Dramatic changes likely at Santa Rosa city hall

Santa Rosa voters sent a mixed message in Tuesday's city council election, backing a mayor who advocates for environmental causes but effectively stripping her of significant power by also electing two candidates who are supported by the city's business interests.

The new councilmembers — Scott Bartley and Jake Ours — help form a new majority on the council, one that is likely to bring a dramatically different focus at City Hall and approach to efforts aimed at shoring up the city's shaky economy.

It also means that Susan Gorin's days as the city's mayor are probably numbered, as the new majority is likely to name one of its own to the top post at a Dec. 7 ceremony.

Gorin was the top vote-getter Tuesday among the field of seven candidates seeking three council seats. That was a bright spot in what otherwise was a dispiriting outcome for advocates of keeping the current council majority intact.

The majority, which came to power in 2008, reversed decades of Santa Rosa councils that were dominated by pro-development majorities.

But the continuing economic malaise, anti-incumbent fever, controversial council decisions and a concerted attack by the city's business interests seem to have, by varying degrees, succeeded in reversing the short-lived take-over.

"I had hoped that the progressive majority would continue," said Veronica Jacobi, who was part of that majority but lost her bid for re-election, finishing fourth.

"Money talks," said Councilmember Gary Wysocky when asked Wednesday for his opinion on why the coalition that he was a part of broke apart in the election.

He said the current council majority was unfairly labeled during the race as anti-business, when he said the reality is more complex.

"This council actually added to the reserve balance in economic hard times," he said. "This council inherited numerous labor contracts. This council inherited economic hard times nationally, when the credit markets froze."

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