Saturday, June 25, 2011

My Yahoo group, The Real Santa Rosa

Here's a brief update to Two Santa Rosas:

I haven't posted anything new here for several years, but viewers may still find the older posts interesting; and will also find some earlier posts at my previous blog, The Other Santa Rosa:

My Yahoo group The Real Santa Rosa replaced both blogs, and is increasingly active here:

TRSR is a "private" Yahoo group--to avoid spammers, flamers, and trolls--so you must apply for membership at the site.  Membership is open to anyone who doesn't like the way the current economic, political, and social establishment runs Santa Rosa and Sonoma County.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Reelect ‘HotFix’ Blanchard

Mexican gang kids are shooting other kids on the street, so the Mayor and Vice Mayor called a meeting. The Press Democrat reported Sunday,

Mayor Jane Bender and Vice Mayor Bob Blanchard plan to meet with Police Chief Ed Flint and City Manager Jeff Kolin to determine what immediate actions should be taken and to discuss existing gang prevention programs, Blanchard said Saturday.”

Martin Espinoza’s story quoted Blanchard:

‘If kids aren't safe at a school bus stop, where are you safe?’ Blanchard said. ‘We're just getting hit by a whole series of these things.’”

“What happened ‘is totally unacceptable,’ he said. ‘There could be retaliation. Right now we need a hot fix of enforcement in this area.’

(PD, 3/19/06, “SR official urges ‘hot fix’ after shooting/gang attack spurs city leaders to meet, tighter security at school”

What’s a “hot fix”? “A hotfix is code (sometimes called a patch) that fixes a bug in a product.” (

Blanchard is a dour middle-aged man, with the sober demeanor of an undertaker. His background is military/police and teaching, but he apparently fancies himself a trendy, systems kind of guy.

Last Saturday, he seemed to think he and Bender could handle Santa Rosa’s violent street gangs the way Microsoft fixes Windows software bugs. They meet with CM Kolin and Chief Flint, and email the community a patch.

Blanchard is the only Council incumbent who wants to be reelected in November. Three seats are up for grabs, and Janet Condron and Steve Rabinowitsh are retiring.

I can see the fall campaign signs now: “Put a patch on crime! Reelect Bob ‘HotFix’ Blanchard.”

Just three days later, a follow-up story in today's PD reported,

"City leaders also met Monday about gang issues and struck several different notes.

They said the violence concerns them but does not signal a new explosion of gang crime. They also said only a community-wide response can effectively address both the gang violence and the reasons young people join gangs, and they urged residents to take advantage of gang intervention, counseling and education resources."
(PD, 3/21/06, "SR police suspect 2 gang shootings related/school tightens security after attack at bus stop; city officials say violence not a new explosion of gang crime")

And a neighbor of the site of the most recent shooting had a letter in today's PD. She wrote,

"Who has to die before the city of Santa Rosa takes action to resolve what is clearly an out-of-control situation? In fact, Airway Community School is not a school but a juvenile detention center without security...

The failure of the City Council to take immediate action to rectify this explosive situation immediately can only be described as negligent behavior. Any further injuries or deaths will be blood on the City Council's hands.
" (PD, 3/21/06, "Out of control")

In the meantime, Blanchard backed off. Mike McCoy's story today said,

"City Councilman Bob Blanchard, who Saturday called the violence 'unacceptable' and sought a 'hot fix of enforcement in this area,' said he was speaking specifically about the police response.

On Monday, he said that with more information available, he was satisfied the police response had been on target and he was reassured 'we are doing everything we can to address this on every front.' "

Thursday, March 16, 2006

PD spins accident story to push for trains and planes

Yesterday’s front page picture story headline was, “101 shut again: 12-car pileup near Cloverdale points up vulnerability of area’s main road”. (Press Democrat, 3/15/06) A northbound driver lost control of his SUV in heavy hail and rain, crossed the divider, and hit a southbound van, resulting in minor injuries to the other driver.

The second half of the story was about the traffic accident. The first half was mostly propaganda.

Randi Rossman’s story began, “Highway 101's brittle status as regional lifeline took another blow Tuesday when a 12-car accident south of Cloverdale closed southbound lanes.

It was the third time in six days that the North Bay's main artery has been crippled and was further evidence to some of the vulnerability of a transportation system built on a single main option. There is no train or scheduled airline service.

Cloverdale Mayor Bob Jehn, and Sonoma County Supervisor Paul Kelley, delivered the message:

Bob Jehn, chairman of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and Cloverdale's mayor, said the week's tragedies and mishaps point again to the need for rail service.

’It's the main corridor and for some people the only road that they take to get anywhere,’ Jehn said. ‘To have an alternative such as rail that parallels the corridor, it's just all that more important to have that alternative and have it now.’

County Supervisor Paul Kelley, a member of the Transit Authority, said Tuesday's incident ‘shows again why we need to widen the highway and bring the highway into the 21st century.’”

Insurance man/politician Bob Jehn chairs the County’s Transportation Authority this year. Last year he chaired the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) board of directors.

Scheduled airline service wouldn’t have much effect on people who drive too fast in bad weather; and it’s hard to say whether building the SMART railway, and widening Highway 101 all the way to Cloverdale, would make the freeway safer.

But the story was about growth, not traffic safety. The proposed SMART railway would carry commuters between Larkspur in Marin, and Mayor Jehn’s fast-growing Cloverdale. A commute train and a wider freeway would certainly encourage and support much more urban growth in north Sonoma County.

The PD story had one pertinent quote about that: “Caltrans spokesman Jeff Weiss said the highway has served its purpose well for many years but just can't keep up with the area's growth.”

The obvious solution is less growth.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Council's "Gateways" redevelopment project

A reader commented this morning,

"Geoff, what do you think about the Gateways Redevelopment Project that includes 1,400 acres going through the center of Santa Rosa?"

Here's a quick answer:

One way developer/business interests use local government to make money, is to have their friends at City Hall create a redevelopment area for their private benefit.

The SR City Council works primarily for local developers, and the leaders of the Downtown/Railroad Square business community.

The current Housing Authority/Redevelopment Agency amounts to a second city government for those special interests. The Council recently renamed it the Department of Economic Development and Housing, to emphasize that it's about making money.

The Council created a Downtown Partnership Committee in 1996, which resulted in the 1998 R/UDAT visit. Since the late '90s, the Council has funded two private lobbies (CityVision/Santa Rosa Main Street) to lobby them to improve Downtown/Railroad Square. The Council has obliged by spending millions of federal/state/local dollars, on projects including the Vineyard Creek Hotel, Spa and Conference Center; the Prince Memorial Greenway, and the proposed White House garage/condo complex.

Looks like the Council intends the proposed Gateways project to create major north/south entrances to a "revitalized" downtown; and to make money for their developer/business friends, by overbuilding the Highway 101 corridor.

To learn more about the Council's Gateways Redevelopment Project, go here:

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

County courts seek toothless watchdogs

Got a complaint about local government? Want to do something about it?

No problem. Just apply to be a member of the 2006-07 Sonoma County Grand Jury.

The Press Democrat reported, “For anyone who complains about local government, here's an opportunity to do something about it. The Sonoma County courts are seeking applications for the 2006-07 civil grand jury.”

The civil grand jury, unlike criminal juries, acts on complaints from citizens or initiates its own investigations of how local government agencies are performing. Each June, it issues a final report, which raises issues and demands responses from target agencies.” --(PD, 2/14/06, “Sonoma County seeking grand jury applicants”)

Sounds good, doesn’t it. Local citizens can use the powers of the Sonoma County court system to investigate local government agencies.

Jury forewoman Melinda Cabral said, “It's about public scrutiny. We have the ability to find out things that no one else can find out about. So the public can learn about what's going on in their government.”

And Cabral knows something about local agencies:

Cabral, who was selected to serve last year and stayed on for another year to help with continuity and training, said she has learned a great deal from the volunteer position. That's saying a lot for someone who worked in government for 30 years, including 18 with the Santa Rosa Police Department's records division.

But potential grand jurors shouldn’t plan on shaking up the status quo. The judge in charge himself told the PD the jury is toothless:

’I would hope the agency being investigated takes the comments seriously,’ said Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert Boyd, who oversees the grand jury. ‘While there is no force of law behind the report, it can be helpful. We hope they trigger a lot of discussion and interest.’

So potential grand jurors should forget about bringing the Superior Court's authority to bear on the local establishment.

But if you want to try to trigger some discussion, “Applications can be obtained at or by sending a self-addressed envelope to: Sonoma County Superior Court, Attn: Court Administration, 600 Administration Drive, Santa Rosa 95403. Applications are due by April 7.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Bender says Downtown bike race benefits SR--Council to spend $60,000

Forget the City Council’s commitment to reunification of Old Courthouse Square. Forget Councilman Bob Blanchard’s and real estate man Ross Liscum’s plan for a Sonoma County War Memorial statue.

City Hall’s latest Courthouse Square and Downtown business promotion is a February 20 bicycle race: the very first Amgen/AEG Tour of California.

The Press Democrat reported today,

Sports conglomerate AEG has made a five-year, $35 million commitment to the race and envisions 1 million spectators along the race course, which will be televised nationally on ESPN2, a sports cable network.

Amgen, a biotech firm, is the primary commercial sponsor of the race, but AEG, a conglomerate with sports holdings that include the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League, owns the event.” (PD, 1/15/06, “SR to draw thousands for cycling race/State's 600-mile tour down coast to attract as many as 30,000 spectators in key downtown stop”)

The Council has committed the taxpayers to pay for the promotion, but Mayor Jane Bender expects local business to make money:

Santa Rosa will seal off much of downtown and provide $60,000 in services for what is being billed as the biggest cycling race in the country.”

Backers and organizers said 30,000 or more spectators could flock downtown, making it a bigger event than Santa Rosa's Rose Parade and Festival held in May. Organizers acknowledge that predictions for spectator turnout and local interest are mere guesses for an event the likes of which the city and California has never seen.

The core of downtown will be closed to traffic for at least two hours and other streets will be limited to one-way traffic. A free festival in Courthouse Square on race day will feature bike safety demonstrations, a fitness expo, kids' zone, cycling products and entertainment.

The $60,000 in public services includes public safety measures, road closures and extra staff. City Hall has committed $25,000 and is seeking donations and sponsors for the remainder.

’The benefit to the city in terms of hotel rooms and restaurants and the vitality is much more than that,’ said Mayor Jane Bender. Potential dividends from TV coverage and tourism have attracted participation from businesses and the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau. [In fact, the City doesn't have a Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Council supports the Chamber's C&VB, with the taxpayers' money.]

A 30-second commercial featuring the city will air on ESPN2, which is providing daily coverage of the race.”

’It's a far larger production than most people realize,’ said Bill Carson, general manager of the Fountaingrove Inn in Santa Rosa. His hotel already is sold out on race day.”

Carson, the hotelier who serves on the boards of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce and the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau, said all of his 124 rooms have been reserved for race day. The hotel averages a 50 percent occupancy rate in February, so the race has been a boost already, he said.

The real seven-day, 600-mile race will go south from San Jose to Redondo Beach. We can only imagine why the "backers and organizers" decided to start the race by peddling north:

The first full stage of the eight-day, European-style road race will begin in Sausalito and end in Santa Rosa with a biking and health festival. The race picks up the next day in San Jose and heads south, concluding Feb. 26 in Redondo Beach.”

The Feb. 20 stage will bring riders north on Highway 1, through west Sonoma County and into downtown Santa Rosa at about 2 p.m. The details of the rural part of the route have not been settled because of recent storm damage to many roads.

After three laps around a 3-mile downtown circuit, racers will sprint to the finish line on Third Street, just east of Santa Rosa Avenue.

Looks like the local hotels and restaurants may make some money—probably from the promoters and participants in the event--and the taxpayers will pay the bill. SR taxpayers also pay to support the Chamber's Santa Rosa Convention and Visitors Bureau, which benefits businessmen like Chamber director Carson.

We can only imagine where those 30,000 spectators are going to find a parking place in Downtown Santa Rosa—and whether those who do will actually spend any money in Downtown/Railroad Square.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Woolsey and Nation: integrity is the difference

I recently wrote about how the Press Democrat uses news stories, editorials, and columnists to influence public opinion. Chris Coursey’s column today may be another example. (12/19/05, “Iraq provides dividing line in 6th District”)

Coursey wrote,

Conventional wisdom says that voters don't decide whom to send to Congress based on foreign policy. But in this election, with Iraq dominating the national debate and the war providing a clear difference between two Democratic candidates in a safely Democratic district, this issue will stand out in the campaign.

The clearest difference between Rep. Lynn Woolsey and the man who wants to replace her, Assemblyman Joe Nation, is their view of Iraq.”

The “clear difference” Coursey identified is that Woolsey has argued for months that we should get out of Iraq now. By contrast, Nation says we should get out in a year, or maybe two.

Coursey wrote,

The Democrat from San Rafael walks a fine line on the issue. He says he has felt ‘from Day 1’ that the invasion of Iraq was wrong; in fact he calls it ‘the biggest foreign policy blunder in my lifetime.’

In fact, the clearest difference between Woolsey and Nation is she’s the Sixth District Representative, and he isn’t. Nation’s Iraq policy is about the March 2006 primary election, not the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

He says he opposed the war, like Woolsey. And like President Bush, he says we can’t leave until we win:

’If we don't succeed in Iraq, this country's credibility will be shot,’ Nation says.

He defines ‘success’ as a self-governed Iraq in which all factions are represented in government, with a reduction of the now-daily violence and ‘respect for the rule of law.’

If Nation has any real support at all, it’s probably pretty much the same interests who backed SR Mayor Mike Martini’s quixotic race against Woolsey in 2002. A few months later he became Executive Director of the Sonoma County Alliance, the regional developer/business lobby.

Martini was the antithesis of all that Woolsey stands for to local voters.

So Nation is running as a guy who’s just like Woolsey—except that he disagrees with her on today’s most divisive issue: the war in Iraq.

And unlike Woolsey, he stands squarely on both sides of that issue: he’s against the war, and he’s against pulling out ‘til we win!

Forget Coursey’s campaign rhetoric.

The clearest difference between Lynn Woolsey and Joe Nation is her integrity.