|The stories that shaped 2013
Casino opening, Cal Ripken stars highlight past year
Compiled by Dave Williams
Every year brings a different array of stories that has a lasting impact on its area. It was no different in 2013. The Community Voice has listed what it believes to be the Top 10 stories of 2013. You may agree or disagree, but here goes:
1. Graton Resort & Casino opens: Despite boisterous opposition and several court challenges over the years, the Graton Resort & Casino opened on Nov. 5. The $800 million, 340,000 square feet gambling facility drew thousands on opening day and snarled traffic most of the day. So many people arrived for the casino opener that it had to shutter its doors because of the overflow crowd. Two casinos to the north (River Rock in Geyserville and Sho-Ka-Wah in Hopland) benefitted from the overflow crowd. River Rock also had to close its doors because of the large crowd while the Hopland casino saw a 30 percent increase in business that day.
2. Anne Frank sapling: Sonoma State University on April 14 held a ceremony in honor of planting what has now come to be known as the Anne Frank Sapling, a seedling of the tree Frank would look at outside her window. The ceremony was a public event, where students, community members, international friends and Holocaust survivors alike were invited to listen to nine key-note speakers and to personally participate in the planting of the sapling. “This is such a meaningful event and place that it is deeply shared and will inspire students for many years,” said speaker Dr. Myrna Goodman, director of Sonoma State’s Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide. “Even such small things like this little sapling can inspire great things.” For the past three years, the young tree had been in quarantine, under the care of Sam Youney, director of landscaping. The skinny but bushy sapling was planted in the Erna and Arthur Salm Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Grove, among a circle of formally donated trees. As is custom with Jewish funeral traditions, the hands of any who wished to help shovel the dirt planted the tiny tree.
3. Cotati alters fast-food ban ordinance: In an attempt to boost business in certain parts of the city, Cotati voted to allow more formula-based fast food restaurants (FBFFR) into the city. Cotati had a limit of eight fast food restaurants but voted to increase that total to 11. Two of the additional FBFFRs allowed will go on the Downtown Specific Plan and one on East Cotati. Gravenstein Highway (116) was not granted an additional FBFFR allowance because there already are four slotted but only one – Burger King – has been filled. Subway has applied for one of the spots on Gravenstein. Currently, Cotati has five formula-based businesses in operation.
4. Cotati tasing video goes viral: A video of officers from the Cotati Police Dept. entering a home and using a Taser on one of the residents went viral on YouTube, as nearly half a million people viewed it. Cotati Police dispatch received a call from a concerned citizen reporting a domestic disturbance in the 7000 block of Marsh Way. Upon arrival, officers heard a heated argument between residents James Wood, 33, and his wife, Jennifer, in the backyard of the residence. The officers attempted to contact the two who were arguing, but they ran inside and locked the door. The couple refused to allow officers to investigate the incident and would not allow them inside their home so officers could check on their well being. Officers forced entry into the residence and tased James Wood. The case is still pending trial.
5. Gabe Gonzalez steps down: In what can only qualify as a surprising move, RP City Manager Gabe Gonzalez left city hall to become city manager of Augusta, Kan., in November. His new post is in a city of nearly 10,000, slightly larger than Cotati. Gonzalez recently finished his third year as RP City Manager. He’s earned plaudits from the city council for his work in pulling Rohnert Park from the edge of bankruptcy when he started. The city had more than $6 million dollars in deficit finance and the economic picture wasn’t at all optimistic. But with the help of city employee unions, he slashed the deficit figures to a workable level, improved economic development and restored optimism to the city’s future. Darrin Jenkins has since been named RP’s city manager.
6. Local businesses close: Some of the most beloved businesses in Rohnert Park and Cotati either closed or are on the verge of closing. Some of the shuttered businesses include: The Apple Crate, a crafts store in Cotati; Tama Rama’s, a store where one could find snacks and ice cream; the Cotati Wine Bar; Brixx Pizza in Cotati; and the Friendly Kitchen in Rohnert Park. These types of businesses helped maintain some of the small-town charm so many covet.
7. Cal Ripken team wins Pacific Southwest Regional: Rohnert Park’s 9-under Cal Ripken All-Star baseball team captured the Pacific Southwest championship by going undefeated in the regional tournament in Utah during the summer. The All-Stars rallied from a 4-2 deficit in the sixth and final inning to knock off Elk Grove of the Sacramento area for the title. The RP stars, before the championship game, simply dominated as they outscored their opponents by a collective score of 84-24.
8. Measure A passes in RP: The turnout to vote for Measure A in November was light, but the results will have a big impact. The extension of the half-cent sales tax needed a simple majority and garnered 68.2 percent of the votes (3,840). A total of 1,792 (31.8 percent) voted against the measure. Measure A is merely an extension of Measure E, which RP voters approved in 2010, which raised the city’s sales tax rate to 8.75 percent.
9. Pat Gilardi steps down: It may have been one of the worst-kept secrets in local politics until Gilardi made it official in January that she was leaving the Cotati City Council to take a job as district director for newly elected County Supervisor Susan Gorin. Gilardi had been on the city council since she was appointed to her seat in 2000. She has served as Cotati’s mayor in 2004 and 2008, and she was vice-mayor in 2012. “It was difficult to walk away, yet at the same time, city’s in good place,” Gilardi said. “We have a wonderful council and staff, and that made decision a lot easier for me. A good time in my life to do this. When the results of election were announced, the thought first crossed my mind, so I decided to go through the application process.” John Moore was appointed to fill Gilardi’s vacancy.
10. Cotati turns 50: The City of Cotati celebrated its 50th anniversary of incorporation in style on July 13 with a day chock full of events and with the music of local favorite Pride and Joy. The city combined its anniversary with the annual Kids Day Celebration. The day also included a walking tour of the city hosted by Pru Draper.