Tuesday night’s Cotati City Council meeting featured heavy discussions on a number of topics from race, policing, building and so on. The council met for over four hours covering these lengthy, but important topics. For community members in attendance, it was a long meeting, but the type of meeting you would leave feeling satisfied with the discussion.
The meeting started off with Council members John Dell’Osso and Wendy Skillman being honored by Representative Mike Thompson. Thompson was thanking both of them for their service to the community.
Dell’Osso is retiring after his three terms as mayor and 25 years on the council and Skillman is leaving community service after 8 years and two terms as mayor. Both have been key players in Cotati politics for a while and Representative Thompson’s statement on both of them was a great way to start the night.
After honoring Dell’Osso and Skillman, the meeting picked into high gear with the first of three major presentations. The first was called Sonoma County Five-Year Strategic Plan. This was presented by Christel Querijero, Deputy County Administrator and Katherine DiPasqua, of the Strategic Plan Project.
The five pillars of the plan are:
I. Healthy and Safe Community (Provide quality and equitable housing, health and human services for all)
II. Organizational Excellence (Be an innovative, effective, engaged and transparent organization focused on quality programs and services)
III. Racial Equity and Social Justice (Achieve racial equity in county service provision and ensure workforce reflective of the community we serve)
IV. Climate Action and Resiliency (Make Sonoma County carbon neutral by 2030)
V. Resilient Infrastructure (Enhance all hazards resiliency for the community by investing in county roads, buildings and property, communications and flood protection)
Each one of these five pillars had four or five goals listed under the main statement. The council reviewed each one of these in detail and asked any questions they might have had. Some of the comments, especially regarding racial equity, was that some of the goals don’t seem to accomplish what the stated outcome is. Council member Ben Ford thought the pillar of racial equity could have been stronger.
Next, City Manager Damien O’Bid announced nominations for the Planning Commission and Measure G. Oversight committee.
Ben Hancock was nominated by Council member Ford while Marjorie Crump-Shears and Arianne Eskew were nominated for the Measure G oversight committee.
The second presentation of the night was also the most controversial. This presentation might have been one of the more controversial topics seen in recent memory. Usually, the council is very receptive to resolutions being passed, but not this time.
The presentation was a request for approval of a resolution granting an extension of the previously approved commercial Cannabis Retail and Distribution Permit for Monahan Pacific, (DBA IndyThree) 8145 Gravenstein Highway on the Commercial Gravenstein Highway.
Monahan Pacific came back asking the council for an extension on a project they were working on, which had previously been approved by the council.
This request was met with sharp resistance from both the council and members of the community. Council member Mark Landman in particular didn’t hear enough in Monahan Pacific’s presentation to approve the extension.
Of course, this led to a passionate back and forth discussion between the council, community members and Monahan Pacific.
One of the worries from those in attendance was the increased traffic this would cause. The Gravenstein area is already crowded and as one community member said, adding a marijuana retail will only make traffic worse, not better.
The third and final big presentation of the night was about the Cotati Resident survey conducted last November about racism, policing and public safety.
Miranda Everitt, the presenter, went through the results of the survey for the Council.
Some important nuggets from the survey included the following:
• 44% of the respondents being men
• 54% of the respondents being women
• 354 people being interviewed in total
• 86% said they felt safe
• 75% said they approve of Cotati PD
• 18% observed racism in Cotati frequently or occasionally
• 63% believed there was a positive relationship between residents and police
• 64% said things were heading in the right direction (down about 10 percent from early 2020)
• 26% not sure
• 10% said things were heading in the wrong direction
• 82% approve of the CPD
• About two in five reported observing racism in Cotati in the last five years and about one in
five said they experience it themselves
The survey kept going with many numbers, but the most important things Cotati residents should take from this survey is that low income, people of color and young people had a much more negative view of the police in general. This trend lines up with what we see across the country. People of color, particularly black, are skeptical of the police, while the white people surveyed said they don’t really have an opinion because they either don’t know enough or feel like it isn’t an issue for them.
Tuesday night’s meeting was long but was far from boring. It was one of the more productive meetings the council has had recently. Many important topics were discussed, and it was good to see the results of the survey come back and be discussed. The next council meeting will be in February, which should contain good information as well as considering the distributing of the Covid vaccines and stay-at-home orders being lifted. Community members who wish to attend can join either by Zoom or follow along on the city council website.