Sunday, January 23, 2005

Pierce (and Bender, Martini, and Sawyer) can thank the Sonoma County Alliance

Following the election last November, the Press Democrat reported "Sonoma County business, labor and other leaders are heartened by this week's election results that showed voters more inclined than ever to tax themselves to pay projects like highway construction, street repairs, hospitals and public safety." (11/6/04, "Vote heartens local leaders")

The story continued, "Along with business interests, several labor organizations got out the vote on local measures, including the Operating Engineers, the Santa Rosa Police Officers Association and the Santa Rosa Employees Association, which represents most of the non-public safety city workers."

"Tony Alvernaz, a Sonoma County Alliance leader who heads the union of Santa Rosa city government employees, said his members felt they would reap the benefits of many tax proposals. 'People are figuring out that Sacramento is not going to be responsive to their needs,' Alvernaz said. 'It improves our quality of life to fund police programs that fight gangs, construction that creates jobs and roads that are too crowded. They were tangible things they could see that could get done.' "

Like Sonoma County Alliance and Employees Association leader Alvernaz, new City Councilman Lee Pierce is concerned about the quality of life. He wrote in a PD letter to the editor, "I am also thrilled to be joining Santa Rosa's six other elected officials on the City Council--to begin charting the city's path for an improved quality of life over the next four years."

He said, "I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to: the voters, my campaign steering committee, my campaign consultant, the persons and entities who publicly endorsed my candidacy, most notably former Mayor Sharon Wright and Councilwoman Janet Condron and The Press Democrat (for the second time). " (1/5/05, "Thoughts for 2005")

Pierce had reason to thank the voters who barely gave him the fourth seat of the four that were open. When all the votes were finally counted, 22,186 voters chose Pierce by just 552 votes over fifth-place Veronica Jacobi. Jane Bender, Mike Martini, and John Sawyer each got more than 27,000 votes, and easily won the first three places. [See below: "Voters pick three pro-business hacks and--Jacobi?"]

Pierce had even better reason to thank Sharon Wright, Janet Condron, and the Press Democrat. Wright was pictured in a 10/11/04 PD ad headed, "I'm asking you to join me in supporting Lee Pierce for City Council", and Pierce featured Condron in his own campaign brochure.

Former Councilman Dave Berto was featured in a similar PD ad last October. Then Wright, Condron and Berto appeared again, in a full-page PD ad the day before the election. That ad also featured former Councilman Mike Runyan, and former appointed SR officials Wally & Ellie Lowry [Wally is now on the School Board].

The PD story last November reported, "'Voters were willing to foot the bill to satisfy local needs and go with local leaders they trust,' said Jim Chaaban, president of the Sonoma County Alliance of business, government and labor interests. The 220-member organization assumed a leading role in the local election, funding mailers for the Sonoma County transportation tax and the Santa Rosa sales tax, as well as mailed pieces supporting the group's endorsed city council candidates."

A slate mailer from the Sonoma County Alliance PAC endorsed Pierce and Sawyer, along with incumbents Jane Bender (now Mayor) and Mike Martini. The card said, "What does the Sonoma County Alliance PAC have in common with the Press Democrat, the Santa Rosa Police Officers and Firefighters Association? We all support these four candidates for Santa Rosa City Council!"

The Press Democrat and the Police and Firefighters Associations also have a lot in common with the Sonoma County Alliance. Both the Police and Firefighter associations belong to the SCA. The PD is not a member, but the Santa Rosa daily usually speaks for the local developers and business leaders.

The Santa Rosa Police Officers Association is a member, and its representative Eric Goldschlag is on the Executive Committee. The Santa Rosa Firefighters group is also a member, and its rep Mike Jones is on the Board of Directors. And as the PD reported last year, the Santa Rosa City Employees Association belongs to the SCA, and Tony Alvernaz is on its Executive Committee.

Former Mayor Wright was the SCA's paid Executive Director when she was elected to the Council in 1992, and she held the job from the mid-'80s to 2001. The SCA hired Councilman Martini as Executive Director when he was Mayor in 2002, and he worked there until last year.

The SCA website identifies Bob Blanchard, Condron, Martini, and Pierce himself--a quorum of the seven-member Council--as current members. Mayor Bender is not currently listed as a member, but I made a note that she was listed last April when the new SCA website appeared.

PG&E PR man Jim Chabaan was SCA President last year, and the SCA site is "sponsored by a generous donation from" PG&E. Bender and Ellen Bailey used to run ReLeaf, a project that planted trees and did community relations work for PG&E. Now Bender's on the Council and Bailey works for the City, holding a Recreation & Parks Department position the Council created in January 2002.

Former Councilman Runyan and School Board member Lowry are SCA members. Former Councilman Berto used to belong, but he and his company are not on the current list. You can check out the SCA and its current membership here: .

Pierce also thanked his political consultant, but not by name. Prominent local political consultant Herb Williams owns a company called Delphi. Pierce's campaign finance report of 10/20/04 listed $4,769.31 due Delphi, and another dated 10/29/04 listed a $2118.75 balance paid. But both were coded as being for "campaign paraphernalia/misc.", not consultant services.

Williams ran the Yes On Measure F campaign last March, for which Condron was Treasurer, and the Measure O campaign in November, under the name Rescue Santa Rosa. Both Yes On Measure F and Rescue Santa Rosa gave Williams' Parker Hill Road home address.

The SCA, Police, and Firefighters strongly supported Measure O. The PD reported 10/7/04,

"Three donors gave $10,000 each: the Santa Rosa Plaza, Santa Rosa Firefighters Local 1401 and the Santa Rosa Police Officer's Association. Five other contributors gave $5,000 each: Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Codding Enterprises, the Santa Rosa Police Management Association, the Sonoma County Alliance's political action committee and an arm of the North Coast Builders Exchange."

The SCAPAC mailer last November asked, "What does the Sonoma County Alliance PAC have in common with the Press Democrat, the Santa Rosa Police Officers and Firefighters Association?" The immediate answer is the Police and Firefighters Associations belong to the SCA, and the PD spoke for all of them when it recommended Bender, Martini, Pierce and Sawyer.

Thanks in good part to them, a quorum of the City Council belongs to the SCA and shares its agenda for Santa Rosa. We don't have to ask, "What does the City of Santa Rosa have in common with the Sonoma County Alliance?" The obvious answer is, almost everything.

The City website lists four campaign contribution reports for Pierce--actually three, because one appears twice. The one dated 10/20/04 is for 7/1/04--9/30/04, and the one dated 10/29/04 is for 10/17/04--10/28/04. There is no report for the period 10/1/04--10/16/04.

Go here to see who contributed to Pierce's campaign: . And if you'd like to know why there's no campaign finance report for 10/1--10/16/04, ask City Clerk Sue Stoneman. While you're at it, ask her why her office censors contributors' addresses and phone numbers from the public documents.

For more background on Pierce and Sawyer, see also below: "Forget the politics, they're gay and black"


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