Thursday, November 11, 2004


SCA unites developers, politicians, cops behind Measure "O"

The Santa Rosa Police Officers Association sent me a piece of junk mail this week, asking for money [see "POA spent $20,000 on 'O' " below]. The mailer implied the proceeds of their annual fund raising drive would go to charity; but it added, "all funds raised will be used solely to benefit the Santa Rosa Police Officers’ Association membership and further its purposes."

One of the SRPOA's purposes has been the campaign for Santa Rosa Measure O. The Press Democrat reported before the election last week, (10/30, "Sales tax measure gets final push"),

"Santa Rosa's police and fire unions have pumped another $15,000 into the campaign to pass Measure O, the quarter-cent sales tax measure that would generate $7 million annually and funnel most of the money into the two public safety departments. The Santa Rosa Police Officer's Association contributed $10,000 and Santa Rosa Firefighters Local 1401 gave $5,000 over the past 12 days, according to campaign finance statements filed Friday.

The contributions bring the total donated by the two unions to the Rescue Santa Rosa campaign to $40,000, or $20,000 each. The unions, along with Christopherson Homes, which also gave $5,000, were the largest contributors in the latest round of donations received between Oct. 17 and Thursday."

Mayor Sharon Wright wrote the PD this week, saying (11/10, "Measure O thanks") :

"Thank you, Santa Rosa. The huge 70-percent-plus vote in support of Measure O and our community's public safety speaks to the value we all place on living in '...the chosen spot of all on earth'."

Councilman Bob Blanchard co-signed the Mayor's thank-you letter, rather than Vice Mayor Jane Bender. Wright is retiring from office, so Blanchard's signature may mean the Council has already agreed to appoint him Mayor, when the new Council is seated next month.

The day after last week's election, the PD reported (11/3, "SR voters approve police, fire funding"),

"A proposed 1/4 -cent sales tax increase to raise about $7 million a year for Santa Rosa police and fire services won approval early today. ... 'I think it really looks good,' Councilwoman Janet Condron said at midnight, expressing confidence the lead would hold. 'That's real exciting,' said Condron. 'So many people worked hard for this measure.' "

Condron was Treasurer of Rescue Santa Rosa, the campaign organization for Measure O. Herb Williams, the consultant who ran the campaign from his home above Fountaingrove, was Assistant Treasurer, and Blanchard was the third campaign contact [see website here:]. They knew who had worked so hard for it, and why, but most Santa Rosa voters didn't.

Three days later, the PD was uncommonly candid about Measure O's supporters. The local daily reported (11/6, "Vote heartens local leaders"),

"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. '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."

"Ben Stone, coordinator of the county Economic Development Board, said voters favored measures that demonstrated direct benefits to them. The business community, he said, was activated by a desire to fix cracks in the infrastructure that were beginning to drive employees and customers away."

The story added,

"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."

Tony Alvernaz is a director of the Sonoma County Alliance, and sits on its 18-member Executive Committee. The Santa Rosa City Employees Association, the SRPOA, and the Santa Rosa Firefighters are all members of the Sonoma County Alliance.

What's more important, at least four City Council members belong to the SCA--and two of them were paid in past years to run it. Bob Blanchard, Janet Condron, Mike Martini, and Sharon Wright are all SCA members. (I made a note that Vice Mayor Jane Bender was also a member, when the SCA website opened in May, but it no longer lists her.)

Mayor Wright was already the SCA's paid Executive Director when she was elected to the Council in 1992, and she ran it until 2001. Its directors hired an outsider who lasted about a year, then hired Councilman Martini when he was the Mayor.

So a majority and quorum of the seven-member City Council, and three City employee organizations, all belong to the Sonoma County Alliance. Go here to check out its membership list, and see what the SCA says about itself: .

The email addresses the SCA lists for the three employee organizations are all at the City of Santa Rosa, not at an organization office. So when you want to talk to an organization rep about organization business--or presumably, Sonoma County Alliance business--you contact them at work: at City Hall, the Police Station, or the firehouse. When I emailed Eric Goldschlag, to ask whether the bulk mail solicitation I received was really from the SRPOA, was I dealing with its representative to the SCA, or the SRPD Detective?

I have to wonder why the SRPOA would join a countywide organization of developers and businessmen, that lobbies for continous growth and development, in the first place. It stands to reason that more residential and commercial growth means more people, more crime, and more work. Is that what the POA wants?

Their common interest in the SCA's policies and goals must certainly influence the relationship the three employee organizations have with the City Council and its appointees--and ultimately, with the citizens who are the City of Santa Rosa. And that relationship appears to be much more complex than the citizens and voters know.

(to be continued)

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