The Rohnert Park City Council held their regular council meeting July 28 online. When Mayor Joseph Callinan called the meeting to order, he took a few minutes to address the controversy he caused during the June 23 meeting with his use of the pronoun “it.” The Mayor reviewed the context surrounding those remarks. He recounted what happened before he uttered them. Explaining he meant to say “they,” he admitted that’s not what he said. He acknowledged that his mistake, using “it” instead of they, was a hurtful comment for folks who are transgender. He sincerely apologized for his words.
After a few public comments, the consent calendar was approved on a vote of 4-0-1 with Council member Gina Belforte absent. Mary Grace Pawson, Director of Development Services, followed. She presented background on an Ordinance to amend Chapter 3.32 of the cities Municipal Code. It concerned cost recovery for city services. It also passed on a 4-0-1 vote. The major change was a public hearing will no longer be required when presenting the annual report. Instead a public meeting will be held prior to the presentation of the report. Two other changes were in report formatting.
That was followed by a presentation from Louis Kirk, the City’s Senior Code Compliance Officer. He reviewed first and second quarter statistics and categories of complaints. Starting the year with a carry over from 2019 of 189 cases to be resolved, at the end of the second quarter there are 225 cases still pending. Two reasons were given. Like other city departments, half of his staff have been working on COVID-19 issues and economic recovery efforts. In addition, some of the inspections required for these compliance complaints require investigations that are not safe or able to be done in a socially distancing environment. He anticipates the backlog to be cleared quickly once the pandemic restrictions are lifted. He stated however, that compliance violations which could be visually seen by driving by a site and/or were an immediate hazard are still being done.
City Manager Darrin Jenkins followed with an update on Covid-19 issues. Much of the discussion focused on two issues. The first was a possibility that the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will be recommending citations with fines at their August meeting. These would be for folks failing to follow public health guidelines such as not wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, or violating other requirements of the health orders. Both he and the city attorney made it clear, if passed at the county board meeting, it is a recommendation not a mandate that cities must follow. If the city wants to follow the county’s recommendation, an ordinance would be required to be passed in Rohnert Park.
The second issue was money, but everything is uncertain. There may or may not be additional funds in the new federal legislation now under consideration in Congress. The House bill provides funds for local communities, the current Senate bill does not. Jenkins said if the House bill becomes law, the city stands to receive 21 million dollars; however, if the Senate bill is passed as drafted the city would not receive any funds from this second stimulus bill. He also stated that the state received millions of dollars to pass on to cities but the state’s distribution of those funds to smaller communities is uneven. Currently Rohnert Park is likely to received $500,000 in six installments but its per citizen share is significantly less than cities with populations over 350 thousand residents.
The final report was on the listening sessions currently under way. The key positive was that folks appreciate having translators at those sessions. The first was held in English with a Spanish translator and the second was in Spanish with English translations. Public comments showed that not everybody was as satisfied, however. Vice Mayor Mackenzie stated he wasn’t concerned about the council receiving sensitivity training before the listening sessions. But he would be genuinely concerned if it weren’t provided to the council members sooner than later. Mayor Callinan said the city manager was working on it and all five members support receiving it.
Just before adjournment, the council supported Council member Susan Adams’ request to put on a future agenda a discussion about hiring a full-time social worker for the Department of Public Safety to be available to go on police calls involving mental health issues.