David Cook is the owner of Cook Vineyard Management and has been a Sonoma resident for the past 17 years. Cook was born in Willows, grew up on the family farm and ran the farm until he was 29, when he sold it and moved to Sonoma. Cook started his management company in 2003. He has been a mentor with the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance for the past two years and is the vice president of the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce board.
List the top three issues confronting Sonoma and how you would address them.
Cook: The city budget, water and adult and youth activities.
Measure J increases the sales tax and I endorsed it to fill holes left by redevelopment. I want to make sure the money goes for what it’s supposed to go for, roads and redevelopment projects. The TID (Tourism Improvement District) will use money for marketing, which in turn will raise our (hotel) occupancy rate, which means an increase in TOT (transient occupancy tax) which means more money for the city.
On water, I support new technology and water conservation, but we need to look at more storage capacity. We need to look at rainwater harvesting and a long-term strategy for desalinisation. We’re using our drinking water to water our lawns. The Sonoma Community Center is using rainwater harvesting for landscaping purposes.
For adult and youth activities, I’d like to see a city-sponsored website run by nonprofits and businesses to make information available on what’s going on, such as tryouts for youth sports. There should also be a way to have people sponsor low-income children because I believe there’s a lot of kids who can’t play sports because their parents can’t afford it. But it should be the city partnering with nonprofits and businesses.
What leadership would you provide for building a community swimming pool?
Cook: I think to have a pool, we’re going to need an outside source. The city isn’t financially capable of building and operating a pool. But the city should support it through the permitting process. We need to partner with nonprofits and businesses. The council revisits the pool about every six months and I support continuing that. Maybe as part of the website I proposed, people could pledge money to the pool. I understand why it can’t be at a school, because of the hour and school safety. But I consider it a priority and would like to see a pool built by the end of my term. There are a lot of people working hard on it.
How should we finance street maintenance without the annual $850,000 redevelopment money we lost?
Cook: Through the budget and money from Measure J. With Measure J, if people shop locally, there would be extra money available for road and street maintenance. I want the money to be directed to where it’s needed. Even the city should keep its business within the city.
Do you agree with the ban on dogs in all city parks?
Cook: I agree with the current city position. It makes sense, especially for the Plaza, for both locals and tourists. But we need more and bigger dog parks. The current dog park is too small for dogs to run. As Montini gets developed, I’d like to see a dog run between Montini and the Field of Dreams.
What steps would you take to stimulate business development?
Cook: As vice president of the chamber, I think we need a business-friendly council. I was on the committee looking at chain stores and I didn’t want the committee to use the words “ban” or “prohibit,” in the language. We need to look for “mom-and-pop” stores to come to Sonoma. And we need to look at streamlining the permitting process to show how business-friendly we are. People are getting turned away before they get started.
We need to talk about business all time. We need to shop locally and partner with the chamber. We have to talk to the merchants on the Plaza about activities on the Plaza. There needs to be communication between the nonprofits and businesses. When the economy turned down, the community came together to make sure we could help each other out.
Should the City Council debate issues that aren’t strictly local?
Cook: We don’t live on an island. We can write letters on certain issues that affect us, but we shouldn’t overstep our bounds. If it’s something that will help Sonoma, the answer would be “yes.” I’m all for that. We have to balance that with what’s needed – and the council has done a good job of doing that.
Would you have supported the Tourism Improvement District?
Cook: Yes, I would have voted for it. And I would have voted for it the first time it came before the council six months earlier. Look at the revenue that was lost in that six months. It took the loss of redevelopment money to get the council to act.
Would you have voted with the council not to raise water rates?
Cook: I support the council decision not to raise the rate right now. We need to have a study group look at this. Our water infrastructure is failing. We need to go back to the supervisors to see why water rates keep going up. We may need to look at other agencies to see if we can cut the cost of water delivery. We’re at the end of the pipeline with only three days storage. We need more water storage capability whether that means another tank or looking at the lakes at SDC. But this is the wrong time to raise rates. An extra $15 to $20 a month is a lot of money. I look at my mentee’s family struggles.
What’s the last book you read?
Cook: “Molokai” by Alan Brennert.
Who’s your hero?
Cook: My dad. He died when I was 15. He came from a poor family and built a very good living for his family. His dad died when he was 9. He’s my hero and mentor.
What do you do for fun?
Cook: Kayaking and abalone diving. Anything with water. I love sea kayaking in the Bay … and I’ve swam under the Golden Gate 10 times.