Message from Kathy Millison, City Manager
April marks a time for the fourth quarter of the fiscal period for most local government agencies and the City of Santa Rosa is busy working on budget solutions and plans for the upcoming new fiscal year. A budget overview will be presented to the City Council in study session on April 19 in the Council Chamber.
The City has also been taking a closer look at some key issues. Public employee pensions have been in the headlines for many months now and the Mayor’s Task Force on Pension Reform has been delving into the details of the CalPERS structure and funding that is the contract provider for pension plans for City of Santa Rosa employees. It's complicated. It's not just a catch phrase. It's the truth. There is not one person participating in the task force who hasn't proclaimed that sentiment one or more times through the course of discussion. The task force has been diligently studying the plans in order to understand the plan and the challenges of funding and to determine what reasonable options may be available to the City Council to limit the rapidly rising cost of these plans while still offering a reasonable pension for public employees when they retire. An important study session will be repeated for the benefit of the City Council beginning at 2 pm on April 5 in the Council Chamber. The City's pension actuary will explain the funding of the CalPERS program and the current funding status of the City's three pension plans.
Another key issue is under discussion by the Mayor's Task Force on Economic Competitiveness. A citizens' group has been formed to look into perceptions and realities of the business climate in the City. A healthy community must have healthy neighborhoods for residents and healthy districts for businesses. The task force is currently exploring perceptions and experiences of the business community about whether it is easy or hard to do business in Santa Rosa and what things the City might do to continue to make the permitting process more efficient for business purposes while still providing important health and safety checks for the community at large and what things it should continue to do to support a healthy business community. After all, City services and amenities rely on a healthy business community for funding and healthy neighborhoods rely on people and their families being self sufficient and self supporting. All meetings of the City Council and the task force committees are noticed in advance and posted to the City's website.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention a key celebration in the month of April. We are marking Earth Day on April 16, a time to celebrate our planet and learn more about how to better utilize and protect its many resources for our grandchildren to enjoy as we have. Join your neighbors in Downtown Santa Rosa on that day and be prepared to celebrate and learn.
Green Exchange Rebate Continues
The Water-Use Efficiency Team is celebrating another monumental achievement with the rebate and removal of 1.5 million square feet of grass. The associated water savings are important as they continue to reduce the peak demand on the City’s water system and have resulted in savings exceeding 27 million gallons per year.
The Green Exchange Rebate Program continues to be a popular program with our residential and commercial customers due to the ease of participation and the expert support of the Water-Use Efficiency Team. If you or anyone you know is interested in participating please call the Water-Use Efficiency Hotline at 543-3985 or visit our website for additional information.
Earth Day - April 16, 2011
The City of Santa Rosa has been busy planning an Earth Day celebration that will inspire awareness and build community through environmental protection. This year’s event will include three live bands, great local food vendors, arts and crafts, and lots of fun kid’s activities. In addition, we will be offering a free safe disposal for unwanted medications and recycling for old appliances and E-waste. Residents can bring a re-usable bag and/or a children’s book and participate in the Great Bag and Book Exchange. They may also participate in our eco-passport program for your chance to learn about green programs and win a ZAP scooter or other great prizes. All are invited to come downtown to Courthouse Square on Saturday, April 16th and celebrate our community and the environment. So come, join us, and take advantage of all the available green rebates and programs that will help Santa Rosa reach its greenhouse gas reduction target and environmental goals. Visit the Earth Day webpage.
The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency in Japan has been on many of our minds. We live in a beautiful area in Sonoma County. We also live among an earthquake fault in Santa Rosa. The tsunami also had an impact on the Northern California coastline. This is a good reminder for us all to have a plan for our family to survive a disaster. There are many resources online. The bottom line is the need to be able to provide food, water and medicine for your family for a minimum of 72 hours. Please visit the City’s emergency preparedness site.
Japan Radiation Emergency
The EPA, Cal EMA and County Public Health are all watching the situation closely. There are eight radiation sensors located on the California coast and they are being monitored. As a backup, the Fire Department is reviewing the detection results from San Francisco twice a day. The current detection levels are extremely low. Public Health has reviewed the results and found them to not pose a hazards at these levels. We will continue to monitor the levels. Updated information can be found at Sonoma County Public Health or California Emergency Management Agency.
North Station Area Plan Update
In April 2011, the Community Development Department will be launching the North Santa Rosa Station Area Specific Plan (North Station Area Plan) project, which will include preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The North Santa Rosa Station is one of 14 stations being planned by the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) agency for a commuter rail service; the station site is planned at the southeast corner of Guerneville Road and the Northwestern Pacific rail corridor.
The North Station Area Plan will focus on the area approximately one-half mile around the station site, and will identify opportunities for transit oriented development that would enhance rail use, provide connectivity for pedestrians, bicycles, and bus transit, and provide for attractive streets and public spaces. The project is being funded through several sources, including a $400,000 grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). A consultant interview panel has selected Pacific Municipal Consultants (PMC) to prepare the North Station Area Plan and EIR, and City staff anticipates that the process will span from April 2011 through July 2012. Click here for the map.
Spring Events Around Town
Santa Rosa is the host city for the first-ever Sonoma Wine Country Senior Games. This event, featuring world-class, Olympic-format, international athletes 50 years and better, runs from June 2nd through 5th and is sponsored, in part, by the Santa Rosa Tourism Business Improvement Area. For more information, or to register, visit their website.
The Economic Development program is pleased to announce the newly enhanced, “Shop Santa Rosa” program. This service, located at their website, offers Santa Rosa businesses the opportunity to share coupons, news stories, job openings, website links and social media feeds with residents and visitors alike. Santa Rosa businesses can request access to existing listings or create new ones by clicking here.
Spring has sprung, and this winter’s wet weather means an even better growing season at the Luther Burbank Home and Garden. The Burbank Home and Greenhouse and the Carriage House Museum and Gift Shop are open Tuesday - Sunday, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm. Drop-in guided tours of the home and greenhouse are offered Tuesday - Sunday from 10:00 am - 3:30 pm, for a nominal fee. Gardens are open all day, year-round, from 8:00 am to dusk. Guided tours begin in April.
Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery – A chance to visit the past
The Recreation and Park Department and Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery would like to invite you to a Civil War Commemorative Event and Tour Saturday April 9, at 1:00 pm. The event will honor both sides and closely coincide with the start of the nation-wide observances of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. The event will include a rifle salute, dedication of Civil War era rose, and guided tour of the Rural Cemetery.
If you would like to learn more about the Rural Cemetery and Santa Rosa history, docent-led tours are available during the summer months. Lamplight Tours, conducted in September as fund-raising events, present dramatic vignettes from the lives of the famous and not-so-famous people buried in the Rural Cemetery. To learn more, click on the picture below.