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September 17, 2021
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RP City Council back in city hall

  • The city council met in-person for the first time since the start of the pandemic. From left to right: City Manager Darrin Jenkins, City Attorney Michelle Kenyon, Vice Mayor Jackie Elward, Mayor Gerard Giudice, Council member Susan H. Adams and Council member Willy Linares. The meeting was not open to the public and COVID precautions were taken just to be on the safe side. Photo by Robert Grant

By: Cassandra May Albaugh
June 25, 2021

The Rohnert Park City Council returned to city hall for their June 22 meeting. The public was not yet allowed. They still had to view the meeting on Channel 26. City Manager Darrin Jenkins explained the city is following the guidelines from four different levels. These are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); California’s Department of Public Health, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Sonoma County’s Health Officer. 

The guidelines from OSHA for employee worksites which include city hall did not get clarified in time to allow public attendance at tonight’s meeting. Jenkins anticipates they’ll be able to allow public attendance for the first meeting in July. Mayor Gerard Giudice said “I am happy to say welcome to your chambers” to the other council members. Council member Pam Stafford was absent from tonight’s meeting. Jenkins also indicated they plan a reception for the July 13 meeting welcoming the public and council back to city hall.

The council continues to move forward on items routine and not so routine. As typical, the mayor started off with a proclamation declaring July 2021 as “Parks Make Life Better!”® Soon to be the new Director of Community Services, Cindy Bagley accepted the award on behalf of the city’s parks and recreation department. Chief Tim Mattos, Director of Public Safety, also presented an annual reminder concerning the use of illegal fireworks. He described the various education efforts to the community and the plans for the “all hands” effort this July 4. There is zero tolerance for illegal fireworks. The fine is $1,000.00. Fines can also be issued for inappropriate use of legal “Safe and Sane” fireworks too. Those fines can range from $250 to $750.00.

As published by the department on social media: “the use of safe and sane fireworks is restricted to residential areas only. Any discharge of fireworks on or within commercial properties and lots is prohibited. Remember to always purchase your fireworks from one of the non-profit booths throughout town and always verify your fireworks have a safe and sane seal.” Also, “For reporting illegal firework sales or usage, please use the “Nail ‘Em” app available for both Apple and Android or call (707) 584-2600.”

A potential change to the city’s Flag Policy was discussed. Initiated at the last meeting by the mayor’s desire to fly the Pride Flag during Pride Month as many other cities and agencies do, Rohnert Park would have to amend their policy to make that happen. Currently the policy only allows flying the flag of the United States, California, the city’s flag, and warning flags. A new category called ceremonial flags would have to be added. Jenkins warned this could be a “slippery slope” if the policy wasn’t clear on who and what flags could be requested. The city attorney also added advice during the 30-plus minute discussion. 

Vice Mayor Jackie Elward made an impassioned plea that allowing ceremonial flags was the right thing to do. Council member Susan Hollingsworth Adams was concerned that there were people in our community that might find certain flags offensive and that they “need to tread lightly.” Council member Willy Linares said, “there are symbols – that are very important to some people, and offensive to others.” However, the final consensus was on three flags being appropriate to be allowed. They are the MIA/POW, Juneteenth and Pride Flags. The council will determine others when, and if, other requests come forward in the future. Jenkins will reach out to local organizations to determine the appropriate flag to be flown.

In other council news, two bargaining agreements were approved. The city now has approved 4-year agreements with all six bargaining units. Amended employee agreements for Assistant City Manager Don Schwartz, Chief Mattos and Director of Human Resources Victoria Perrault also got approved. Other important topics included the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) for Rohnert Park for 2023-2031 which requires a 76 percent increase of housing units for that period. Many are targeted at low to moderate income families. City Planning Manager Jeffrey Beiswenger updated the council on Climate Change efforts to be included in the city’s General Plan. Two new permit categories and their fee schedule were approved. They are for obtaining a “Recycled Water Permit” and a “Landscaping Permit.” 

Many of these topics can’t be covered in-depth in a short article. However, the agenda and supporting documents can be found on the city’s website at: www.rpcity.org. If a topic catches your interest, I encourage you to read the staff report on the agenda item if you can’t view or attend the meeting.