Saturday, June 20, 2015

Santa Rosa City Council, June 23rd

Friends:     As the subject line says, there will be no City Council meeting this coming Tuesday.   
SO, that means that you'll (maybe) be available to come to the 5:30 PM Second Community Workshop on Roseland Annexation.
I am on the Steering Committee and we're trying to make sure that everyone with knowledge of and/or concerns about how this annexation happens is included in the discussion.  It's held at Roseland Accelerated Middle School at 1777 West Avenue, a few blocks south of Sebastopol Road (West is a north-south street just west of Dutton Avenue).
Below is one of the pieces of information available on the City's website under Roseland Annexation:

You'll find more information on the website if you do a search on Roseland Annexation.

At our last Steering Committee, we did some rewarding work by helping to hone the presentation materials so they make better sense.   You know how you go to some planning meetings and are asked to make choices and you wonder, "What were they thinking?"  I think we eradicated most of those unhelpful errors and the workshop will go well.     The meetings are conducted in English and Spanish, there is childcare available, and there is some food provided.

See you!     Anne

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Santa Rosa City Council, June 16th


There's no study session before the 4PM meeting.

9.3  Matters from Council on Future Agenda Items.
  9.3.1  On June 2, Council member Wysocky asked  for and Councilwoman Combs seconded a future agenda item to discuss vacation rentals.  They will discuss and decide whether to place this on a future agenda and ask the City Manager to inform them if staff has room in their schedules to prepare for this.

13.1 The Santa Rosa Tourism Business Improvement Area (SRTBA) was established in 2010.   They make an annual report to the Council on their activities and budget matters.  More information is below: 

5PM Public Hearings
14.1 Adoption of the Proposed City Budget for Fiscal Year 2015/16 and the FY 2015/16 Capital Improvement Program Budget (CIP).
   At the study sessions on May 2 and May 9, the Council heard budget requests from each department's head and they will hear from them again.  Here's the presentation to be made:

14.2  Shall the Council Approve Fees for Various Recreation and Park Facilities and Services?
   The facilities fees increases are for two new rooms at the Steele Lane Community Center, the Finley Center, including the Person Senior wing, the DeTurk Roundbarn, Rosie the Trolley hourly fees and the Ridgeway Swim Center.  More below:

Both Public hearings will be continued on Wednesday morning, 9 AM, June 17 at a special meeting.  If they don't finish, they might press on Thursday morning at 9AM, June 18.

With all of this smashed into this week's meetings, there will be no Council meeting next week.

See you Tuesday!

Anne Seeley


Santa Rosa Together Friends,

Last week, Pat sent the Steering Committee a summary of the June 9 Council Study Session on homelessness.  Pat was right to emphasize the importance of our Council’s support for expanding efforts to address this issue.  Council is on track to add $500,000 to expand outreach and sanitation services for those living on the street.  Pat was also right about Council’s support for engaging the community in the work to help the homeless. Chris was especially good in describing the need for more community involvement.  And it was at Sean’s initiative that community engagement was added to the plan presented by city staff to Council. This plan, with 50K for outreach support, was approved by Council.  So all this was good, as Pat reported.

But, something else became apparent to me as I listened to all the discussion.  For one thing, when the Council members all summarized their position on the city proposal towards the end of the meeting, none of them mentioned engagement.  You got the impression that engagement was good, but not really a priority.  Our position, the one we tried to articulate in our message and presentation, was that helping our homeless community members is a task that really requires the engagement of all of us.  It is too big and difficult a problem for governments, even in partnership with not-for-profits, to handle by themselves.  We were hoping that this point would come across strongly and be emphasized at the Council meeting. It was not. There was an opportunity for Council to begin to talk about and emphasize a new way of engaging the community to solve problems, but that didn't happen. 

Not only is the problem of homelessness too big for governments and professionals, if a plan for addressing homelessness is developed without community engagement, it will also not include important community input and will surely meet strong opposition.  The beginning of neighborhood and business opposition to plans that did not include their input was already present at Council yesterday. Addressing homelessness will require us to find common ground and work together and without a strong effort to engage our community in a meaningful way, we will not find the common ground we need to really succeed.  Once again, only Chris mentioned the need for this and only at the beginning of the meeting.

I also learned a lot about all the current work going on to help the homeless.  I am guessing all the main players working to help the homeless were at this discussion and the work they described was very impressive.  We also heard a lot of new ideas during the public comment period. It was clear that all those engaged were working hard and doing great work to try to meet the needs of the homeless.  There was a real feeling of commitment and collaboration in the room that was very impressive.  But, I couldn't help but notice that there was another side to this that was also very revealing.  Not one of the service providers picked up on the importance of getting more of our community engaged in this work. I got the impression that this was a discussion of professionals and government, working together to find ways to improve and expand their work to address homelessness.  This was business as usual for Council and those they fund, business as usual at its best, but still business as usual.  None of the participants took a broader view of engaging the community to find ways to give everyone a voice and role in this work.  Most of the information that the community would need to be informed and find ways to work together had also been collected by the participants, but no one seemed to recognize the need to find a way to use that information to inform the community. 

So, two lessons for me: we do have support from Council and the City Manager for beginning to move in a new direction, but that support is not that strong and clear.  And we really have hardly made a dent in the non-for-profit world and in the usual way of doing business for city and county government.  We have a lot of work to do and our plan to find ways to sustain a long term effort will be crucial.  So, main lesson for me from the Council meeting: we have made some small steps, but there is a long way to go.  If we can take the opportunity to make the community wide conversation on homelessness a success, we will be able to demonstrate the value of giving everyone a voice and role.  Then, in future Council meetings like yesterday's, there might be more support for including everyone in the work.

Letter to the City Manager

Early Lessons Learned from the Current Engagement Activities in SW Santa Rosa
Successful community engagement requires a supportive government partner and a strong community organizations working together to meet community needs.  The current work in SW Santa Rosa demonstrates a need to improve in both of these areas.
A key measure of the success of city government’s support for community engagement will be staff’s ability to plan outreach efforts that work to build community engagement and capacity.  This will require that both the city and county’s planning and operational activities are conducted in collaboration with the community’s own actions as well as planning initiatives of other governmental and civic agencies. 

Santa Rosa Together’s experience over the past three months, talking with City staff responsible for project activities, convinces us that most are aware that community engagement is becoming an increasingly important component of their work.  However, they lack access to information about current and upcoming opportunities for cross-collaboration and, as a result, numerous overlapping meetings (*see list of current activities below) for community input have been planned without adequate consideration for the community’s ability to participate.

As an example of the need for better collaboration, consider the long-anticipated Stony Point Widening and Reconstruction Project.  A decade in the making, undertaking a two-year major transportation disruption, with a management contractor recently selected whose bid contains a Community Outreach Plan and subcontractor. Public Works Management liaison staff were easily convinced to explore the possibility of collaboration with the current City-initiated Roseland Area Projects Steering Committee and the County-initiated Roseland Village Neighborhood Center Steering Committee for this outreach.  But this planning and collaboration are happening because community members brought the staff together.  No system exists within the City to identify and promote community planning collaboration opportunities at the staff level.

We believe that the responsibility for providing the information on community activities that city departments will need to improve collaboration and support community engagement will be a responsibility of the new Director of Community Engagement.  But, until this new Director is in place, we encourage the City Manager to find a way to ensure that the work in SW Santa Rosa is planned and coordinated to meet community needs.  This will help to deepen community understanding of the city’s activities, maximize volunteer energy and effectiveness, and improve outcomes. It will also go a long way to avoiding citizen burn out and confusion that can result when multiple community input initiatives seek out citizen feedback and advice. 

The second, and equally important, key to success of the city government’s support for community engagement is the recognition of the importance of helping to build strong community organizations that have the ability to partner with their government and lead efforts to address community concerns.  The lack of a strong community organization in SW Rosa that can unite the community and represent community concerns is a key to both the city’s and the community’s success.  The outreach work and focus on SW Santa Rosa that current city projects are undertaking present a great opportunity to help community members form the organization that they will need to strengthen their community.  But, to date, none of the city and county projects have made support for the formation of a community organization a goal for their work.  Adopting this goal would change the way work is done so that it consciously works to bring residents together and builds their capacity to take the lead in their community.  The current work has created separate community advisory groups for each project and has planned conflicting meetings that divide rather than give community members a chance to come together and work towards building an organization that can unite the community.  We strongly encourage the city and county to make the goal of building a community organization a part of all work in SW Santa Rosa.

In summary, currently community engagement activities in SW Santa Rosa are being conducted by four City departments and one County department: community development, public works, transit, and police.  We recommend that until you have a Community Engagement Manager in place that you find a way to ensure that the city and county work in SW Santa Rosa is better coordinated and planned so that it supports community engagement and community organization.

*We list here all the community inputs are being sought in SW SR:
Roseland Village Neighborhood Center
Roseland Creek Community Park
Stony Point Rd Widening and Reconstruction (between Sebastopol Rd and Hearn Ave)
Roseland Area Projects Steering Committee
Reimaging CityBus

Friday, June 12, 2015

Santa Rosa City Council Budget Public Hearings This Week!


The Draft 2015-16 SR Budget (Agenda Item 14.1) will be reviewed by the Council, and comments from the public received, during a public hearing held "no earlier than 5pm, or as soon thereafter as the matters are reached on the agenda."

The Draft Budget contains funding for all of the issues we have been recommending, including community engagement support, homeless and low income housing program expansions, and open government policy implementation.

The hearing will be continued the next morning at 9am, when the Council will consider increasing fees for recreation and park facilities and services.  It will be followed by a discussion and approval of the City's capital improvement program budget.

By the way, Attachments 3 & 4 on the agenda item are detailed responses by staff to the myriad of questions asked by Council members.  It's very good information for budgetphiles.  Talk about open government!

Gregory Fearon
Steering Committee Member

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Santa Rosa City Council, June 9th Agenda


Once again, our friend Anne Seeley of Concerned Citizens for Santa Rosa, has summarized for us what to expect at the June 9th City Council Meeting this week:

 Friends:    This Council meeting is where you'll see in the study session the reaction of the City Council to suggestions of options they want to take to assist the homeless.

1:30 Start Time ( although the study session might not start right on the dot).
Study Session
3.1 Review of Currently Provided Homeless Services and Responses.  Following the first Study Session on May 19, in which the Council reviewed the variety of homeless services provided by the city and the community, today's session is more action-oriented.   The Council will hear about other from staff.  They might direct staff to maintain, adapt or expand its efforts on homelessness. See the presentation below:

11.1 Approval of MPSAs - Master Professional Service Agreements.  The Department of Transportation and Public Works (where the bulk of the big-money city projects happen) has a process of pre-qualifying consultants they will use.  Here, four more consultant groups are being considered, which, if approved, will bring the number of such consultants to 87.  The curious thing to me is that these consultants will be eligible for projects in Fiscal Year 2015/16 totaling $15 Million, which was already approved by the Council.  Which projects and how much for each? See the presentation below:

13.1 Sonoma County Waste Management Agency (SCWMA) Extension Discussion.
   In 1991 the City joined the county and other cities to form the SCWMA .   The agreement expires is 2017.  This discussion (like those going on at the County and in other cities) is about whether to extend the agency.
One major issue is the impending closure of the Sonoma County Composting site. 

No Public Hearings

19.1  Upcoming meetings.  See below:

I'll see you there!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Santa Rosa City Council Mtg, June 2nd


Anne Seeley, of Concerned Citizens for Santa Rosa, has summarized tomorrow's Santa Rosa City Council agenda for us:

There is a study session today starting at 1:30.
3.1 The Santa Rosa Violence Prevention Partnership (Partnership) Community Safety Scorecard.    The Partnership used to be the Mayor's Gang Task force.  The scorecard was created as a tool to plan, strategize and measure the longterm impacts of Partnership efforts at a neighborhood level. It uses a Public Health approach of assessing the root causes of violence, with a focus on 4 domains:  Economic Conditions, School Conditions, Crime and Safety and Family and Community Connections.   Staff will present the draft scorecard.

4PM meeting
Proclamations and Presentations:
6.1 Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra
6.2 Neighborhood Revitalization Program Literacy Project
6.3 The Department of Housing and Urban Development High Performing Agency Award.

7 Staff briefings
7.1 The Russian River Watershed Association.  Santa Rosa Participates with 10 other Sonoma County agencies in this .  See below:

There are 3 Consent Items

13.1 ADA Paratransit Services Contract Award.   The service, which is apart from the City's fixed-route Bus System is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  After a Request for Proposals (RFP) process was carried out, the City has chosen to stay with the current provider.   The services are funded through federal and State grants.

13.3 A Place To Play Master Plan Amendment.  This park on West 3rd Street was approved in 1996.  It has multiple soccer fiends, and baseball diamonds for all ages.  It was created on a piece of City land where there used to be treated wastewater holding ponds.   In recent years an off-leash dog park and a remote control car track were added, but not codified in the plan.  This proposal does that and also changes the siting of the new additions in response to neighborhood complaints about dogs barking.

13.5 Stony Point Road Widening from Sebastopol Road to Hearn Avenue contract award.  The cost is $1,864,726.16, not to come from the City's General Fund.

On the last item, I'll add that the contract includes a community outreach component, following a communications work plan, and utilizing Jacqueline Majors and Associates.  The Contract bid states "The Harris team will combine our outreach efforts with any other standing or proposed public outreach program initiated by the City."  SRT will be working with the subcontractor to fully engage the community in understanding and impacting the project.