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September 18, 2020
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Cotati goes green

By: Paul Matli
January 31, 2020

Cotati businesses will soon be joining the green revolution courtesy of Zero Waste Sonoma. Zero Waste Sonoma is an organization that advocates for the use of reusable products at the expense of recycling. The issue of polystyrene use in the City of Cotati was brought before the council. This ordinance addressing the elimination of polystyrene in food service ware waste should make advocates of green energy very pleased.

 That was the major attraction at Tuesday night’s city council meeting. Mayor Wendy Skillman and other community members oversaw a less hectic meeting this time around. The issue of polystyrene had major discussion among the council and those in attendance.

The meeting started as always, giving the public chances to ask questions. One question that popped up frequently was about the animal farm. Community members were wondering what recent construction plans would do to the animal farms by city hall. At the end of the meeting the city manager gave his report and then council members talked about recent events and what to watch for in the coming months.

 All of these other conversations and topics were just the appetizers for the discussion on polystyrene. According to City Manager Damian O’Bid, the resolution was brought up in September and will ban Styrofoam containers and other products. The goal is to strive toward reusable containers. A representative from Zero Waste Sonoma also spoke on the ordinance and said their goal is to make sure businesses use products that are reusable and meet new standards.

The standards put in place are to be met by January 1, 2021. This means Zero Waste Sonoma is working with businesses to make sure they transition in time to meet the deadline. According to the reports Tuesday night, about 90 percent of the businesses have been reached and are working towards complying. This is an ordinance designed to make the city a cleaner place and also to avoid excess waste.

As one would expect this ordinance created massive discussions among committee members. Council member Susan Harvey’s questions were focused around certain businesses being included while others weren’t. Her example was Peets and Oliver’s versus Starbucks. Peets and Oliver’s were included whereas Starbucks wasn’t included in the Power Point presentation given to the council beforehand. She also wondered, along with Council Member Mark Landman, what happened if the businesses weren’t able to meet the dates in time. Landman reiterated how important it is to have a balance between helping the businesses and hurting the businesses by forcing them to change so quickly.

Where the discussion really took a turn was with Vice Mayor John C. Moore and Council Member John Dell’Osso. All the community members were behind the idea, but Moore seemed to be the most into it. He said it is great what Zero Waste Sonoma are doing and it’s a great start. Moore also brought up the question on why plastic straws weren’t included in the ordinance. This led to another discussion and the council had a different resolution written including the banning of plastic straws all because Moore mentioned it.

For those not familiar with this issue, the state of California passed an ordinance in 2019 banning plastic straws, so Cotati would be following the law and joining other Bay Area cities.

Dell’Osso was also very receptive to the idea of banning plastic straws, but he was skeptical about a couple of things. He said only three Sonoma County cities have banned plastic straws, so he wasn’t sure if we are quite there yet. Second, was the concern about the health of businesses. Since most fast food chains have multiple locations, he thought it would be difficult for them. For example, if Cotati bans straws but Healdsburg doesn’t, it would make the company have to adjust a little. His concerns were valid, but he did leave it up to the public to decide. This ordinance won’t be voted on until the public has a say.

Moore actually retorted back to Dell’Osso that his concerns weren’t massive, since Amy’s Restaurant banned plastic straws and they serve milkshakes. According to Moore, Amy’s has good business so banning plastic straws shouldn’t be an issue in the long run.

Probably the most notable news from this meeting is how the long discussion affected council member Landman. Landman said he had his mind made up that he wasn’t going to vote for the resolution, but had his mind changed because of how persuasive his colleagues were. Though the council meeting might be long and uneventful for some, Tuesday night showed how effective discussion and town halls can be.

For community members who have something on their mind or just want to experience a city council meeting, the next one is Feb. 11 and starts at 7 p.m.  It’s unclear what the agenda will include, but community members are always welcome to attend and share their thoughts.