On Sept. 3, Mayor Pam Stafford of Rohnert Park visited the STAR class for an exclusive Q&A session with the staff and helped to clear up much of the controversy surrounding various topics such as the 120-day ordinance and Greek housing.
STAR: What is the hardest part about being mayor?
STAFFORD: The hardest part is talking to angry people. Especially angry people who don’t have their facts together. You do what you have to do, it’s just like anything, you just make it happen.
STAR: What made you want to be involved in politics?
STAFFORD: I always felt like I might want to do something like this. I’d helped on campaigns since the late 70s, I’ve helped on school bonds and people’s campaigns for office. When I moved to Rohnert Park people just asked me to do these things and I got more involved in government and I got more interested in it.
STAR: As you know, in our Aug. 27 issue, a STAR editorial addressed the city council’s decision to bring the ordinance to the floor as well as vote to double the penalties for unruly parties. Why was it that the 120-day ordinance was labeled as an ‘urgency ordinance,’ and why was it voted on before most of the SSU student body was back on campus?
STAFFORD: It came out of the number of calls our police department was getting. Our police chief thought that it was something that needed to be addressed. An urgency ordinance just means we aren’t going to take six months to get it done. The biggest issue was the same people having the same parties. Move them around, don’t keep having them in the same houses every 61 days.
Stafford went on to explain that the ordinance was not designed to specifically target SSU students, and that the rules apply to everyone in Rohnert Park.
STAR: What has been the feedback so far?
STAFFORD: Lots of happy calls and happy citizens.
STAR: Do you think that if the police department sees a decrease in party calls that they may lower the penalty period?
STAFFORD: Part of it is going to be the statistics, what they see as a result of the ordinance; a decrease in the number of calls the police officers receive – if there’s a big decrease then they may see that it is working. However, to go back to 60 days at this point would probably be difficult, but we don’t want to ratchet it up any more and we don’t want to fine people.
STAR: Is it true that SSU can’t have Greek housing because of a Rohnert Park law that designates any house with more than six females as a brothel?
STAFFORD: The first time I ever heard about that was when I read about it in the Community Voice the other week. [There is] absolutely nothing like that at all, it does not exist. The only reason Greek housing doesn’t exist is because of Sonoma State. I used to have a TKE house near me and they were great. The only way that [designated student housing] could happen is if the property owners did it, the city doesn’t own any of that land.
Stafford explained that in the past SSU did have Greek housing, but that she believes that eventually the school administration decided to eliminate it.
STAR: Why has Rohnert Park decided not to join the Sonoma Clean Power program at this time?
STAFFORD: Rohnert Park has not yet voted to join SCP. One of the reasons was that we felt we didn’t have enough information, there wasn’t enough facts about the cost, we didn’t have enough staff to dedicate to getting that information.
STAR: Why can’t SSU choose to join SCP independently from Rohnert Park?
STAFFORD: SSU isn’t technically within the boundaries of Rohnert Park because the state of California owns it. So the CSU will have to decide whether SSU joins SCP.
STAR: Can you tell us about the new housing development, Brookfield Homes?
STAFFORD: It’s a multi-faceted development, again with private people owning it. It’s been annexed to the city of Rohnert Park, and it’s all types of housing. There will be parks, there will be a shopping area that was originally designed more west of the Green Music Center, but now will be directly across from the GMC. There may be a hotel, but all different types of housing, from apartments to what they call estate housing.
STAR: When will construction begin?
STAFFORD: They’ve been having some geology issues and so they probably will start sometime next year.
STAR: What preparations have you made for the incoming Graton Resort and Casino?
STAFFORD: We’ve had to transfer people in the police department to motorcycles because we’re expecting a lot of traffic issues. It’s mitigating the traffic that we see being an issue as a result of the casino; especially at the beginning it’s going to be tough.
Pam Stafford was elected as mayor in Dec. 2012 and has served on the Rohnert Park City Council since 2006. Stafford has lived in the area for 36 years.