Saturday, January 20, 2007

RRROC's 60th Meeting Part I: Background Info & What's the Problem?

I went to the sparsely-attended 60th meeting of the RRROC (Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee) on January 18 at the Guerneville Veterans Hall & ... once again ... discovered that not much seems to be getting accomplished. I know for sure that we cannot blame this unfortunate state of affairs on our dedicated, hard-working & highly knowledgeable -- & locally elected -- RRROC members. So what's the problem?

It is my personal & highly unqualified opinion that two main factors are to blame for the Russian River Redevelopment Project's lack of progress:

  1. Unfortunately, it is fairly typical for government & community projects to slowly surge forward at the utterly glacial pace of a herd of banana slugs stampeding through fields of molasses -- even when everyone involved pursues the same vision & seeks to cooperate with one another. Procedures must be observed or set in place; input from various sectors of the community needs to be gathered; feasibility studies must be conducted; budgets must be created; contractor bids must be sought & reviewed; unintended potential consequences are pointed out & require further study, etc.

    Alas, even the less-than-ideal scenario that I describe -- in which everyone works as a team striving to overcome the cumbersome but inevitable hurdles required by a functioning democracy in order to keep moving in the same direction -- does not seem to be happening here;

  2. I strongly suspect that the Sonoma County CDC (Community Development Commission)'s interests vastly differ from those of RRROC -- which represents River Rats & Rattinas like me, who actually live, work & do business here in the Russian River Redevelopment zone. It's only natural for the County to care about increasing our tax base via the sorts of bells & whistles that would attract tourism & higher-end development. Meanwhile, many of us River folks feel ambivalent about gentrification &/or care about more mundane stuff, like parks, speed-bumps, "crystal meth", the effects of environmental degradation, & getting the Permit Resource Management Department (PRMD) to stop red-tagging our homes for stuff we can't afford to fix -- or at least make the permit & inspection processes more transparent.

For those of you who do not know (actually, I don't know much either, but I'm trying to learn awfully fast), the CDC has hoarded a huge stash of money for re-investing local property tax dollars in the communities from whence these funds came throughout Sonoma County. The RRROC was created in July 2000 in response to local concerns (and -- according to some long-time residents I know -- local outrage) in regards to the CDC's redevelopment plans for our community.

I plan to conduct more research & interviews in regards to the Russian River Redevelopment Project & the ongoing & conflicted relationship between the CDC & RRROC. I promise to share this information with you -- my readers (do I even have any readers?) -- & will post my insights & discoveries & invite you to share in my process of digesting this information via reader-comments. In the meantime, please bear with me.

Here is what I think I know: The RRROC is composed of locally elected members who represent various interests in our community. Here, along the bucolic & mostly Caucasian banks of the Russian River, these interests are fairly simple & consist of: Property owners, business owners, & resident non-property owners.

However, the Russian River does have a fair amount of diversity compared to the rest of Sonoma County, including lots of GLBTs (gay, lesbian, etc.), a sizeable Latino population, a handful of other ethnic groups & immigrants, a significant number of homeless folks (working families who've fallen on bad luck & couch-surf &/or live out of their cars, as well as the more stereotypical characters who are considered to be mentally ill & chronically homeless by the standards of modern society), etc.

RRROC members make strong efforts to gather & represent the views of these various contingents, & serve on various committees which have been determined as important to our community via procedures which I do not yet understand -- including Affordable Housing; Strategic Planning, Infrastructure, Communications, Spring Clean-Up (in which all trash, hazardous waste, defunct vehicles, etc. are collected free of charge & with no questions asked), Elections, & even the construction of Public Restrooms (we don't have any, but most of the local businesses are extremely kind in this regard, thank Gawd).

The RRROC meetings take place on the third Thursday of every month, at 7:00pm, & the location alternates between the Veteran's Hall in Guerneville & the Koret Club in Monte Rio. Everyone is invited & encouraged to attend. The format of the meetings resembles that of panel discussions. If anyone bothers to read this, I fervently urge you to attend. It's hard to get excited when nothing seems to be getting done, but our community's future is at stake & perhaps some items on the agenda should NOT get done.

The RRROC meetings often seem boring & appear to accomplish nothing whatsoever, but we still NEED TO KEEP GOING TO THESE MEETINGS. The County -- which controls the funds provided with our property taxes -- does not necessarily hold our best interests at heart.

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