Short honeymoon for new Santa Rosa mayor

Santa Rosa's new mayor is refusing to apologize for calling a neighborhood activist "clueless," but his critics say he's the one who needs to get a clue about being the leader of the North Coast's largest city.

During his first full meeting in the mayor's chair, Scott Bartley said he wouldn't apologize for his published comments about Jack Swearengen, the president of the Friends of SMART and the former head of the Northwest Santa Rosa Neighborhood Association.

"I have nothing to apologize for," Bartley said Tuesday.

But Jenny Bard, past president of the Santa Rosa Junior College Neighborhood Association, said she was shocked and disappointed to see Bartley publicly demean a neighborhood activist whom she described as thoughtful, and then refuse to apologize for it.

"He is now the mayor of our city and there's a huge responsibility to treat people with respect, particularly people with whom he disagrees," Bard said.

The flap began in response to a Tuesday article in The Press Democrat in which Bartley called Swearengen "clueless" for characterizing Bartley as someone who favors "auto-dependent development" over "pedestrian- and user-friendly development."

Bard sent an email to the City Council defending Swearengen, a retired engineering professor, asking Bartley to publicly apologize, and blasting him for his "continued condescending attitude and arrogance" toward those with whom he disagrees.

"How do you expect to build trust, or for the public to want to become engaged with the city, when you treat people with disdain?" Bard wrote.

New Councilwoman Julie Combs, who campaigned on a promise to listen to the views of neighborhoods, rose to Swearengen's defense at the council meeting Tuesday, calling him a friend.

"I have found him to be a kind and gentle man who volunteers his time tirelessly for the betterment of Santa Rosa," Combs said.

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