WatchSonoma Watch

Chris Coursey announces candidacy for Santa Rosa City Council seat


Former Press Democrat columnist and SMART rail spokesman Chris Coursey announced Wednesday he’s running for Santa Rosa City Council.

The public relations consultant said that after years of reporting and commenting on issues affecting the city, he now wants to take a direct role in finding solutions.

“I’m reporting for civic duty,” Coursey said. “I want to be involved in my community in a way that can effect change.”

Chris Coursey.

Chris Coursey.

The election isn’t until November 2014, but Coursey said he thought it wise to get an early start to his first campaign for public office.

Coursey is the first candidate to announce a campaign for one of three seats up for grabs on the seven-member council. Incumbents Robin Swinth, Jake Ours and Scott Bartley, Santa Rosa’s mayor, have not announced whether they plan to seek re-election.

Coursey, 58, worked for The Press Democrat for 27 years, from 1980 to 2007, when he took a position as community outreach manager for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District.

He left that job in 2011 to become a freelance writer and public relations consultant, returning to Pressdemocrat.com as a blogger. He gave up that position recently in preparation for his council run, he said.

He first gave public service serious thought last year when a vacancy was created by Susan Gorin’s election to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, he said. Someone suggested he run for her seat, but he decided the time wasn’t right.

The idea came up again earlier this summer and, after speaking to politicians such as Gorin and City Councilwoman Julie Combs and campaign consultants including Terry Price and Herb Williams, he decided he was ready, he said.

His campaign consultant is Stephen Gale, the head of the Sonoma County Democratic Party and chairman of the city’s Public Utilities Commission.

Coursey said he doesn’t consider himself connected to any particular political camp, but rather as someone who can appeal to all residents.

“I think the citizens of Santa Rosa and voters have made pretty clear that they would like to see a council that focuses on solutions that work for everybody,” he said.

And yet as someone who has written about the city’s civic life for years, he has taken strong positions on a range of issues.

An avid cyclist, Coursey has advocated for greater connectivity in the city, including bicycle and pedestrian pathways. He’s also a strong proponent of the SMART train and believer in transit-oriented development. He supports the reunification of Old Courthouse Square and the annexation of Roseland, and said his campaign will focus on identifying funds for those efforts, as well as parks and street maintenance.

He also said he’s got ideas for how to grow the economy and create jobs, such as working to fill up some of the city’s vacant office space and leverage the restoration of rail freight service to boost manufacturing jobs in the area, he said.

“I think that we can grow the economy with good jobs and with environmentally sound policies,” he said.

Coursey has been married twice, losing his wife Theresa to cancer in 2010. He has four grown children: stepson Andrew Gilbert of Portland, Ore.; stepdaughter Diana Gilbert of Windsor; and Colleen and Alex Coursey, both of Santa Rosa.

He has been dating 3rd District Supervisor Shirlee Zane for about two years, he said. He described her as his “girlfriend.” The two live separately.

Interests of the county and city frequently intersect on policy issues. Zane, for example, forcefully urged the Santa Rosa City Council to join the county’s public power agency, Sonoma Clean Power.

But Coursey said Zane’s influence over him would be no greater than other residents.

“If she shares her opinions with me about issues, I’ll give her the same consideration I’d give any of my constituents,” he said.

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

11 Responses to “Chris Coursey announces candidacy for Santa Rosa City Council seat”

  1. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    The fact that he’s dating Shirley gives me pause. She has not been a friend of labor. She pretends she is and she was at the labor breakfast on Monday and gave a great rah-rah speech about the importance of union labor. She is two faced and the unions know it despite her pretence, all of them, are not happy with her but especially SEIU.

    However, he is a progressive and cares about the city of Santa Rosa so I will vote for him. Maybe he can give Shirley a clue about how bad contracting out is by replacing good county union jobs and hiring expensive county managers in their place to manage those contracts.

  2. Beef King says:

    …”His campaign consultant is Stephen Gale, the head of the Sonoma County Democratic Party and chairman of the city’s Public Utilities Commission.”

    I’m sure Mr. Gale will have no influence whatsoever on the freshman councilmans’ decision making in his new job serving the taxpaying public.

    Check Gales’ interests today, and see them play important roles tomorrow.

    Good luck to Santa Rosa.

  3. James Bennett says:

    We need patriots with a spine, the can employ some discernment.

    It shouldn’t take involve THAT much discernment, there’s lots ‘o red flags.

    The term eminent domain should be one.

    An effort to privatize energy and monpolize it with electric, even though we have a glut of natural gas.

    Taking directive from an NGO that is not part of our government.

    Rebuilding/relocating a perfectly good city hall amid fiscal shortfalls.

    Constantly working on grant money (debt) eligibility for projects out of step with constituents desires.

    Doesn’t seem that hard.

    If a candidate wasn’t ‘on the program’, it would be more than interesting to watch the hatchet job that would ensue.

    We’ve seen a couple, it was nasty.

  4. Emerson Burkett says:

    I only know Chris from his writing and have usually enjoyed his perspective. I do not live in SR, so have no horse in this race. However, reading(and agreeing) with all the previous posts leaves me to think that, Yes, more of the same on the City Council. Where are the Candidates from the Southwest area of Santa Rosa? You really need to put “District Elections” back on the voters table. The Northeast Oligarchs have ruled forever.

  5. Lets be Reasonable says:

    I’ve known Chris for a number of years, and he has always struck me as a knowledgeable and thoughtful person. I think he would be a good voice on the council. He may want the courthouse to be unified, but I would imagine he is also for improving our roads, and will take a balanced approach.

  6. Clarifying says:

    After reading this article Chris is definitely on the more liberal, progressive side.

    Cycling and dating Zane? No wonder why she is so into biking and no more grieving this past year.

  7. Elephant says:

    I met Chris Coursey once. I thought that he was a nice guy. But then…

    He leaves the PD and goes to work for DUMB. Spends time spinning their lies and hiding their ulterior motives (which don’t include any actual bike paths).

    He supports the boondoggle that is Sonoma Not-So-Clean Power.

    And now we find out that he has been dating Windsock (points whichever way the wind blows hardest) Shirley Zane and is consulting with Herb Williams.

    Sorry Mr. Coursey, but anybody not concerned about those facts isn’t paying attention. And feel free to give me a thumbs down if the truth hurts.

  8. Zaney Girlfriend says:

    To date Shirlee Zane shows such poor judgment that I will not vote for him

  9. James Bennett says:

    A SMART advocate, from the PD, avid cyclist?

    Herb Williams?

    Should be a shoe in.

    This doesn’t sound like making a change.

    This sounds like more of the same.

    Wonder what would happen if some pro free market, pro property rights fiscally responsible Constitutionalist ran?

    Not much.

  10. Grapevines says:

    Supports SMART, reunification of Courthouse Square, and is an avid cyclist. Dates Supervisor Shirlee Zane and urged the city council to join the Sonoma County Ponzi Green Power Plan.

    Throw in that he probably lives on the East side of Santa Rosa and with the nepotism that he’s already admitted to.

    Anyone see any problems developing from electing him??


  11. Carol Vellutini says:

    I wish you well in your SR city council campaign. I would vote for you in a minute. That is until I read that you are for unification of courthouse square. SR has an image problem that persists. Healdsburg has a nice square, so does Sonoma. We could not leave ours alone We have spent millions on studies, consultants, meetings, gathering public opinion, stupid expensive noisy, bumpy paving, etc. It is over. Live with it. Close off the square as needed for events. DO NOT SPEND ANOTHER DOLLAR ON COURTHOUSE SQUARE UNIFICATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!Many feel this way but are too busy to provide input.