It's been nine weeks since the Santa Rosa City Council's controversial decision to approve the $10–$20 million reunification of Courthouse Square. Public outcry over that decision ensued. The allegations of impropriety are numerous, but evidence points to a breach of ethics over city charter violations. Let your conscience be your guide.
The following are facts I located in the public records and via verbal confirmation from Councilmember Julie Combs. The Courthouse Square project is classified as a "capital improvement project" (CIP). These projects are subject to annual public budget review requirements, which take place over a five-year period prior to the commencement of a project. City charter section 28 requires that "prior to any annual goal setting meeting held by the Council, the Council shall hold a public hearing seeking oral and written comment from the public on budget priorities for the upcoming fiscal year."
The capital budget records account for the five-year budget review of Courthouse Square sewer and street repairs. But Combs informed me that the remaining expenditures for Courthouse Square do not need to pass the five-year public-budget review, even though I pressed her on the fact that the taxpayer general fund will be used to pay for the project.
City charter section 10 requires that the council shall receive advisement through its appointed community advisory board (CAB). The CAB's responsibility is to "greatly increase citizen and neighborhood participation and responsibility," including helping to set annual "CIP budget priorities for their respective districts." But the CAB failed to comply with a January deadline for the Courthouse Square community budget outreach. Combs gave me no guarantee that the council would enforce the charter.
The charter requirements are the city's governing constitution voted by the people, which the city council must fulfill. If it is not, citizens remain unrepresented in meetings in which they're allowed to participate—to support or oppose CIP budget priorities and review regarding Courthouse Square.
What are your thoughts? Have the citizens of Santa Rosa been disenfranchised from the budget review of Courthouse Square?
Jennifer Coleman is a private property manager and Santa Rosa activist. For more info, go to facebook.com/opposecourthousesquare.
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