Tuesday night continued the trend of Zoom meetings for the Cotati City Council and community members. Like every meeting since the start of lockdown, the council meets via Zoom and then community members participate either on the call directly or by calling in. Tuesday night’s meeting covered a wide range of topics: from the 2020-21 fiscal budget, police use of force and infrastructure.
Like always, the meeting started off with a public comment section. Often times the comment section consists of current events, so it was no surprise that tonight’s covered the Cotati Police Department. Community members were receptive of the police generally, but were aware of some recent incidents involving excessive use of force. This prompted those who spoke to propose looking at making some changes.
Community member Laura Sparks proposed a three part plan similar to what has been proposed in other communities. This plan consisted of reviewing the use of force by police, which meant developing a hybrid model built on inclusivity. A second part is rethinking which types of calls are taken on by the police. and then develop a citizens’ oversight board to look at the use of force by the police. Another community member, Will Prouty, agreed with Sparks’ plan and proposed reinstating the Advisory Commission Board.
The next part of the night featured Craig Scott, Director of Public Work and Engineering. Scott was hoping the Council of the City of Cotati would adopt a resolution approving the Annual Engineer’s Report, confirming the assessment diagram and annual assessment amounts and authorizing the levying and collection of assessment for fiscal year 2020-21. Scott highlighted 10 zones in the potential budget. These are:
Valparaiso Vista, Quail Hollow, Sommers, Macklin, Sierra Meadows, Oak Knoll, Garden Gate, Park Meadows, Santero Way and Altman Acres.
After listing these 10 zones, Scott explains the landscaping being done on some of the zones. An example was the PW Crew mulching the area of Sommers and trimming trees that were dropping branches.
Councilmember Mark Landman liked the idea of fixing Christensen Court and thought Scott and his employees should look at why the plants keep dying along the route, even though an extra step would be required. Councilwoman Susan Harvey brought up how Quail Hollow has been a problem for many years and explained that was one reason why the city doesn’t do landscaping anymore.
This resolution, along with Scott’s other two proposals, ended up passing the council without much objection.
The longest discussion of the night consisted over the budget proposal. Angel Courter put together a very good presentation detailing the 2020-21 budget. She gave updates on how it was effected by Covid-19, broke down where the money is sorted, and gave an update on some future infrastructure projects. For example, Courter explained how the general fund is the largest for the city, accounting for over 4 million dollars, property taxes are 1.8 million and how the first quarter of 2020 performed better than estimates even with the lockdown.
Some other notes from Courter included projects funded by the Water and Sewer Enterprise are continuing as planned and that due to general fund revenue uncertainty, unnecessary use of capital reserves on strategic projects would be postponed until a revenue path is verified.
After her presentation was completed, community members again had a discussion about the police budget. Community members objected to the police making up 26 percent of the budget and 54 percent of the general fund budget. These concerns are in line with activists all across the country wanting police funds allocated for other projects.
Another point of contention was that the police budget rose seven percent from last year, while some other services were cut or not given as much attention.
It’s unclear whether changes in the police budget will happen because of Tuesday’s discussion, but regardless of what happens, the discussion about the police, use of force and overall budget isn’t going away.
The meeting ended with City Manager Damien O'Bid giving updates on some of the community happenings. O'Bid started with his Covid-19 reminder, which was just repeating the health director. The rules are as follows: only activities not allowed are playgrounds and group picnic areas, indoor rinks, saunas, in person higher education, public events and gatherings of more than 12 people. O'Bid repeated the three most important things, which are: face coverings, social distancing and hand washing. Otherwise, the city might be locked down again.
Some other messages included Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) preparation, which included new equipment like portable generators and fueling tanks. O'Bid expects things to happen sooner this year considering how dry the year has been to date. Finally, O'Bid announced the upcoming gymnastics camp, letting community members know the summer camp is already sold out and talked about some generation projects happening.
This was a very productive meeting covering a wide range of topics that certainly play a huge part in not only the lives of Cotati residents, but also nationwide too. Some of Tuesday night’s discussions won’t go away, so it’s important for them to be brought up at these meetings so the council knows where the community’s priorities are.