Just when I began to equate city council meetings to school board meetings and considered writing a comparative piece, the Rohnert Park City Council meeting on Tue., July 23, reminded me of four years of commander’s call in the military and forty years of faculty meetings at the high school. Top down reporting, brief council compliments and impassioned public commentary.
And then there was more than two hours of closed session followed by less than five minutes’ of committee reports. Sitting in the chilly council chamber allowed me time to progress fifty pages into Tara Westover’s compelling memoir, “Educated.”
The city manager kicked off the evening complimenting Rohnert Park Public Safety for the way that it recently handled accidents and a fire at Safeway. Its quick response kept the fire contained. The mayor thanked public safety for its work.
Nice segue to the Public Safety Update. Lieutenant Jeff Nicks used a PowerPoint to effectively discuss public safety emergency management. He divided his presentation into three parts: Where we were, where we are and where we are going.
“Where we were.” Nicks said that planning in the past involved a limited staff and consisted of occasional emergency operations center training. “Training,” he said, “was painted with a broad brush.” Another concern that had been slighted in the past was earthquake preparedness.
“Where we are now” is one result of the 2017 fires. Public Safety recognized its strengths and deficiencies. Now all RP employees are considered to be Disaster Service Workers as the city is now 100 percent compliant as all employees receive proper training. An emergency management grid can be found on Sharepoint, available to all employees, and the EOC organizational chart is three deep in staffing. The IT infrastructure is in better condition, and there is improved social media capacity.
“Where we are going.” There will be more training for EOC assignments in house and with consultants and various agencies. There will be a greater understanding of roles and responsibilities and frequent updates on the EOC organizational chart, especially involving human resources and emergency management. Each section will receive training and exercise and reevaluation and there will be ongoing investigations regarding alert systems.
Lt. Nicks concluded by saying, “I couldn’t be more pleased with the efforts we are making.”
From safety the meeting shifted to concern about homeless issues in Rohnert Park as a variety of speakers spirited by a resolution on the agenda to establish “No Overnight Parking Areas” at the Roberts Lake Road Park & Ride, Rohnert Park Community Center, Rohnert Park Senior Center, Goldridge Recreation Center and Spreckels Performing Arts Center.
Reverend Michael Bosler, semi-retired pastor, recommended that the city exercise compassion and care. He proposed that the city provide a place for campers, work with COTS and offer basic supplies and access to local resources. He suggested that we be “compassionate in our care and humble and steadfast in our gratitude for our community.”
Robin Cook expressed her concern: “Homeless parking on my street and homeless people in the bushes and stealing shopping carts. People are going to the bathroom outside. I ask for you to make a no overnight parking.”
Carol Sherman asked the council “for consideration for a proclamation for the Redwood Food Bank. Be more inclusive in involving chairs of groups and have a more relaxed environment.”
Adrian Lauby, a co-founder of a homeless organization in the community, told of concerns of PG & E power shut offs and pointed to the need for back up generators. She said, “The homeless issue in parking lots is complicated. Now throwing people out won’t make neighborhoods safe. There is a need for port-a-pottys and trash pickups. RVs are homes; to take this away seems knee jerky.”
Another speaker pointed out the mess at Walmart and the Robert Rd. Park and Ride. She mentioned paraphernalia and drugs and hazardous waste.
One man declared himself homeless and stated that he lives in the Park and Ride.
When the council moved to the Consent Agenda, Mayor Gina Belforte pulled item 6D, the resolution establishing no overnight parking. The city manager discussed SMART Train accidents, perhaps loosely connected with the proximity of the Park and Ride. The concern is to minimize pedestrian traffic.
Business as usual as the other six items were approved 4-0 with Jake Mackenzie being absent. 6D also passed.
After having some discussion about naming a street in the University District “Ohana Circle,” the council agreed to call it “Oak Circle.” Then it spent some time talking about striping the lacrosse field at the Sunrise Park All Weather Field. Staff recommended deferring this for one year. Councilman Joe Callinan favored completing the project while Council person Pam Stafford favored starting with painted stripes. The council approved completing the project with the boy’s lacrosse stripes as it had been originally planned, 3-1-1.
Next a public hearing calling and giving notice of the “Holding of a Special Election” on November 5, 2019, to extend the Duration of the City of Rohnert Park Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) to Dec. 31, 2040. Teri Shore, Regional Director of the Greenbelt Alliance, and supporter Chris Meyer, a Rohnert Park resident, talked briefly about what the Urban Growth Boundary is about and how to support it. In this particular case, it is about preserving open space between Rohnert Park and Penngrove. In 2000 Measure N passed with 70.7 percent of the vote to preserve this open space. Voters will be asked to extend the ordinance for twenty more years because this law sunsets June 30, 2020. Look for more specific information in Sept. and Oct.
And you know what happens when a person on a committee is absent. He (in this case, Jake Mackenzie) gets selected to fill a vacant position. Council voted 4-0-1 for Jake Mackenzie to the Sonoma County Mayors’ and Councilmembers’ Association.
Waiting for the council to reappear for more than two hours left me plenty of time to follow Tara Westover’s story in “Educated.” The council returned to report about “a good meeting” with the Education Committee, “changes and upgrades at the Senior Center” and that Sonoma Clean Power Authority “discussed rates.”
Home to a late dinner after feeding the dogs and then listen to Pablo Sandoval hit a walk off home run in the thirteenth inning. A memorable evening!