COURSEY: Playing 'what if?' with the Santa Rosa City Council

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.

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