Santa Rosa City Hall has shown an unfortunate propensity for missteps when it comes to downtown parking. Over the years, the litany of common complaints include overzealous enforcement, high fees and costly fines, parking meters that don’t work, dark and dingy garages and yes, inconvenient pay stations.
When it would have mattered, almost nobody complained that government wasn’t taking care of streets, roads, highways and other public investments. And so now we arrive at the intersection of declining tax revenues and old expectations about government’s promises to its citizenry.
You may have read last week that Councilman Scott Bartley chose to introduce himself as the city’s new mayor by insulting a political critic. Being Santa Rosa, the usual huffing and puffing ensued.
In this state, it turns out, we’re always happy to debate issues that matter to someone. And even if we occasionally wander into the weeds, I would argue our unconventional politics is something to be proud of. Let people in other states be afraid of new ideas.
If you want to know why political insiders fought new election reforms in California, you could ask Assemblyman Michael Allen. Or congressmen Pete Stark and Howard Berman. Under the election rules that existed before this year, all three incumbents would be gathering with friends this weekend to celebrate victories in Tuesday’s elections. Instead, Allen, the former Santa Rosan, appears to be on his way to losing his North Bay Assembly seat, and Stark and Berman have already lost their congressional seats.
Even if you don’t live in Cotati or Rohnert Park, even if you know absolutely nothing about Karyn Pulley, you may want to vote for her. Pulley is the school board member targeted last week by a pair of robo-calls from an anonymous detractor.
Did you read the story recently about the two Santa Rosa City Council candidates, Ernesto Olivares and Erin Carlstrom, who pledged to move beyond their differences and find ways to cooperate? Once upon a time, a pledge to cooperate would have seemed like endorsing motherhood, apple pie and the flag. Who could be against cooperation? But this is Santa Rosa, so the two candidates got slammed.
Looking back now, we can see that the fight over district elections was inevitable. For 20 years, Santa Rosa city officials talked about reaching out to neighborhoods beyond the upscale precincts of the northeast. But nothing changed. Whether City Hall insiders were unable or unwilling to share power, each new city government looked pretty much like the last city government. Think older, whiter and living in a handful of privileged neighborhoods. And so the debate over Measure Q begins.