Rohnert Park councilmembers Tuesday unanimously approved a $22 million budget. The 2012-2013 budget projects a $2.5 million deficit but City Manager Gabe Gonzalez said the city has the cash to cover the shortage.
Wal-Mart may revive a controversial plan to expand its Rohnert Park store with a 32,000-square-foot grocery — a proposal approved by the city two years ago but then stopped in court. ‘We’re evaluating the next steps and working with the city on the requirements established by the judge’s ruling,’ said Wal-Mart West media director Delia Garcia. She was referring to a 2011 decision in which Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau said parts of the environmental report for the project were inadequate.
Rohnert Park officials are gingerly exploring the idea of asking voters to extend a temporary sales tax that has been critical to restoring the city’s finances. Rohnert Park residents approved Measure E — a five-year, half-cent tax — in 2010. It took full effect this year and is projected to bring in $2.4 million. It has helped draw down the city’s deficit to $330,000 from $2 million last year.
An independent political committee funded by Codding Enterprises, one of Sonoma County’s most prominent developers, played a dominant role in Rohnert Park’s City Council election last year, campaign finance reports show. The Protect Rohnert Park committee spent $62,309, nearly as much as the $70,567 spent by all six candidates together.
Lessons learned during his youth in war-torn Nigeria helped shape Rohnert Park City Councilman Amy Ahanotu’s mission of fostering political agreement. “We can have disagreements, but as long as we solve the problem, that’s what counts,” he said. It was an unremarkable statement for a candidate trying to win votes in a city with a history of sharp council divisions and fierce political battles. But his was, in many ways, a remarkable candidacy.
Two-term councilwoman Gina Belforte was named mayor of Rohnert Park on Tuesday. She takes the helm as the city faces a $2.4 million deficit and is looking to raise sewer rates that voters rolled back in 2008. Meanwhile, residents turned in petitions with more than 2,000 signatures urging the city to make safety improvements to a Snyder Lane crosswalk where a 2-year-old was hit by a car and killed this month.
UPDATE 9:45 AM: Sonoma County election workers still need to count tens of thousands of mail-in ballots turned in Tuesday, potentially putting several tight contests in question, including a handful of school board races in communities around Sonoma County. It could be Thanksgiving before the tally becomes official.
They have ended up on opposite sides of the campaign. But viewed through their major votes on the city’s planning commission, the differences between Rohnert Park City Council candidates John Borba and Amy Ahanotu are relatively slight. The fifth candidate in the race, Roger Schwanke, has run a low-key campaign. Part 3 of our series looking at the Rohnert Park council race.
There has been no shortage of drama in the Rohnert Park City Council race. A blizzard of attack fliers. The re-emergence of a controversial former city manager. The disappearance of one candidate from the campaign trail amid personal troubles. And there’s still three weeks ’til Election Day. Today, we turn the WSC spotlight on the campaign in Rohnert Park.