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August 16, 2017
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Cotati City Council votes to join Climates Mayors Initiative

By: Katheine Minkiewicz
July 28, 2017

Passing 5 to 0, the Cotati City Council voted at this week’s meeting to join the Climate Mayors Initiative, a network of over 300 U.S. mayors committed to supporting Paris Agreement goals by upholding emission reduction goals and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in local communities throughout the country.

All councilmembers expressed desire to be part of this significant measure that would further the city’s work in taking the initiative in being green and would affirm its support with the Paris Climate Agreements.

The mayors initiative was co-founded by the current mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston and several other large metropolitan city mayors, all of whom share the goal of, “committing U.S. mayors to working together to strengthen local efforts for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to supporting efforts for binding federal and global-level policy making,” according to climatemayors.com.

Cotati’s involvement with the Climate Mayors Agenda Initiative will include a number of steps to further achieve and reach the goal of reducing greenhouse gases, such as developing a GHG inventory for the community, creating long-term goals to help reduce car emissions and to establish a Climate Action Plan for the city, which are items that the city of Cotati is already working on in order to stay green, according to the agenda staff report by City Manager Damien O’Bid.

While there are no binding commitments in becoming a member of the mayors initiative, it is recommended that members of Climate Mayors take steps to help reduce emissions, according to the action agenda.

In addition to taking steps to help reduce local emissions, the Climate Mayors will also have the city participate in joint statements and calls with other cities to report on reduction progress, as well as to start local initiatives and ordinances, such as “Electric Vehicle RFI,” a mayor’s request for information on the use of electrified municipal transportation to further help the city be more environmentally friendly.

Mayor of Cotati Susan Harvey said of joining climate mayors, that it will be helpful to be part of this network of mayors since it can be hard for individual cities to do something on their own regarding climate change and being green. She also emphasized that this continuation of being green is important to not only the city but for future generations to have a healthy place to live.

“We can’t really do very much about what’s happening nationally and we can’t do very much about what is happening in the world — all we really have control over is what we can do here in Cotati, we’ve done a lot, but we have a way to go,” Harvey said. “Any contribution we can make… I certainly have grandchildren and I would like to see something left for them and hopefully their grandchildren. It is only us that can help make things better by doing things differently.”   

Vice Mayor Mark Landman shared a similar sentiment saying during the meeting he was happy to see the city’s desire to move forward with this initiative since he thinks the city could have taken quicker action in helping to combat climate change.

“As far as moving quickly, I actually brought this and asked for this to come because I was concerned we weren’t moving quickly enough. I had this concern that we disappointed really, that we weren’t leading on this, that other communities moved forward,” Landman said.

The initiative also received support from several Cotati citizens who were in attendance at the meeting, all of whom expressed thanks and encouragement to the council members for considering and voting on the matter.

Sierra Club member Tom Conoley of Rohnert Park, said during the public comment period, “I am here to speak in favor of the resolution, it is the least we can do at this point in time. Paris was widely recognized to be less than what might have been hoped as a global commitment… and the world continues to move forward. And speaking on behalf of the Sierra Club, we are committed to working with staff with elected officials throughout the county to raise everyone’s climate literacy.”  

However, there wasn’t full support from all city constituents attending the meeting. Former Cotati City Council member George Barich said he believes the city shouldn’t be a part of the collective of mayors and should spend their time and effort on other matters since according to him, “I think the handwriting is on the wall, I think this is just a big joke. Climate change is not science, this is religion. You all know it.”

Yet after his comment, three other residents in support of the initiative and resolution voiced thanks and enthusiasm for the agenda item.

Climate mayors were established and began coordinating with one another in 2015, where they originally only had 75 members, however after President Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement last month, climate mayors grew to around 357 members.

City Manager Damien O’Bid said he initially became interested in having the city join the climate mayors due to the fact the city has a long history in supporting emission reduction goals.

“It is a good point in time to reaffirm the city’s commitment to greenhouse gas reduction goals,” O’Bid said. 

Currently, there are already four Sonoma County mayors who are part of the initiative, including Mayor Shaun McCaffery of Healdsburg, Mayor David Glass of Petaluma, Mayor Chris Coursey of Santa Rosa and Mayor Debora Fudge of the town of Windsor.  

The resolution in the agenda item would move to uphold the same reduction efforts that the city has already stipulated, such as a 20 percent citywide reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in city operations as well as 25 percent community wide reduction.

It would also work to “transition our community to lower cost electricity with lower greenhouse gas emissions,” the resolution says.

According to O’Bid, the city has also made progress in conducting city lighting and pump retrofits to be more environmentally friendly, in addition to being a member of Sonoma Clean Power.

O’Bid said in the agenda item that there “would be no direct financial impacts, as this is a non-binding commitment and Sonoma County is already ahead of many communities within the U.S for greenhouse gas reduction reductions. There will (however), be some indirect impact if the mayor and or staff attends monthly coordination calls.” 

Towards the end of the meeting Councilmember John C. Moore said of the agenda item, “I would also support this direction. I am certainly glad that we do believe in science and I don’t believe climate change is a religion. I think 97 percent of scientists are supporting the idea that there is climate change.”

Landman echoed Moore’s thoughts, saying, “I am very pleased to note that if we support this tonight, we took this over to now a majority of the cities in Sonoma County are supporting It. This is a good benchmark to be at.”