The Rohnert Park City Council met on Tuesday May 25. Ordinance No. 954, an ordinance that prohibited the sale and use of fireworks was again on the agenda. That ordinance is now suspended and the question of whether to ban the sale and use of “Safe and Sane” fireworks is headed to the ballot box. The ban was proposed earlier this year. Multiple council discussions and public comments occurred. Council members Susan Hollingsworth Adams and Pam Stafford recommended placing it on the ballot. Their motion failed. On April 27, the ordinance passed on a three to two vote with Mayor Gerard Giudice, Vice Mayor Jackie Elward and Council member Willy Linares supporting a ban. The issue remains divisive in the community. Those in support of fireworks started a referendum petition. On May 11, the petition was submitted to the City Clerk, Sylvia Lopez Cuevas.
According to her staff report “to qualify a referendum, California Elections Code 9237 requires a proponent to submit petition protesting the adoption of the ordinance signed by not less than 10 percent of the registered voters of the city…” It must be submitted within 30 days of adoption of the ordinance. This “petition was timely filed with the City Clerk” according to Lopez Cuevas. She performed an initial review of the petition to determine that sufficient signatures were present. Then she sent the petition to the County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office. There they checked “to see if there are adequate valid signatures on the petition.” After a random sampling of 500 signatures, they “deemed the petition sufficient.”
With that determination, state law requires the elections official (City Clerk) to certify the results. This she did tonight and the council accepted her certification. This means the ordinance is suspended and the city council must make a choice. They could repeal the ordinance, or they could send it to the ballot. The staff was seeking their direction. They generally had just three options. Repeal the ordinance, place it on a regular ballot, or place it on a special election ballot. There was no discussion of repeal.
Elward said people wanted a vote so “put it on the ballot.” Everyone agreed. But which ballot? Here too they had options. The earliest a stand-alone special election could be held would be Monday, September 6, 2021. A stand-alone special election would be expensive. However, a special election is already scheduled for Tuesday, September 14, 2021. That’s the recall election of Sonoma County’s District Attorney. Consolidating with that special election would still cost the city money but be less expensive. Another scheduled special election is to be held on November 2, 2021 for special districts under the Uniform District Elections. Finally, they could wait until the next General Municipal Election on November 8, 2022. Then two council members will be elected as part of Statewide General Elections. The city would share the cost with multiple state, county and other local agencies. This makes it the least expensive option.
The council was again divided. They agreed sooner was better than later. Linares favored the September 14 date. Waiting just eight days would be less expensive. Giudice and Elward agreed. Hollingsworth Adams and Stafford did not. Stafford explained the November 2, 2021 date made more sense. By waiting two months the city would save $40,000 and it wouldn’t have any impact on a potential ban in 2022. So, on a 3-2 vote, the election date will be September 14, 2021.
In other council news, members of the Sonoma County Pride board accepted a “Mayor’s Proclamation” proclaiming June 2021 as LGBTQ+ Pride Month. It read in part “the City of Rohnert Park is committed to ensuring Rohnert Park is a welcoming, inclusive and safe community for our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.” Director of Public Safety Tim Mattos reported that the changes made to the city’s municipal code regarding false alarms in July 2019 is working. There was a 24 percent decline in false alarms and a 38 percent decline in repeated false alarms.
The council passed two resolutions pertaining to the development of 203 residential lots in the University District. This is a plot of land south of Rohnert Park Expressway, West of the Green Music Center and North of Copeland Creek. They also accepted recommendations from staff not to replace the Honeybee Wading Pool. It’s been out of service since 2008 and would cost $900,000 to replace and bring up to compliance. Instead, the city will remove the wading pool and put down “pavers” to create an area for patrons to gather and hold events. This is estimated to cost around $35,000.
Finally, the council accepted the staff’s recommendations on potentially changing business regulations. The recommendations included streamlining of design review and other permitting on outdoor activity spaces and signage to help local business recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. It also included waiving fees for this review and permitting for the 2021–2022-time frame. Specific changes and guidelines will be brought back to the council for review before implementation.