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July 18, 2019
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Showing off rope tricks Skating during Cotati Kids Day parade Vehicle crashes into house Suicide leading cause of death in youths U10 Cal Ripken champions say Aloha Free school supplies Warnings weren’t enough! Rohnert Park City Council all about safety A young child making a big difference City of Cotati switches to 100% renewable electricity Trades Intro Program (TIP) leads to career Red flags fly at all fire stations during “Red Flag” warnings Alert resident foiled attempted burglary of neighbor’s home Wrong way bicyclist rides into path of SMART train School Year 2019-2020 for free and reduced-price meals Ca. 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Water Bad air quality cancels sports Official election winners as projected by the VOICE  RP swears in new council member 2018 local stories which made history ArtStart brings art to the RP Senior Center Holocaust piano now in Cotati CRPUSD seeking a new superintendent Superintendent search begins Cotati Council moves ahead Planning Commission approves hotel Happenings at Cotati City Council Fun family Christmas events in Cotati Cougars’ season comes to a tearful sad conclusion CalFresh clients get Feb. benefits early Rohnert Park Station Ave. update Cuts suggested for school district The “Healing Wall” comes to Sonoma County Cotati memorializes victims Rohnert Park considers firework restrictions CHP to check motorcycle safety in local area Cotati honors and appreciates Undercover operation identifies prostitution at local massage parlors Dr. Dominguez and Hawkins named as director and co-director for Hanna Institute University Elementary School to host Maker World at SSU Animal Shelter League of RP receives grant Cotati Council reshuffles seats Help save lives by donating blood New laws on purchasing and concealing handguns Fencing in Sonoma County School district leaders tackle 1.9m deficit School district seeking new superintendent Cotati protests CASA compact School district balances budget More high density in Rohnert Park Put down your phone April is distracted driving awareness month SSU Police make arrest in sexual assault case CRPUSD district’s good news in May The long summer grinds The Community Voice endorses candidates DA’s office awarded DUI Prosecution Grant Rohnert Park kid joins TCU El Camino graduates Rohnert Park Council says we don’t need another agency Rancho students excel in Poetry Out Loud  SC public safety heroes of the year Don’t drive with an open container Traffic concerns top RP survey SSU Equestrian looks to go national Brace yourself for mosquitos Station Avenue project An offer has been made and accepted on Rohnert Park’s corporate yard SMART to offer free rides... 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Cotati comes out against CASA Llamadas ilegales y spoofing Music alive in Cotati Penngrove Community Church celebrates 120 years Cotati approves tree lighting City of Cotati has apartment housing parking problems Operators ordered to pay for false advertising violations Becerra urges Ca. businesses resources to help prevent human trafficking Possible change to parking rules Enroll in Transportation Security Administration Elder abuse rising in So Co Students at University Elementary discussing the labyrinth Rohnert Park City Council Candidates NHTSA reminds motorists to drive sober this season Cotati’s code of conduct School board follows its policy R P Foundation gives grants to NOAH and Petaluma Bounty Summit State Bank annual report FEMA awards Sonoma Water grant RP moves to curb false alarms Doggone hot days are here! March for the blind highlights need for more accessible sidewalks Cougar to Bear — Simmons’ new pelt SRJC picks up local quarterback The Cougars defeat the Jaguars at homecoming New laws take effect Jan. 1 Boards approve plan to offset proposed groundwater fee Groundwater sustainability fee adopted in Santa Rosa Plain Kids and firefighters compete in RP RP local, Petri Alva, 14, a nationally recognized athlete SSU named one of the best universities Verity is hiring to work with survivors SweetPea celebrates 31 years Seawolves serve up a victory Students almost ready for kindergarten Would you make a great foster parent? 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RP City Council, not business as usual

By: Lanny Lowery
June 28, 2019

Fifteen minutes prior to the Rohnert Park City Council meeting on Tue., June 25, the city hall lobby filled with protestors holding signs supporting Branch Wroth and his family, calling for police oversight and accusing RP safety officers of brutality.  When the meeting began, the council room saw a full house containing more than three dozen protestors, a five member elder abuse committee and a handful of other spectators.

The audience, quiet and respectful as Mayor Gina Belforte opened the meeting, stood to honor the pledge.  Then a slow build up of protest began as the council proceeded with business.

The mayor read a declaration proclaiming June as Elder Abuse Awareness Month.  As the proclamation was delivered, protestors randomly started to hold up their signs.  Belforte stated that 530 flags flown would represent 530 reported cases of elder abuse.  More signs lifted and snickering and some hissing permeated council chambers as the mayor advised people to contact RP public safety to report cases of elder abuse.  Grumblings began a slow crescendo as committee members of elder care were recognized and during a photo shoot with the council members protestors spoke to each other about their concerns.

The council moved on to Department Head Briefings as Public Safety Director Timothy Mattos reported about a new policy, “‘Safe and Sane’ Fireworks or Risk Fines of $1,000.  He stated that the city had reduced the number of days for fireworks.  (Last reported, the dates occur between June 30 and July 4.)  The city has used a variety of channels to get the word out to the public, including requiring two postings on each firework’s sales building.

On May 15, the council voted 5-0 to allow local law enforcement to ticket and fine people who permit any use of fireworks on their property not deemed “safe and sane.”  Sparklers, ground fountains and non-aerial spinners are among the list of state-approved fireworks.  These fireworks must display a State of California State Fire Marshall Registered Fireworks seal.

Mattos went on to say that sector based deployment will be utilized as the safety department is going all out to have zero tolerance for illegal fireworks.  His comments prompted some hissing in the audience.  As the council discussed enforcement, many protestors held up signs.

Public comment followed.  One person wondered how the new fireworks ordinance would be enforced and how police would determine what property is responsible.  Another person complimented Chief Mattos and his staff and the city staff for the ordinance.

On the tail of the elder abuse and fireworks concerns, public comment moved to focus on the Branch Wroth tragedy.  Six days after the Wroth family was given the largest award, $4m, in a civil rights case against a Sonoma County law enforcement agency in 25 years, protestors came to comment to the city council.

Included in the decision was the finding that Rohnert Park failed to train its officers to avoid suffocating people when restraining them.   A unanimous verdict found that Rohnert Park’s training problems were a “moving force” behind Wroth’s death.

The city has filed a motion to ask the judge to overturn the verdict, contending that the Wroth’s claims about inadequate training were invalid.

Marni Wroth, mother of Branch Wroth, addressed the council to remind them of the need for a police oversight committee, one that had been recommended by the Civil Rights Commission.

Susan Lamont urged the council to make a change: “Very few people have the opportunity to make change.  You have the power.  You can train your law enforcement correctly and hold them accountable when they don’t do things right.”

Laura Gonzales and Gail Symonds re-enforced the need for training, both for restraint and first aid.  Symonds encouraged the hiring of “young men who have empathy.”

Jerry Street summarized the need for an oversight committee:  “The best solution is to develop a civilian oversight committee,” perhaps through the county.  When this exercise of civil discourse ended, most of the audience departed.  Left on one of the chairs, a sign announced:  “The blood of Branch Wroth is on your hands, community oversight law enforcement now!”

The meeting moved rapidly from this point as the council approved all eleven items on the consent agenda 4-0 (Pam Stafford was absent.)  Reports and communications were few and brief.  Two matters for future agendas were suggested:  a presentation about homelessness and what the city can do about it (which is scheduled for a July 23 presentation) and an update on the lacrosse field.

Not a business as usual meeting, the Branch Wroth protest cast a shadow over the bright summer evening.  All of the safety issues, fireworks and elder abuse and police treatment of the public left a serious and sober tone in the council chambers.