What is Santa Rosa Together?

Santa Rosa Together is a diverse and non-partisan group of volunteers community leaders working together to get more citizens engaged, give everyone a voice and role, and improve the way we work together in our city. 

Why was Santa Rosa Together formed?

We believe that our ability to meet our challenges and create a great city depends ultimately on our ability to engage and tap the talents of all of our citizens, find common ground, and work together.  We are concerned that too many of our citizens feel like they do not have a voice and role in the city.  We are concerned that our governments and community institutions are not doing enough to support and partner with citizens and their organizations.  We are concerned that not enough of us, as citizens, are engaged and taking responsibility for our neighborhoods and city.  And, we are concerned that our politics, following broader national trends, has become more adversarial and that we are losing our ability to find the common ground we need to move forward.  All of us would prefer a better way to work together, but we have too often taken the current way of doing things as a given.  We formed Santa Rosa Together because we are convinced that we can and need to do better.  We formed Santa Rosa together not because we have all the answers, but because we believe that if we work together we can find a way to create a democracy in our city that comes closer to our ideals, a democracy that works to include everyone in the decisions and work of the city. 

Who is a part of Santa Rosa Together and how did we get started?

Santa Rosa Together, with over 150 members and growing, is a broad coalition of volunteer city residents representing all sectors of our city.  Members include neighborhood and community leaders, city and county elected officials and staff, business, NGO, and youth leaders.  Santa Rosa Together includes representatives from the Community Advisory board, the Neighborhood Alliance, the Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy, the Santa Rosa School District, Faith-based organizations, the Community Action Partnership, St. Joseph’s Health, Cinco de Mayo, and youth and neighborhood organizations.

Santa Rosa Together members met three Saturday mornings at Cook Middle School in the fall of 2013 and winter of 2014 to launch this effort.   These three meetings gave everyone a chance to share experiences, build relationships, create a shared vision, form teams, and develop an action plan for the first steps to increase citizen engagement and improve the way we work together in our city.  Our shared vision, teams, and action plan are included below.

What is our vision for Santa Rosa?

  • Santa Rosa has a strong democratic culture of mutual respect, dialogue, and inclusion that has improved our city’s ability to work together and address concerns.  Everyone’s voice and contribution are valued and encouraged and our mutual respect for each other supports our efforts to find common ground.  All segments of our community are equally valued, fully engaged, and playing leading roles in the development of a strong and healthy city.  Santa Rosa is known across the world for it democratic institutions and culture.
  • A large number of city residents are organized and actively engaged in setting the direction and doing the work to create a great city.  We are a city with a strong foundation of organized neighborhoods and communities where we get to know each other, take responsibility, and learn how to work together and take action to build strong communities and a strong city 
  • Our governments and elected officials understand the importance of broad community engagement, support the organization of residents, and partner with residents and their organizations to make important decisions and to accomplish shared goals.
  • Our city’s business, religious, and social organizations contribute resources and services to support resident engagement and partner with residents and their organization to accomplish shared goals.
  • Santa Rosa has developed and institutionalized creative new ways to make it easier for citizens to become informed, learn from each other, and participate meaningfully in the decisions and work that will shape our city.  Our new ways of engaging people give them real power and responsibility and bring the decision process and work to our neighborhoods, schools, and churches to make it possible for everyone to participate meaningfully.

What are the first steps we are working on to reach our goals?

We recognize that the work to increase citizen engagement and improve the way we work together in our city will require a long term effort with real change on all sides.  To get started, Santa Rosa Together identified some first steps and formed teams to begin the work.  Here are our teams and our first Action Plan:

Schools Team:  Will work with Santa Rosa School District to help the common core teams that will meet in the fall to include civic engagement as a central part of the new curriculum.

Government Team:  Will actively support and work with the Open Government Task Force to help them develop recommendations for civic engagement.

Citizen engagement team:  Will work to help ensure that the annexation of Roseland is done in a way that promotes trust across the city and to ensure that the residents of Roseland have a strong and organized voice in the annexation process.

Youth Team: Will work to create a forum to give youth a strong voice and role in the city.

Cross Sector Team: Will create an opportunity for the different sectors of the city to come together and get to know each other and begin to build the trust we need to work together.

Steering Committee:  Will organize a Civic Engagement Speaker Series to bring information from across the country to Santa Rosa about the best practices for improving engagement and the ability to work together so that we can learn from other cities that are doing work similar to ours.

Who should join?

In the democracy we are trying to create, everyone’s voice is important, so we need volunteers from all parts of our community.  We all have to take on this responsibility and participate in this effort if it is going to work.  All of us are working on important issues facing our communities, but we have to remember that any real effort to address our challenges requires engaged residents who know how to find common ground and work together.  Improving our basic capacity to work together is everyone’s job.  Contact us and we will meet with you to answer your questions and help you get involved.  To reach us contact one of the following members of the Steering Committees: Pat Kuta (pkuta@sonic.net), Lawrence Lehr (llehr@allstate.com), or Hank Toper (hanktopper@gmail.com).

Santa Rosa Together Project Committees

Open Government:  Will actively support and work with the City to implement the recommendations of the Open Government Task Force for greater civic engagement.

Chair: Renee Riggs

Neighborhood Engagement:   Will identify and work with  emerging neighborhood leaders throughout Santa Rosa to strengthen the voices of residents on matters of policy and program operations.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Chair:  Ginny Doyle

 Affordable Homes for All: Will create an opportunity for residents of the different neighborhoods and sectors of the city to come together to plan and shape the housing needs of the City.

Co-Chairs: Mike Cook  and HankTopper

Steering Committee:  Will partner with the City to bring knowledge and experiences to the Councilmembers and the staff to improve and expand the services delivered to residents.

Co-Chairs:  Pat Kuta and  Lawrence Lehr