The city council held their first meeting of the year on Tuesday, January 10. Lightly attended, the meeting lasted less than two hours. This was Marcela Piedra’s first meeting as city manager and Samantha Rodriguez’s first meeting as mayor. The agenda was mostly routine as to be expected at this time of year. Rodriguez stumbled a few times getting the order of events such as when to check for public comments but that too is expected the first time holding the gavel.

Her first order of business was the presentation of the Mayor’s Proclamation. This was declaring January 16, 2023, as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Representatives and residents of Rohnert Park’s and SSU’s Black Community were on hand to accept the proclamation and thank the city for that recognition. The proclamation said in part “members of the Rohnert Park community strive to achieve the many visions of Dr. King,” and Rodriguez told the recipients that “you are a reflection of what Doctor King fought for!” 

Among those present was Rubin Scott, former President of Sonoma County’s NAACP, a resident of Rohnert Park, and current Director at the Community Equity Foundation. Also present was Tina Rogers who grew up in Rohnert Park and was a graduate of Rancho Cotate High School. She is one of the organizers of the MLK Birthday Celebration Sonoma County which is held annually. This is its 43rd year, which is the longest such running celebration of King’s Birthday west of the Mississippi River.

Most of the action items were approvals of city council appointments. Vice Mayor Susan Hollingsworth Adams and Council member Emily Sanborn recommended and the council approved the following appointments: Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Shirley Johnson and re-appointed Gary Gutierrez; Mobile Home Rent Appeals Board William Patrick Reymond and re-appointed Janeen Kirby; Parks and Recreation Commission Jim Barrios and Sara Jordan; Senior Citizens Advisory Commission re-appointed Phyllis Transue and Gary Coffman; and Sister Cities Relations Committee reappointed Olga Senik and Shari Lorenz. These are advisory committees for the city council. In total 49 candidates applied for these positions.

In addition, Debby Mentz was appointed by Rodriguez to fill a vacant seat on the Senior Citizens Advisory Commission.

City Clerk Sylvia Lopez Cuevas presented the staff report on additional appointments to the Planning Commission and Building Appeals Board. The council unanimously approved the appointment of Matthew Epstein and re-appointment of Marc Orloff to the Planning Commission to 4-year terms expiring December 31, 2026. They also approved the re-appointment of Bryan Waters and appointment of former city manager Darrin Jenkins to 4-year terms on the Building Appeals Board. They continue to look for a third member of that board whose term would expire on December 31, 2024. Finally they approved the mayor’s appointment of council members and others to Standing Committees, Liaison Assignments, and Outside Agency Appointments. A standing committee for example would be economic development whereas a Liaison Assignment would be to the Library Advisory Board. Outside Agencies are things like Zero Waste Sonoma or Sonoma Clean Power.

In other council news, Assistant City Manager Don Schwartz recommended Council member Jackie Elward as primary representative from Rohnert Park and Cotati to the Board of the Sonoma County Continuum of Care. Cotati Vice Mayor Laura Sparks would be the alternate. The city council approved, and Cotati’s city council must also approve at their meeting.  Schwartz also updated the council and sought their direction concerning the creation of a Health and Human Services Hub in Rohnert Park. A location at 6250 State Farm Drive was previously being looked at, however they are now recommending a City building at 6800 Hunter Drive as the preferred site. This would provide more office space at lower cost than the previous location. The council agreed with his recommendation which allows him to proceed with seeking required funding and partnerships with the County, medical providers, and non-profits.

The final items pertained to the Rohnert Park Foundation special meeting which is held concurrently with the city’s regular council meeting. The city manager serves as the Executive Director of the Foundation. So the first item was a simple announcement that Piedra would assume the role of Executive Director. The other item was approval of $75,000 to be used for sustainability grant assistance writing. This would allow the city to better compete for many more grants on things such as vehicle electrification opportunities, and infrastructure, compost, resource conservation and carbon sequestration opportunities. The council approved the recommendation to spend a little now to bring in more money later.

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