The official election results are in, but who’ll be the next mayor of Santa Rosa remains anyone’s guess.
Once new City Council members Erin Carlstrom and Julie Combs are sworn in Tuesday, the new council’s first order of business will be to select a mayor from their ranks.
It’s usually a predictable decision, with the gavel (and an extra $400 per month) passing to the most experienced member in the majority who has not yet held the post.
But this year all bets are off.
The election of attorney Erin Carlstrom has upended the city’s political apple cart, making the 29-year-old political newcomer the swing vote on the issue and leading to intense speculation about whom she’ll support.
Carlstrom says she’s taking the decision seriously and has been listening closely to a variety of viewpoints.
Having already spent nearly a quarter million dollars between them, the candidates for the 1st District county supervisorial seat headed into the fall election with diminished bank accounts. Predictions — and election history — suggest a long, costly contest encompassing east Santa Rosa and the Sonoma Valley. And indications are that what has so far been a hard-fought race will again veer into hostile tactics.
Once every decade, Santa Rosans focus on the people and neighborhoods who are under-represented in city government. One side endorses district elections as the only way to bring political equality to the city. The other side says everything is OK and district elections wouldn’t work anyway.
Voters shouldn’t be given the chance to decide whether members of the City Council should be elected from districts instead of the city as a whole. That is the preliminary conclusion of the city’s Charter Review Committee, which took its first straw poll Thursday on the most controversial issue before it: district elections.
If voters don’t keep their eyes out for the campaign to pass a sales tax hike in Santa Rosa this fall, they just might miss it. Unlike previous sales tax drives, supporters of the latest quarter-cent sales tax increase say voters should expect a far more low-key campaign this time around.
Conventional political wisdom holds that voters will not pass a local ballot measure to raise taxes unless their political leaders all agree that it’s absolutely necessary. But in Santa Rosa, where parks are turning brown, street lights are dark, and a $3.8 million budget gap widens every day, consensus about whether to place a quarter-cent sales tax on the November ballot remains elusive.