To the surprise of no one, City Council member Tom Rouse was nominated and unanimously approved as the new mayor of Sonoma Monday night, and David Cook, completing his first year as a council member, was elected mayor pro tem.
That, notwithstanding the voiced objection of Councilmember Steve Barbose, who had earlier called on outgoing mayor Ken Brown to recuse himself from a vote Barbose insisted was tainted by Brown’s Nov. 16 announcement at a Sonoma Valley Hospital celebration, that Rouse and Cook would soon assume their mayoral duties.
Barbose, the only council member not present at the hospital event, objected at the next council meeting on Nov. 18 that Brown had violated the Brown Act by stating an opinion as a matter of fact, suggesting that the necessary deliberation to choose a new mayor had already taken place outside public purview.
Had that been the case, it would have constituted a violation of the Ralph A. Brown Open Meeting Law, which prohibits a group of legislators or public decision makers, constituting a majority of the body, from holding policy discussions outside a public meeting.
City Attorney Jeff Walter, however, responded to a City Council query that he did not believe Brown’s comments represented a Brown Act violation, and Brown himself insisted his words were innocently exuberant and that he had talked to no other council member about the issue before hand.
Barbose was not convinced, and he repeated his call for Brown to recuse himself during an interview after the Nov. 18 meeting. But during the Dec. 2 council reorganization, Barbose raised no objection when David Cook nominated Rouse and Brown participated in the unanimous vote of approval.
Following the vote, Rouse’s wife, Michelle, one of numerous family members and friends who came to witness the passing of the gavel, rose to the podium to tell her husband, “I’m very proud of you right now. I think you’ll make a wonderful mayor.”
Rouse then thanked his fellow council members “for entrusting me with this gavel for 2014,” and explained that his father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all served on city councils, one going on to serve as mayor and another becoming a county supervisor.
To the audience, Rouse reviewed the difficult days while the city confronted the economic downturn and experienced the political convulsion of Measure B. But, he said, “Let’s look toward the positive. We as a city have not had to compromise at all,” a reference to the city’s robust fiscal health as other cities have struggled with deficits and layoffs.
He told the community, “Get involved, be positive, join a commission. Come back together and move on.”
He urged the council to “be more efficient” with “shorter comments” and even suggested, when there are limited agendas for council meetings, some meetings might be eliminated. “If we don’t need to have a meeting, let’s not have it.”
Rouse recognized friends from as far away as Orlando, Fla., thanked his “former bosses” in the audience, and recognized the supportive relationship he has had with out-going mayor Ken Brown who, he said, “in the eyes of many in this community is mayor for life.”