was just reading your post and I think it would be a great idea for you to apply for the position! It would be wonderful to have a fresh, new face in our City Council. I know that you are more than qualified for the position. You are engaged in local politics and are well-aware of the challenges facing our city. In addition, you are a successful businessman who understands that fiscal responsibility is essential for the good health of our city. You also have close ties to the community through running your own community center, which I have had the opportunity to visit a time or two. If you need me to be one of the nomination signatures required, just let me know, as I would happy to sign it for you. In fact, if there is anything I can do to help you in this endeavor, please don’t hesitate to ask. I think you would make wonderful addition to this polarized city council.

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  4. James Bennett says:

    I will be picking up my application packet Mon. (today was a furlough Fri.).

    Even though I’m pretty sure they’d rather have a skin disorder than Jim Bennett (publishing an alternative newspaper) on Council.

    Even though doing so is outside my comfort zone. I’m doing lots of things outside my comfort zone lately.

    Watching us being incrementally reduced to serfs. Watching us adhere to an ideology literally foreign to our Constitution and Republic is too. Watching (and paying for) our freedoms, our civil liberties and abundance being chocked to death is very much outside my comfort zone as well.

    I’m sure the PD will frame me as being a used car dealer (I own a community center as well). It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. Being of service is sacred, doesn’t matter what it is.
    I never feel any shame when I see one of my “constituents” at the market.

    It’s time for many of us to engage, even become people we never thought we’d be.
    Or we will end up with a life we never thought we’d have VERY soon.

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  5. Logical Thinker says:

    Mayor Scott Bartley said the fifth place finisher wasn’t clearly favored by voters over the next candidate. Restaurateur Don Taylor, who has run unsuccessfully for council four times, received only 17 more votes than sixth-place finisher Caroline Bañuelos.

    “I don’t feel the voters gave me a clear mandate that there is another person who is right there that they would have voted for,” Bartley said.

    Mayor Bartley, if the 4th place finisher, and now duly elected council member, had beaten Don Taylor by 17 votes would you be making that same statement? Of course not, you would have said the voters have spoken. If there was only a single vote deciding the last council seat it still would have resulted in the way it is now, and the voters would have clearly spoken, by definition casting more votes for that last council seat, and that would be that. It is patently absurd that YOU are now making a decision based on the preferences of the voters, as if you have a mental bond that magically lets you link to them, and speak for them. It’s clear that politics here has not changed, and when you spin, you win. Since you have decided not to let the voters make a choice, turn on the record player and let’s all watch the political cake walk. May I suggest Henry Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk” as the appropriate song?

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  6. Laura says:

    Let’s see if this passes the censors….


    It’s not the two (count ‘em 2!) progressives who have shot down Don Taylor, it’s the right wing prop-business people. Bartley, Olivares and Ours are the ones putting up an ‘end run’ around a legitimate election process…” But nice try.

    Obviously the majority does not think they can get along with Don, probably because he’s more of a “maverick,” and not part of the Herb Williams stable.

    Please lay the blame where it should be laid: with the “beloved” pro-business “moderates.”

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  7. Liz says:

    An election is an election period. If you win by 1,000 votes or 3 voted it still counts.
    Now yes it was an election only for 4 not 5 but we knew Gorin may leave us with a vacancy and there is no reason this should not have been planned for before now.
    For the council to pick someone says they think they are better than the rest of us citizens of Santa Rosa.

    The peoples voice is lost and means nothing now.
    Politics as usual!

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  8. Caller says:

    Uhh… @Kay Tokerud, even the candidates you support didn’t want to choose the next highest vote-getter. The election called for voters to select four candidates. Everyone else was not selected. Don Taylor was just as much elected to council as Levi Leipheimer. It’s possible that, with the top four candidates out of the running, that people would vote for Banuelos over Taylor. You don’t know. Nobody does.

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  9. Kay Tokerud says:

    Excuse me, but didn’t we just have an election and didn’t we end up with five available seats? Did voters not choose five people to serve on council? Just because Susan Gorin hung around for a couple more weeks is no reason to treat this as filling the “remainder of her term”.

    It was known that there would be four or five available seats depending on if Gorin won the supervisor’s election. She won and her seat is vacant. This is a gross manipulation of the election process and should be strenuously denounced as this council’s first bad action. Clearly, the progressives want to install someone of their ilk instead of the winner Don Taylor who can be described as a moderate. He would be an excellent 7th member of this divided council.

    The three more moderate council members should refuse to play this game and choose Taylor and another moderate (non-progressive) for their first and second choices making it impossible for the other 3 to install a fourth progressive. If this doesn’t happen then we can expect another two years of tyranny like we had when the progressives ruled with Wysocky, Gorin, Vas Dupre and Jacobi. Remember the failed “Wysocky Bullyvard” on Humboldt Street, the ridiculous “Bike Spike” on Santa Rosa avenue, the 20 million bike bridge, endless lobbying for Smart, Smartgrowth, redevelopment and many other wasteful pet projects of this crowd. Putting a fourth progressive will be the kiss of death for Santa Rosa’s economy and a recipe for the dangerous advancement of UN Agenda 21 Sustainable Development. Bartley, Oliveras, and Ours need to get tough and stand up against an obvious “end run” around a legitimate election process that elected Don Taylor fair and square.

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  10. Dan Drummond Sr says:

    Donna Zapata is a good person. You must have been out of line, Betty. One thing for sure, she would keep Efren out of bar fights!
    I’m thinking about applying, but my resume may raise eyebrows when they see my current occupation is a volunteer political humorist pundit on the Press Democrat political website.

    Donna Zapata – thumbs up
    Dan Drummond – thumbs down

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  11. Betty R says:

    Donna Zapata would not be good for the city of SR, yes she puts on a good face but don’t cross her as she will make your life a living HELL. She is way to close to Olivares

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  12. Laura Gonzalez says:

    If Mr. Taylor “wasn’t clearly favored by voters over the next candidate,” Caroline Bañuelos, then those TWO should battle it out. Why open it up? Oh, let me guess, to get a crony of Bartley, Ours, Olivares and Carlstrom on there. Hmmmm, who might that be? My guess is Donna Zapata or Bartley’s (or is it Ours’?) bff Robin Swinth. Mark my word….

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