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Two more Santa Rosa residents apply to be on City Council

Published: Monday, January 21, 2013 at 3:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 2:45 p.m.

Two more Santa Rosa residents have thrown their hats in the ring for the City Council seat left vacant by Susan Gorin's election to the county Board of Supervisors.

Restaurateur Don Taylor and telecommunications software analyst David Rosas confirmed Monday they will be applying for the post. Both men said they are scheduled to meet with City Clerk Terri Griffin today to file their nomination papers. The deadline for applications is 5:30 tonight.

At least eight people have now confirmed they are applying for the seat or are known to be seriously considering it. They include: Planning Commissioners Caroline Bañuelos and Curtis Byrd, landscape architect Mike Cook, winery executive Hans Dippel, Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy Executive Director Tanya Narath and Board of Public Utilities member Robin Swinth.

Taylor, 53, has run for City Council unsuccessfully four times. He was the fifth-highest vote getter in the November election. The top four candidates won seats on the seven-member council.

After the City Council decided two weeks ago to hold an application process instead of tapping the next-highest vote getter for the seat, Taylor said he wasn't sure whether he would participate in the application process.

The owner of Omelette Express and former planning commissioner said he knows people might think of him as one of the "usual suspects," but said there is value in selecting someone who has subjected themselves to the rigors of the electoral process.

"I still think I'm going to be the most qualified candidate with the most experience," Taylor said.

Rosas, 50, is a longtime activist for improving services to the city's southwest area.

A former employee at Agilent Technologies, Rosas now works for high-tech firm Proleon Software. He applied for a council vacancy in 2007 and ran unsuccessfully for council in 2008. He has advocated for the annexation of Roseland, the redevelopment of the area's blighted properties and the establishment of more parks in the southwest.

"I'm willing to step up and help represent this community that has been under-represented for years," Rosas said.

City officials say they will release the full list of applicants Wednesday, and the City Council will begin holding interviews Monday. The interviews will be held in the City Council chambers and will be open to the public, televised and streamed over the Internet.

The council may make a decision on the appointment Monday. Depending on the number of applicants or length of deliberations, they could also push the issue over one day to Jan. 29.

The city has decided to cloak the first phase of the process in secrecy. Under state election law, the names of potential candidates become public when they pick up the packet of documents they need to file to get on the ballot. Most of those documents become public as soon as they are filed.

But the city passed a policy this year to keep all such information confidential until after tonight's deadline, a move officials say is designed to preserve the integrity of the process and to encourage potential applicants to apply.

Political consultant Terry Price said the policy is a setback for transparency at City Hall. The explanation that keeping the process confidential would increase the pool of applicants "falls flat," Price said.

"This is a public process. The person that is going to be selected is going to be under the microscope, so it doesn't make any sense to me," Price said. "If you can't handle the heat of submitting an application, maybe you're not fit for the job."

Mayor Scott Bartley has said he believes the process is a good one, in part because it accomplishes a key goal of getting Gorin's seat filled before a goal-setting session in mid-February. He also said he thinks the council should review the policy to see if the process could be improved.

Councilman Gary Wysocky has said that if he had the chance to vote again, he probably wouldn't sign off on the process being confidential. Bañuelos said the need for secrecy has struck her as odd.

"It doesn't make sense to me," Bañuelos said.

Others have found it confusing as well. Taylor said he visited the city clerk's office to pick up an application packet and plenty of people saw him there.

"It's hardly a secret that I pulled papers," Taylor said.

He said he understands the city officials' reasons for wanting to keep the process confidential, but said it did create an unusual dynamic where city staff knew he was applying but they couldn't disclose that to the public.

"I remember being in there and thinking like, should I wear dark glasses so no one sees me?" Taylor said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater

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