Cotati Council will fill vacancy and take another look-see at sales tax and election ballot
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By Jud Snyder  November 12, 2009 10:51 am

It’s apparent Cotati’s City Council will simply appoint someone to fill the vacancy when Mayor John Guardino resigned two weeks ago. City Manager Dianne Thompson provided a timetable to accept applications between now and Wednesday Nov. 18. The council will sift through ‘em and pick one in a public meeting Thursday Nov.19.
Not every one was in favor of appointing someone.
“I support a special election with a sales tax measure on the same ballot,” said Mike Sheehan. “I don’t want to see a council crony, buddy or neighbor picked. The city is divided over this recall.”
But it got a little more complicated when Councilman George Barich brought up the same subject of another special election for putting a sales tax measure combined with a vote for the existing council vacancy instead of four members simply naming one.
“I’m not in favor of a sales tax increase,” said Barich. “A lot of people haven’t been heard on this.”
He wondered if a council majority could place this on a ballot along with a vote on the council vacancy. City Attorney Rich Rudnansky reminded the council the council would still have to vote to declare a “fiscal emergency” to do this. They tried it back in August but it needed a unanimous and Barich voted against it. Odds are it will require another try for a unanimous council vote.
There’s a “sub-complication” here. Barich is up for recall in a special election Nov. 17. If he’s recalled, it will mean another council appointment or a special election. There are three candidates running for Barich’s seat if he’s recalled: Susan Harvey, Linell Hardy and Eric Kirchmann. Presumably the top vote-getter could be named to fill Barich’s seat. Each special election costs the city $22,000, according to Thompson’s estimate.
There was talk about a March or June ballot, either one would cost $22,000. The only “free” one would the November 2, 2010 regular election.
Then there was the matter of timing. State election regulations have a timetable between the announcement of an election and the actual vote. There are both minimum and maximum days.
After much discussion between the council, Thompson and Rudnansky, it was decided a lot of research is needed to clarify the rules. The council voted unanimously to have Thompson bring back a staff report to point out state ramifications dealing with fiscal emergencies and special election rules.
The Veterans Day holiday Nov. 11 had city hall closed for its regular meeting night. The agenda merely scheduled procedures for replacing Guardino, but the fiscal emergency and suggestions for voting on a city council vacancy took up much of the time.
Vice-Mayor Robert Coleman-Senghor tried to keep the discussion focused on this. Earlier in the meeting he suggested that public comments be limited and attempts should be made to keep the council on track with the written agenda. This didn’t sit well with Barich who didn’t want restrictions on public or council comments. But the council voted 3-1 to try and tighten up meetings. The Oct. 28 session wasn’t gaveled to a close until 12:43 am.
No timeline was given on the Thompson-Rudnansky assignment. Coleman-Senghor said, “We will discuss it when we get it.”

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