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November 25, 2020
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Cotati’s code of conduct

By: Lanny Lowery
May 31, 2019

Calling on my Muse, Judson Snyder!  I am learning your business the hard way, by doing it with no training.  Why can’t we meet at The Friendly Kitchen for a cup of coffee and, oh, by the way, bring the Hinebaugh Creek Philosopher with you.

Remember all of those “Nobody Asked Me” columns that you blessed us with all those decades?  Well, somebody is asking you, me, the Cub Reporter.  How would you handle the current Cotati City Council meetings?

“What’s the problem?” You ask.  “Follow the agenda, note comments and action, tell it like it is.  Not all the assignments flow as smoothly as covering the fishing derby or the kindergarten job fair.”

The agenda appeared to short, sweet (that’s the cupcakes), and simple.  I told the dogs, cats and my lovely wife that I should be home by 9 p.m.  One reception, two items on the consent calendar and four more on the regular agenda:  Discussion, votes, city manager’s and council members reports and out of here.

My mentor tells me to start at the beginning and just tell the story.  “Add the cupcakes and critics as you go.”

After the pledge, a short intermission took place.  “The public is cordially invited to enjoy refreshments at a brief reception in appreciation of retiring City Attorney, Robin Donoghue.”  Before the cupcakes were offered, the city manager and the Council members praised Donoghue for her service and she responded:

“As I have served as Assistant and City Attorney the past seven years, it has been my honor and privilege to work with all of you.  Thank you for your devotion to the city, collegiality and work ethics.  Goodness is in the future of Cotati.”

Down to business as the last cupcakes remain untouched on the side table.  Citizen Laurie Alderman called for an ethics charge against Council Member John Moore and another against Council Member Mark Landman for influencing people who have shamed her.  “Nextdoor.com took me apart as Landman’s supporters sent me messages.”

Citizen George Barich expressed his concern that the city planned to cancel its regular meeting of July 9.  “We have plenty of issues to resolve” as he cited a variety of problems that council members had made campaign promises to fix, according to Barich.  Then he complimented the mayor, John Dell’Osso, for welcoming citizens to the council meeting.  “Cookies, coffee, we ought to have that come back.”  

Next, Barich declared, “Mr. Moore approached Ms. Alderman and bullied her in private.”  And he concluded by criticizing the postponement of the July 9 meeting by stating, “You need a catch up night like July 9 to discuss homeless, weed abatement and make sure we are a fire safe town.”

Council Member Moore responded by reading an email response and drifting off with “If that’s bullying. “

On to “Direction on Future Agenda Items” without any suggestion of dealing with the issues just brought up.  council members showed concern about climate resolution and want to bring that to a future agenda looking at zero waste and ground water management, how it feels and how to fund it.

The headliner item of the evening began the regular agenda:  “Proposed letter of concern for new gas station at 7180 Gravenstein Highway.”  This proposed gas station, convenience store and car wash would be located at the corner of Highway 116 and Stony Point Road.  It was recently suggested that the council write a letter to Supervisor David Rabbitt pointing out the many negative impacts of such a project even though this project will occur outside of city limits.

The city manager and council members discussed writing the final draft of the later.  Council Member Moore approved of the letter as it was written.  After hearing from the public, some consideration of making a more intense appeal was expressed.

Five of six citizen speakers opposed the project citing environmental and climate issues, increased water usage, a negative impact on current Cotati businesses, loss of rural character and an intrusion on the scenic corridor.  One speaker thought that Highway 116 was commercially earmarked for such business.

Mayor John Dell’Osso said, “This doesn’t sit well with me; is it to become a major thorough fare?”  John Moore believed that the project was not appropriate for that location.  Susan Harvey agreed and encouraged members of the audience to send letters to the supervisors.  Mark Landman liked the letter campaign idea and said that the project would force small businesses out.  He was also concerned that the car wash would rely on wells and he felt like the letter should have a stronger tone.  Wendy Skillman stated, “We can express that we do not support this type of project.”  Dell’Osso added his concern about Cotati’s potential loss of tax revenue.

The council voted 5-0 to send a letter that opposed the project.

Next order of business, Cotati staff recommended that the city council review the applications and provide the mayor with direction for voting at the upcoming Mayors and Council Members and City Selection Committee meeting.  The council approved this 5-0.

Staff then recommended that the city council receive a report on the 2018 housing production report to the California Department of Housing and Community Development.  No motion was made nor action taken.

The final action related to the engineer’s report for the landscape and lighting assessment broke down into three parts.  The report was approved, as was the allowance to increase the maximum assessments in accordance with the law, 5-0.  The date for a public hearing was set for June 25, 2019.

The city manager’s report, brief and to the point, preceded short reports by council members.  In the final public comment section, Laurie Alderman stated that she would like to see in a future agenda a discussion of a code of conduct covering social.  George Barich told the council that it is naïve to rely on the city attorney as a federal judge had said that the City of Cotati needed schooling.  He then asked if any of the members believed in a Code of Conduct.  Ms. Alderman pointed out that no one raised a hand.

“Besides the cupcakes getting stale, I don’t see the problem,” offered my mentor.  “Democracy in action, Citizens expressing their views, Council members taking action.  Cupcakes and critics make up a good city council meeting.