A buoyant 2013 awaits RP City Manager Gabe Gonzalez
He works with same council for at least the next two years
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By Jud Snyder  January 4, 2013 12:00 am

Gabriel Gonzalez was chosen Rohnert Park’s City Manager in August 2010. His city hall office is bare-walled except for a pen and ink drawing of a deteriorating barn.

No photos of family or children, no grip and grin photos of Gabe with  renowned legislators or Hollywood stars, no honorary certificates or commendations emblazoned with gold seals.

There’s just the drawing placed there a few months after he moved in.

It’s like the bare walls testify here’s a business office with no distractions except for a coffee cup and a few homemade cookies on a paper plate for a reporter, courtesy of secretary Beth Lidster.

Better yet, Gonzalez is a type practically oozing confidence and has no need for framed documents, for he really occupies the office space in all senses of the word.

You can understand why. He’s got a city council to provide direction with the same three faces he worked with more than two years ago, including a mayor (Pam Stafford) who’s already served a mayoralty term. She, Jake Mackenzie and Joe Callinan both picked Gonzalez as did Gina Belforte, another former mayor, making Amy Ahanotu the only “newcomer.” (Guess who could be vice-mayor next December when Callinan will probably (at this point) be named mayor?).

It’s not a city council transition in a true sense. It’s more like skiing down a slope, getting in line for the ski tow, and then coming down the same slope.

The slope has changed. When Gonzalez came aboard, RP had a $9 million debt, an abysmal figure causing whispers of munici-
pal bankruptcy. The figure is now $2.2 million. Gonzalez doesn’t claim credit, he’s lavish with praise for city hall staff, Dept. of Public Safety’s self-inflicted reductions, Public Works Dept. budget-slashing, plus same belt-tightening trimmings at the Community, Spreckels and Sports centers.

Gonzalez pointed out all this was accomplished in spite of the state wiping out the city’s redevelopment agency and taking the millions of dollars in a try to solve Sacramento’s awesome debt. That hurt the city.

Yes, peeling down the deficit was a citywide accomplishment. But it still needed some one in the city manager’s office to look at all the figures, pass judgments on the impact of the cut and trim decisions.

On the surface it looks like a smooth 2013. But Gonzalez knows there’ll be bumps in the road.

“With the Green Music Center well on its way, the University District Specific Plan must begin to take shape. It’s right across the street, there’ll be a traffic light, and a commercial center with a hotel and boutique shops,” he said.

Graton Tribe MOU takes effect in 2014

“Near the western end of RPX the Graton Tribe casino is rapidly taking shape. But our share of the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) doesn’t come into play until 2014. It’s too early to say if Station Casino’s going to build a resort hotel here. We have to remember that the State gets its share of gambling revenue first and other tribes and then the city. The tribe’s confident it can handle all this without disturbing the existing MOU. All we can do is wait until a year from now, after Wilfred Avenue gets rebuilt, and see what we can do to handle traffic.”

One of his favorite mottos is “if the money’s not in our bank, we don’t spend it.”  Maybe the words should be crocheted and hung on one of his bare office walls.

“All of us are aware of the pension and health benefit plans for retirees. We’ve worked out a long-term financial plan to cope with this over the next five or 10 years. And we’re not counting on getting any money from the state for the next few years.”
Gonzalez grew up in Santa Cruz, where his father still lives, and came to RP from the Central Valley city of Mendota where he was city manager. Relaxing in a folding chair, he said, “You know, I enjoy this job. I’ve always had a true passion for this work.
“Having the same city council for more than four years is nothing new for me. When I was city manager in Mendota, the same sort of council continuation was fairly common.”

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