Gabe Gonzalez Honored Flournoy Recipient

Congratulations to Rohnert Park City Manager Gabe Gonzalez, recipient of the Spencer Flournoy Good Government Award. Mr. Gonzalez was recognized for his accomplishments returning Rohnert Park from the brink of bankruptcy to financial solvency at the Associations’ annual meeting on February 16. Congratulations and good job.

Water and Waste Water Reuse

No single issue impacts Sonoma County’s long term economic viability thatn the availablity of water for homes, agriculture and business, as well as the appropriate use and distribution of waste water which is an intergral part of our water supply.  Recent discussions by the Board of Supervisors and the County Water Agency translate into a need for all impacted agencies and especially municipal water utilities and waste water treatment and distribution entities along with conservation and fish preservation interests, planning and economic development agencies, wine grape growers and other agricultural interests and those interested in necessary growth and development to get together to design a strategy to deal with the issue.

Each Agency cannot pursue stand alone actions, be it rate increases, conservation off and on, costly litigation and mutual finger pointing.  Some current positions on Ele River diversions or fish protection may need to be modified.  Likewise many utility or City and County General Plans may be in part obsolete.  Utility rates and developer fees along with supporting plans may no longer be valid.  The public and private sections need to get together and develop a concensus where we are heading and the alternatives to get there in order for the appropriate public policy discussions can be put on the table.   I suggest the Sonoma County Taxpayers’ Association call for and co-sponsor such a summit.

Kurt Hahn

County School District Consolidation

The guest speaker at the Association’s July 16, 2009 Board luncheon meeting was  Dr. Carl Wong, Superintendent, Sonoma County Office of Education.  Dr. Wong has been in this elective office for 6 years.  His duties include helping the 40 school Districts in meeting legal mandates and operate cost effectively by providing financial oversight to the $680 million education budget , as well as providing specialized educational programs.   Although the K-12 school population in the County has decreased yearly over the past five years, Dr. Wong claims that student achievement has outpaced both state and national SAT scores.  Dr. Wong’s primary topic at today’s meeting was District re-organization.  Dr. Wong contends there are three ways school districts can achieve re-organization to provide a better educational experience for students and possibly lower costs.  These are increased use of Charter Schools, Shared Services and Consolidation of some districts.  There are currently 33 Charter Schools out of a total of over 180 public schools in the County.  Charter Schools can provide  the District with flexibility with labor contracts, provide a choice for parents and  a specialized   learning experience for students.  Dr. Wong indicated that currently many school districts are sharing services to reduce costs.  Examples include; transportation, cafeteria, special education, business services, purchasing and nursing to mention a few.  The most controversial issue centers around consolidation of school districts.  State education codes establish the process for school district re-organization.   It is a long drawn out process that could take from 2 to 4 years.   Dr. Wong thinks there is no “traction” for a countywide feasibility study to determine the pros and cons of consolidation. Although there may be benefits for consolidating all or some of the 40 school districts and 200 Board of Trustee members, such as fiscal and programmatic effectiveness and economies of scale. There are also detriments such as labor issues, loss of local control and taxing issues.   There maybe interest in looking at consolidation on a regional basis.  For example, if the seven school districts in and around Santa Rosa  got together for a feasibility study it might work.  The current problem is lack of funding for such a study and local opposition. 

Bad for Business ???

Once again, non-thinking “liberals” on our City Council have put their campaign contributions above common sense and the well being of the citizens they supposedly represent. Example – rejection of Wal-Mart’s bid to open a new store in Roseland.


This defies belief   Their rationale for this ….translated into English, is that Wal-Mart apparently is not a union shop.  So Council members’ union contributors don’t want them here. Never mind a 9%+ unemployment rate in the area.  Did anyone ask the residents of Roseland if they wanted the store – and the jobs it offers? Did anyone ask City Manager Jeff Kolin about the sales tax revenue he just lost – or the people he has to lay off because of it?  Never mind that people who shop at Wal-Mart, get to drive either to Rohnert Park or Windsor to do so – more gas consumption and congestion


The next target is the proposed Lowes on Santa Rosa Avenue. Let’s hope this discussion is not foreclosed by pandering and hypocrisy like the Wal-Mart one.

Don’t Become Ill if you are a Senior

Act in haste, repent in leisure.  Too bad law makers didn’t pay attention to this when evaluating the stimulus bill.  Many provisions in this bill have far reaching consequences and they have not been debated.


One of the worst for senior citizens and for all people as they grow older is the health care provision that has been inserted.  Medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system.  A new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to ensure that your doctor is doing what the government deems appropriate and cost effective.  The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” the doctor’s decisions.  Hospitals and doctors who are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties. 

The stimulus bill creates the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research, designed to meet Tom Daschle’s goal of slowing the development and use of new medications and technologies because they drive up costs.  Presently, Medicare pays for safe and effective treatments.  This bill applies a cost-effectiveness standard set by the Federal Council.  At a certain age it will be time to die.


Remember, Congress has its own health care system.


Edelweiss Geary

There Really is Some Good News Out There

Amid all the bad news in the headlines there is very little drumbeat to raise taxes. It seems most public officials realize that consumers and business are also hurting and this is not the time to place even greater burden on those who fund the government, taxpayers.

In more normal economic times the first response from many public officials when faced when a budget squeeze is to propose “revenue enhancements” through higher tax rates. Ideas like cutting wasteful spending, tightening the government belt and becoming more efficient are frequently ignored. In the present environment, however, reducing spending may be the only alternative, and this is a good thing for taxpayers in general.

If we’re fortunate real fat will be cut and governments and their constituents will learn they really can live on less, despite previous claims to the contrary. Again, if we’re fortunate officials will make wise choices about priorities, impose limits on future spending growth to prevent repeating the same problem of over spending in the future.

During good times families and businesses often let the spending controls loosen up, and economic downturns serve a useful purpose of forcing them to refocus and re-prioritze to become more efficient. It’s appropriate that government engage in this refocusing effort, which seems next to impossible without the strong incentive required by the current economic dip.

Jack Atkin, President

Sonoma County Taxpayers’ Association