June 17, 2019
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Mackenzie leaves SMART

By: Joshua Farestveit-Moore
January 25, 2019

The Rohnert Park City Council stripped Council-member Jake Mackenzie of his position on the Sonoma Marin Rail Transit (SMART) Advisory Board Tues., Jan. 22 just a few weeks after their criticism of his decision to support the CASA Compact. 

The CASA Compact is a proposal put forth by the Committee to House the Bay Area (CASA) that aims to increase California’s supply of affordable housing. It proposes to do this through a combination of laws that raise taxes, puts a cap on rent and limits city control over local zoning. 

That’s a grossly oversimplified explanation. In short, though, it’s not something the rest of the Rohnert Park City Council seems to be in favor of, and Mackenzie, acting as their representative to CASA, signed the compact back in Dec. without consulting them. At the last council meeting the rest of the Rohnert Park City Council rebuked Mackenzie strongly for his decision. 

“In every other meeting you’re in you give us reports and say, ‘I’m going to be voting on this.’ We didn’t hear nothing until it was voted on,” Vice Mayor Joseph Callinan said at last week’s meeting. “Personally I think you may have been on these committees way too long. Maybe it’s time for change. Change is always good. I’m very disappointed that you support the CASA Compact.”

The council opted not to renew Mackenzie’s appointment as the city’s representative to the Sonoma County Transit Authority (SCTA). They chose instead to send Vice Mayor Joseph Callinan with a substantial 4-1 majority vote—Mackenzie as the sole dissenting voice. The loss of the position leaves Mackenzie ineligible for his other seat on the SMART Advisory Board and that’s devastating because his involvement with SMART goes all the way back to the organization’s beginning. Throughout his life Mackenzie stood as a staunch supporter of public transportation, couched in his 30 years of service to the EPA. 

He did not appreciate council’s actions. 

“I regard what has happened this evening as a slight to my service for the City of Rohnert Park and my service on the SMART board since its inception. This has clearly been done deliberately,” Mackenzie said. “I don’t want anybody to be under any misapprehension that I feel very strongly in this matter.”

Despite the coincidental timing and Mackenzie’s protests, Callinan insisted that replacing Mackenzie was not a punitive act. 

“I am in no way trying to penalize anyone, Callinan said. “When I was mayor five years ago I wanted to be on the SCTA. I was talked out of it by our city manager at the time because Mackenzie was our representative. I regret that.”

On the other side of town, the Cotati City Council had no such compunctions. They criticized the CASA Compact and nominated Santa Rosa’s Vice Mayor Chris Rogers and Cloverdale Council-member Melanie Bagby to the SMART Advisory Board, voicing opposition to Mackenzie as the incumbent. 

The council also granted Cotati Mayor John Dell’Osso leeway to abstain at the Mayors and Council-member Association from voting for positions where Mackenzie was the only name on the ticket.

“Normally the two people who would usually be easy votes, Jake Mackenzie and Julie Comes, have both voted to move this forward to the legislature, bypassing any meaningful input by the city councils,” Cotati Council-member Mark Landman said. “If there was competition then I just might well be supportive of that, but we don’t have competition.”

“We do have a choice in the SMART picks. We have a chance to send a clear message,” Landman continued.

Mackenzie did manage to hold on to his nomination to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). Belforte and Council-member Pam Stafford joined Mackenzie in a slim 3-2 majority.

The end of the meeting arrived a few minutes later. It’d been a long one. The audience filed out of the buildings. Mackenzie got into his car and left his term with SMART Advisory Board behind.