Thursday, May 27, 2004


Mayor Wright asks CAB to endorse Courthouse Square reunification

The Council voted unanimously 5/25 to apply for a $3 million State grant to reunify the Downtown's Old Courthouse Square--if private donors can come up with $1 million in matching funds by July 16, the deadline for the City to apply for the grant.

The Council-funded Santa Rosa Main Street, that replaced the Council-funded CityVision group; The Downtown Association, and the Community Foundation Sonoma County are running the fund drive. The Community Foundation is receiving the donations.

The Press Democrat reported (5/26, "SR council supports Courthouse Square plan"),

"To boost Santa Rosa's chances, Wright won council support to ask the 21-member Community Advisory Board to weigh in with how their areas feel about the reunification project. The board, formed earlier this year, is a product of a charter amendment endorsed by voters in 2002 that called for formation of a group to provide city leaders with communitywide input on various issues.

'Being able to say the entire community supports this would be an additional plus,' Wright said."

On its face, Mike McCoy's story suggested Mayor Wright thinks that if a majority of the Council-appointed CAB supports the Council's vote, it will demonstrate that "the entire community" supports reunification of the Downtown Square.

But PD columnist Chris Smith reports a more ominous take on Wright's action. He commented today (5/27, "The mayor's surprise has 'em guessing"),

"A bunch of people, some of them fellow City Council members, were taken aback by what Mayor Sharon Wright did just before the council voted to pursue grant money to reunite Old Courthouse Square. Though Tuesday's unanimous vote culminated a long process of studies, debate and public hearings, Wright proposed to now solicit more public input.

Specifically, she asked the council to put the issue to the 21 neighbor- hood delegates on the city's new Community Advisory Board. The other council members went along, though some said afterward they're not sure what purpose is served by involving the CAB at this late stage.

Wright's move surprised people on and off the council, the more conspiratorial among them wondering if she's hoping to stir dissent that could kill the mend-the-Square grant request when it comes before the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Others said they believe Wright's intentions are pure, but that asking the CAB's opinion of reunification now could throw a wrench in the works if the panel comes out less than enthusiastically in favor of it.

Wright said she simply wanted to involve the new board of citizens in a meaningful community issue, and she believes its support will strengthen the city's hand when it goes after the grant money."

If the Council-appointed CAB endorses the Council's action, it will not demonstrate that any given number of Santa Rosa's 154,000 residents supports reunifying the Square. The CAB members have no constituents, apart from the Councilmembers who appointed them.

But the sentiments Smith reported may be accurate.

If the CAB members don't rubberstamp the Council action, their response could indeed hurt the Downtown business community's efforts to fund its controversial plan to reunite the square. And more important, it might suggest that at least some of the CAB members have opinions of their own.

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