|Three incumbents file papers for reelection in Rohnert Park
It didn’t take long for three members of Rohnert Park’s City Council to decide they wanted another four years on the five-member panel. In only what seemed like minutes after the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters office opened the gates for council nominees to take out nomination papers, Mayor Jake Mackenzie and council members Gina Belforte and Joe Callinan had them in hand, purse or briefcase.
All three cited unfinished business they started and wanted to make sure the legislation they approved is on a correct line to completion. No one can rightfully say they do not deserve credit for the city’s fiscal recovery.
Elected in 2008, they found the city nearly $9 million in debt with murmurs about teetering on the edge of bankruptcy floating about. It took drastic measures by the council and notably by city employees and their unions, who saw more than 90 co-workers laid off, or taking advantage of early retirement plans. They also hired a new city manager, Gabriel Gonzalez, to replace Steve Donley, who returned to full duty as a lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard.
They had to get better acquainted with a new city hall on Avram Ave., with its award-winning Green Building construction.
In recent weeks, they were hit by a big loss of nearly $5 million when Governor Jerry Brown and his legislative allies tore down all city Redevelopment Agencies and used the money to help ease the state’s crushing $8 billion-plus deficit. A new bureaucracy was named by the council to handle the residue. A major debt still hanging over the city is a lack funds to cover retiring employees’ benefits and health plans.
The council trio running for reelection had specific plans, either approved (University District), or Northeast, Southeast, Northwest and Wilfred Dowdell awaiting further plans or eventual annexations. The University District Specific Plan has already been annexed to the city, but construction hasn’t started as yet. It’s located on RP Expressway West, opposite SSU’s Green Music Center.
None of the incumbents mentioned the casino just to the west of city limits. Under the terms of the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (FIGR), drafted and signed in October 2003, RP will receive funds from the Graton tribe as per terms of the MOU. Groundwork for the casino is already underway.
Mackenzie was on the city council when the casino was approved, 4-1, but he was the only council member to vote against it.
Mackenzie rode to city council candidate status as a member of the Bicycle Advisory Committee. His first winning election was in 1996, and he served as mayor in 2001, 2005 and 2008, and now in 2012.
Both Belforte and Callinan have four years of council experience and are seeking another four years to “take care of unfinished business,” and they all had a major role in pulling the city out of its fiscal doldrums the last four years.
In a later conversation Mackenzie said, “Rohnert Park’s economy is a lot better than it was four years ago, but the developers aren’t building on our specific plans because the market does not exist.
“It’s thriving down in Silicon Valley, but we haven’t felt any ‘ripple effect’ up here in the North Bay.”
He also cited some potentials that’ll affect the city: “With Green Music Center at one end of the expressway and the casino at the other end, we’ll feel the impact. Now, if State Farm will only decide what to do with their 33 acres in the middle of town, it’ll help.
“But that’s OK. I tend to deal with the present reality.”
As of The Community Voice’s deadline Tuesday afternoon, no other candidate has challenged the incumbents. The deadline for taking out nomination papers is Aug. 15.