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Rohnert Park Ripples by Jud Snyder - January 2017

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Rohnert Park Ripples by Jud Snyder - January 2017

Thumbs up OK signal for Downtown Rohnert Park

We heard it straight from the incoming mayor, Jake Mackenzie when he was sworn in as Mayor for the sixth time in his 20 years on the Rohnert Park City Council. As part of his message Dec. 13 he said, in a packed council chambers. “We must have a Downtown Rohnert Park.”

Jake’s no Donald Trump who creates statements and then quickly disposes of them like a used Kleenex. Jake’s been working on a Downtown RP for at least a decade frustrated by one city crisis after another including threatened bankruptcy. He’s also on the SMART commute train board of directors and admits loud train whistles at road crossings are a crucial dilemma for the railroad. You remember “Quiet Zones” don’t you? Readers of my Coffee Grounds op ed column every week in The Community Voice are kept up to date.

One thing Mackenzie didn’t mention is that a new train depot, like Cotati has, is needed to replace the inadequate, not very weatherproof platform it currently has. But you can bet it will come up for discussion early next April or May when rail passenger schedules begin.

It’s becoming more obvious that the success of a Downtown RP depends on an updated rail depot for the SMART passenger trains. A real depot will serve as an anchor for a real Downtown RP. The train is not going to simply quit the rail business and leave everything behind. Already there’s talk about moving the city’s corporation yard to another site and turning it into a parking lot for commuters. 

The long-term vision of a commute train serving as an anchor for diverse businesses such as Starbuck’s, Trader Joe’s and True Value Hardware to occupy Downtown RP is a vision gaining a bit of undeniable solidity. 

As far as Quiet Zones are concerned, there’s been talk of a quiet zone from north of Petaluma to Rohnert Park, if, and it’s a big IF, the railroad and have crossing gates, bells and whistles at all the roads it crosses. This is an expensive project as we know by the money spent in downtown Penngove to create a safe crossing. Who’s going to pay for quiet zone crossings? 

And with Measure 64 winning voter approval including RP, does this mean people will be planting marijuana gardens adjacent to railroad tracks?  This is a potential problem the railroad might be facing.

The only sure thing to keep an eye on in 2017 is how Mackenzie and  the rest of the city council will cope with this year. For the federal rail authorities back in Washington D.C. have rules that are running counter to what RP’s City Council has in mind. 

And does anyone have any idea what the new occupants of the White House have in mind concerning subsidizing rail travel in small cities like Rohnert Park? 

Donald Trump and his selection of generals and admirals do not seem to be leaning in the same direction that small cities like RP would appreciate.

We must keep vigilant for this year is shaping up to be for all of us to keep a sharp eye on what these new developments that affect every citizen, homeowner or renter, has in store for us.

Who knows? Maybe there’s even hope for a few acres of a Demonstration Rohnert Seed Farm on the north side of RP Expressway.