Our experience with the Neighborhood Alliance (NA) was that my partner found out about it when she had been president of the largest neighborhood association in the city for about 2 months. She asked former president Jenny Bard where the meetings were and said that she wanted to represent our neighborhood since she was clearly a ‘neighborhood leader’ and this group purported to be made up of such people. Jenny Bard refused to tell her and said she wanted to continue to represent the neighborhood. John Sutter was the chair of the NA at the time. I called him and asked where the meetings were held and he initially refused to tell me, saying that the meetings were private. After I talked with him for a while he said proudly that the NA was ‘the shadow city council’ and finally gave us the address. They met in a back room at Keller-Williams Realty offices over on Stony Point.
Kay and I went over to the meeting and were coldly brought into a room with John Sutter, Jack Swearingen, Jim Wilkinson, Judy Kennedy, Fred Kruger, Jenny Bard, Denise Hill, Karen Macken, and a couple of others who were there 'representing' their neighborhoods. They decided that we could be there for the first couple of items on the agenda but would have to leave.
Then my partner was attacked systematically by each person for as long as that person wanted to speak. She objected saying it seemed to be a trial of some kind, a kangaroo court. She and I were each given one minute to respond, and John Sutter, as chair, took off his watch and placed it in front of him on the table so that he could be sure not to give us more than one minute. We spoke calmly and articulately about our concerns, Kay’s as a neighborhood leader, and mine as an American. After we spoke we were told to leave and we were escorted out and the door was locked behind us.
This group was not open to the public and was not open to all neighborhood leaders. It was a travesty and a shameful embarrassment to all who participated. I was stunned that such a group purporting to represent all neighborhoods in Santa Rosa could operate in this country in this manner.
By using these few people to represent the entire city, the local government can say that they have community buy-in when they want to push through a land use plan or a new policy that wouldn't be popular. By putting the word out to these hand-picked so-called leaders, the city can manipulate the public and sideline those real citizens who come forward to object.