COURSEY: Playing 'what if?' with the Santa Rosa City Council
Published: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 11:27 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 11:27 a.m.
The political dynamics of the Santa Rosa City Council won't necessarily be decided by voters in Santa Rosa today.
Voters in Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Sonoma also have a say in the outcome.
That's because the makeup of the City Council doesn't just depend on which council candidates voters elect today. It also may depend on voters' choice for a new Sonoma County supervisor.
Two sitting Santa Rosa council members, Susan Gorin and John Sawyer, are running for the 1st District seat on the Board of Supervisors. One of them will win, and at the end of the year leave his or her part-time council job for the full-time board position.
If Sawyer wins, Gorin will remain on the council. Her term doesn't expire for another two years.
But if Gorin wins, Sawyer is out of a job. His term on the council expires at the end of next month.
Unless, of course, the new City Council decides to appoint him to the vacancy that is created by Gorin's departure.
Still with me?
This game of “what if?” is being played by council watchers who wonder what this year's election will do to either upset or maintain the council majority that now is in place. Today's council election potentially could shift the majority to the environmental/neighborhood coalition that is now the minority. Or it could solidify the business/real estate majority that is already in place.
And, depending upon who wins the 1st District county race, the majority that is installed today could turn into a super-majority come January.
There are a ton of possible scenarios. Here are a couple of them to ponder:
One – The current majority holds. In this scenario, Mayor Ernesto Olivares wins re-election, along with one of the other candidates being supported by business interests – let's say either Hans Dippel or Don Taylor. They join existing council members Scott Bartley and Jake Ours to form a 4-3 majority.
If Sawyer wins the supervisor race, Gorin will go back to being part of the City Council minority. But if Gorin wins, her departure to the Board of Supervisors will create a vacancy on the council that the remaining six council members must decide how to fill. They might choose to appoint a replacement for Gorin, or they might schedule a special election.
Sawyer, who is focusing on winning a supervisor's seat, hasn't said if he would be interested in an appointment to the council. But whether it's him or someone else, the “business-friendly” majority would be in a position to turn its 4-2 advantage into a 5-2 tilt. That is, of course, if the council makes an appointment. There also will be a hue and cry for a special election, particularly from those in the minority.
Or, two – The election shifts the majority to the so-called “progressives.” In this case, Olivares is assumed to retain his seat. So does Councilman Gary Wysocky, who is joined by newcomers Julie Combs and Erin Carlstrom. Along with Susan Gorin (assuming she loses to Sawyer), those four become the new council majority.
If Gorin wins, however, this scenario results in a 3-3 situation in which a divided council must then decide how to fill the vacancy left by Gorin's departure to the Board of Supervisors.
And if that isn't confusing enough for you, consider this: Though Carlstrom has given every indication of coming from the “progressive” side of the aisle during her time in Santa Rosa, she and Olivares have endorsed each other during the campaign, and pledged to work together.
So don't bet any large amounts of money on seeing the first or second scenario unfold as described. With nine names on today's ballot, the number of alternative scenarios is mind-boggling. And let's not forget that among the possibilities is the chance that, even after all the campaigning and all the voting, the council remains essentially unchanged.
In that case, let's hope for a victory for Measure Q.
Chris Coursey's blog offers a community commentary and forum, from issues of the day to the ingredients of life in Sonoma County.
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