Cotati taps Dell’Osso, Skillman for top posts
Council unanimously votes to amend city’s municipal code concerning selection of planning commissioners
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By Dave Williams  December 13, 2013 12:00 am

The Cotati City Council unanimously voted to elevate current Vice-Mayor John Dell’Osso to the position of mayor and Councilwoman Wendy Skillman to vice mayor at its meeting on Tuesday night.

Both will be sworn in at the next council meeting on Jan. 14, 2014. In Cotati, a mayor’s term lasts one year, and the council votes on a new mayor and vice mayor each December. Tuesday’s meeting was Mark Landman’s last as mayor, but if he’s still on the council in a few years, he’ll get another crack at it.

Dell’Osso’s ascension to mayor is no surprise, as the previous vice mayor almost always assumes the title the following year. Dell’Osso was appointed in May 2011 to fill the vacancy left by the untimely death of Robert Coleman-Senghor. He won a full four-year term in the election of November 2012.

He has been a Cotati resident since 1986 and has a long record for volunteering to various causes throughout Cotati and Sonoma County. Dell’Osso has worked for the National Park Service for more than 25 years.

Skillman also was elected to a four-year term in November 2012. She moved to Cotati in 2008 and soon was appointed to the Community and Environment Commission. She spent 3½ years on the commission, serving terms as secretary and vice chair. In early 2012, she was appointed to the planning commission, a position she subsequently gave up after winning a council seat.

Speaking of the planning commission, the council also voted to introduce an ordinance amending Chapter 2.16 of the Cotati Municipal Code. The amendment now requires nomination for planning commission appointments by individual council members to be ratified by the majority of the council.

The planning commission administers and implements land use policies established in accordance to the Cotati Municipal Code. Up until 2009, planning commissioners were appointed by the mayor then ratified by the rest of the council.

One of the people instrumental in voting for the change in 2009 was not in favor of the amendment to the municipal code and claims the council is taking the process back to the “dark ages.”

“The council did the right thing in 2009 by changing policy,” said former councilman George Barich, who voted for the change in 2009. “It was to have some fair representation of the total populace of this town, which is very diverse in their ideas of land use and planning. But you have a right to look at your policies, see if they’re working and amend them. In this case, I think you’re wrong.”

Barich claimed the council’s intent is to rid the planning commission of those whose politics tend to lean toward the Republican side, including current commissioner Stephen Onines, who has served on the commission for a number of years. In fact, Skillman reappointed him to the planning commission.

Outgoing Mayor Landman disagreed with Barich’s claim about the lack of diversity.

“With the quality of people Cotati continues to send forward to these chambers, I don’t see that (lack of diversity) being an issue,” Landman said.

Added John Moore, “I think it’s about transparency. The candidates come before us and answer questions, and everything’s out in the open and not behind closed doors. Also, city council positions, as I understand, are nonpartisan. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican, Democrat, socialist or communist…it doesn’t matter. It’s a nonpartisan issue. As far as addressing what was in place and going back to the dark ages, if you have a tendency to have people appointed who are of your particular political persuasion, there’s almost a contradiction there in terms of diversity.”

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