Gorin, Cook take questions at Santa Rosa forum
Civil meeting covers a wide array of issues
From left: Moderator Jim Masters with David Cook and Susan Gorin at the League of Women Voters forum on Jan. 27 in Santa Rosa. Photo by Jay Gamel
Susan Gorin and David Cook sat down at Santa Rosa City Hall on a chilly Monday evening to answer questions from the League of Women Voters (LWV) and the dozen or so audience members who came to listen to the two candidates for county supervisor for District One discuss the issues.
Sonoma City Council member David Cook is seeking to unseat incumbent Susan Gorin, who is standing for a third term. The LWV and the Sonoma Index-Tribune sponsored the event.
Each candidate made a two-minute introductory statement then spent an hour and a half taking a minute each responding to questions at the Jan. 27 event.
Questions posed by moderator Jim Masters ranged from candidates’ top priorities to their positions on hot-button issues: current tax proposals, rent control, winery regulation, proliferation of winery related events, cannabis permits and more.
The two remained civil at all times and addressed the questions, not each other.
Introducing himself, Cook described a deep business background, running a vineyard management company, his many years with the Sonoma Chamber of Commerce, and his history of work as both a Kenwood and Glen Ellen volunteer fireman. He is a proud fourth generation farmer. Cook has served on the Sonoma City Council for seven years, including mayor for a term. His wife Kiersten was at the event, and the couple has four children.
Gorin outlined her extensive background in government. She has served as a community volunteer for numerous groups, on the county school board, the City of Santa Rosa’s Board of Public Utilities, the city’s planning commission, and city council from 2006 to 2012. She was mayor from 2008 to 2010. She is currently Chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and sits on many committees in the county and throughout the Bay Area.
You can learn more about the candidates at their websites at the end of this story.
Neither candidate defined a clear position when asked their feelings about rent control. Both acknowledged the high cost of living here calls for some action, but each said that it’s a complex subject. Cook would immediately begin to study rent control, if elected, and Gorin said that cities and the county have looked at rent control for years with no clear policies or laws to date.
It was a similar story with cannabis regulation. Cook said he will study the issue if elected and Gorin cited her travails wrestling with this contentious issue for the past four years, efforts that still haven’t resulted in any clear rules about where to permit indoor and outdoor grows.
“Growing hemp is another element of the problem,” Gorin said. “It’s an agricultural product and this is an agricultural county. It’s just hard to figure how to deal with it in rural residential areas.”
Five big challenges
Both candidates answered, “All of them” when asked to pick their top priority of pensions, fire protection, roads, homelessness, and the Sonoma Developmental Center’s future. County pensions have been problematic for years, and will outstrip the county’s ability to pay them sometime in the next few decades. Consolidating the county’s fragmented fire protection districts to better meet new fire hazards brought on by climate change is a long and complicated process. The county’s roads are some of the worst in the state of California. (See related story page 7.) The Board of Supervisors declared the homeless crisis an emergency and is in the process of trying to relocate people in encampments on the Joe Rodota Trail west of Santa Rosa. Some of those people will be temporarily staying in a parking lot at the Juvenile Justice Center on Pythian Road. Meanwhile, the fate of Sonoma Developmental Center’s 945 acres of surplused state property is of paramount interest to Sonoma Valley residents.
These issues have been dominant for the district for many years.
“I know how to fix roads,” Cook said, referring to his General Contractor’s license and to the million dollars per year the City of Sonoma has put into raising the quality of their city roads to second best in the county, behind the newest city of Windsor. He also cited his experience as a volunteer firefighter in Kenwood and Glen Ellen as proof that he can fix the county’s fire protection issues. “I know how to fight fires,” he said.
While the candidates were civil at all times and did not resort to personal attacks or anything close to it, Gorin took exception to Cook’s assertion that not enough has been done for either fire prevention or road repairs.
“While 2017 overwhelmed our systems, the Kincade fire certainly did not,” she said. “The county was well prepared and did a magnificent job of coping with the largest fire we’ve ever had. No lives were lost, and the fire was contained before reaching densely populated areas.”
She also contrasted the county’s extensive road system – one of the largest in California – with the share of road tax we get – one of the lowest in the state.
“We have 266 miles of road in this district and I’ve been told it would cost $290 million to fix all of them,” Gorin said. “We get $9 million a year to do it. Tell me where the money is coming from.”
Cook seemed to ignore funding issues when discussing the fate of Highway 37 as well. While agreeing with Gorin that the east-west connector at the top of San Pablo Bay is vital, his take was, “It’s time to stop talking about it and just do it.” The major highway touches on Solano, Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties; several studies have concluded that replacing it will cost over a billion dollars.
With rising ocean levels, several regional studies have all found that the roadway must be elevated. Not fixing it could completely disrupt traffic throughout the Bay Area, Gorin noted. She has worked with all four counties during her tenure and does not see any easy or inexpensive alternatives on the horizon.
According to the candidates’ most recent required financial filings on Jan. 24, Cook has raised $700 to date and has $107 cash on hand, while Gorin has received $4,260 this year and has a total of $37,979 cash on hand. She has spent $6,129 so far, while Cook has spent $609.
A videotape of the event will be posted on the LWV website at 7. Cook’s Facebook page is www.facebook.com/davidcookforsupervisor/, and Gorin’s campaign site is at www.susan-gorin.com/.
Sonoma County’s First Supervisorial District covers much of eastern Santa Rosa, rural areas northeast of the city, and south through Sonoma Valley, the City of Sonoma to the San Pablo Bay, bordering on Napa and Solano counties to the east. There are over 95,000 people in the district, forming 46,000 households.