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PD Editorial: What is the rush on filling SR vacancy?

Published: Friday, January 25, 2013 at 7:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 at 7:03 p.m.

Only three days have passed since Santa Rosa city officials released the names of the 17 applicants for an open seat on the City Council.

Many of us are still getting to know these individuals given that most waited until the deadline to file, and many are relative newcomers to city politics.

Nevertheless, despite the relative anonymity of some of the candidates and the sheer number of applicants, the council seems determined to make an appointment by Tuesday if not Monday night. Why the rush?

The City Council indicated that it hoped to fill the vacancy in time for its biennial goal-setting session on Feb. 14-15. This is where the council lays out its priorities for the term. It’s an important session, no doubt. But in its rush to meet that relatively arbitrary deadline, the council is failing to give the public, as well as themselves, much time to review the long list of candidates for this position.

We understand that some council members may already have their minds made up, or at least have an inclination of who they plan to support. But out of respect for the process, and out of respect for those who have stuck their necks out to apply, the council should at least slow the process down to allow full consideration of the candidates.

We’re not sure that is part of the process at this point. The City Council still plans to interview the candidates on Monday. From 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., the council will plow through all 17 candidates in 15-minute interviews, with only a 30-minute break for dinner.

Fifteen minutes? That’s not an interview process, that’s a receiving line.

Meanwhile, given that the council is expected to vote on Tuesday — if not Monday after the interviews — the public will have little time to provide any feedback.

Overall, we’re unimpressed with how the City Council has gone about filling this vacancy. Despite the importance of this position, the council has allowed it to be shrouded in secrecy for the first two weeks of the application process and then, for reasons that don’t make good sense, is rushing to make a final decision without allowing the public time to analyze and offer their input.

Want to know which candidates live on the west side of town? Forget about it. Despite the recent Measure Q ballot fight, which underscored the historic lack of representation from Santa Rosa’s west side, the addresses of the applicants have been blacked out by the city in the packets that are posted on the city website. Want to call the candidates and ask them? Forget that, too. Those numbers are blacked out as well.

We don’t blame the council for wanting to fill this seat quickly, but it should not come at the expense of public input and a proper evaluation.

The council should wait until its Feb. 5 meeting to make a decision. That gives the candidates more time to make their cases to the public while still allowing the council to have a full dais in time for its goal-setting session.

Meanwhile, it’s our hope that one of those goals will be to shelve this policy for filling a vacancy on the City Council, replacing it with one that offers more transparency and more time for proper input and discussion.

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