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Live Updates From Tonight's City Council Meeting

Check back for updates on redevelopment, plastic bag legislation and police and food composting presentations.

Live Updates from the Sonoma City Council meeting.

6:21 Meeting in session. Public comments section.

6:23 Herb Golenpaul wants to thank the City Council for his birthday celebration.

6:24 PC: Stan Pappis urges the council to create a medicinal marijuana shop in downtown Sonoma.

6:25 PC: The public is invited to the opening of Sweet Water Spectrum, a community for autistic adults, on Sept. 10, 10am – noon at Fifth Street West and West Spain. Coffee and snacks, parents of residents will speak.

6:26 Councilman Ken Brown wants to dedicate the meeting to .

6:28 Councilman Tom Rouse wants everyone to sing to Herb. Before the song: "You've got to be kidding me," - Herb; After: "Life is good."

6:31 Mayor Pro Tem Joanne Sanders is recounting her trip to France, where she visited Sonoma's sister city Chambolle-Musigny. She says she's asked city staff to look into creating a place for safe disposal of perscription medicine. "Especially given the demographics of our community I'm sure there are many people who are in need of this service," she said.

6:34 She also was horrified to hear of the death of a women in Pacifica who was attacked by her dog. "I would be remiss if I didn't try to use my position as a city councilwoman to make that change happen here," she said.

6:35 Mayor Laurie Gallian spent her vacation in Sonoma on 'stay-cation.' "I got to see parts of the city I wouldn't normally see," she said."

6:36 Brad Sherwood will be hostingg a tour of the Sonoma Valley Water Treatment facility on Eighth Street East on Sept. 16. To reserve a slot call 547-9147.

6:40 Announcement: The agreements regarding the mobile home park are pushed back to the September agenda.

6:41 Year in review presentation from Sonoma Police Department Police Chief Brett Sackett. "Despite a very uncertain time in American history," there's been a decrease in property crime. But there's been an increase in violent personal crimes. He attributes this to two suicides. "I firmly believe Sonoma continues to be a good place to live and work and raise a family."

6:43 Total arrests: 747. DUIs are down. 117 referred to Youth and Family Service program, 9 percent increase. Most of these were substance abuse referrals.

6:44 "We're taking a step back from our usual BMWs," said Sackett, by purchasing a motorcycle. Traffic enforcement rates have dropped. 126 parking citation written. Increase in animal related calls and animal impounds. Number of priority one calls, the most important level, increased this year, but still fell within the desired 6-8 minute response time rate.

6:45 Sheriff-Coroner Steve Freitas says he wants to affirm the partnership between the two departments. "We say contract, but I like to say partnership," he said. "It is my intent and hope that we will continue our partnership for many years to come." 

6:47 The Sheriff's department lost over 50 staffers this year. "You'll still the same number of officers here," he said, "but the person who will feel it will be Brett, because he'll be dealing with staffing challenges."

6:48 Gallian says she's glad the COPS program still is active, despite budget cuts.

6:50 Brown says he's heard compliments for increased service from the Police Department.

6:51 Rouse: "Not only has the level of service been phenomenal, but what [Sackett; brings to the table: I don't think there was the feel of the hometown police, but under his guidance I think the community has the look and feel of that kind of police department."

6:52 Sanders asks what Freitas thinks of Sonoma's challenges in terms of crime. "The Valley, the city and the county are so intertwined, the problems you encounter come from the county and vice versa: you have a symbiotic relationship," he said. "I don't think you have a crime problem per se. People still complain, but that's good."

6:54 He says the crime rate is up because of the small size of it, two to three additional crimes make a large percentage difference.

6:54 He also says California Youth Outreach, a gang-prevention program, will start working with the Sheriff's Department, which will be helpful for both the Valley and Sonoma City.

6:56 Report showed a high number for underage drinking, particular kids under-12, said Sanders. "We have a big problem here," she said. She asks what Freitas would recommend. He suggests the school resource officer at the may be helpful for this.

6:57 Ken Wells from Sonoma Garbage Collectors will now present updates on the pilot program for Commercial Food Scrap Composting. "I think this is going to set the stage, and really set the tone, for the rest of the county," said Wells.

6:58 In Sept. of 2012, along with rate approval, the council approved the program. Data includes the start, in Dec., through June. 45 Sonoma businesses (from to ) have been approached, 15 are participating. 17 have been less regular participants.

7:00 17 tons per month have been diverted. "10 percent of commercial food waste has been diverted successfully, and relatively inexpensively," said Wells.

7:01 It's estimate the program will reduce greenhouse gases 221 tons annually.

7:02 Rouse asks why the businesses that dropped out, dropped out. Wells says follow-through from top management to the bottom has been difficult.

7:04 Wells: "I think the theme here is economics, people are not seeing a direct economic benefit for participating...it's a hassle, it's not easy and if you're not seeing any benefits then, well."

7:04 Representative from Sonoma Compost says that other city councils are impressed by the program.

7:10 Council's showing a video about the program. Watch it on their homepage.

7:19 Onto consent calendar. Sanders motions to approve the consent calendar. Carries 5-0.

7:40 Back from break. Gallian will recuse herself from the redevelopment vote, because she is an employee of the .

7:40 Staff report (.) Essentially, today is the deadline to decide whether to opt in or out of redevelopment. Legal advice is to add the adoption of an 'enforceable obligation payment schedule' to the agenda. City needs vote of all four council members to add this item.

7:43 Barbose votes to place the item on the agenda. Rouse seconds. Passes, with four in affirmation

7:48 “We are at a point of monumental decision here,” said Kelly.  “How did we get here and what are our options.”

7:49 OPTION ONE: Abx126, “The Disillusion Act,” was signed by Brown on June 26 and dissolves redevelopment agencies if they don’t opt-in to the governor’s plan. All assets would have to dissolve. Assets are currently valued at 50 million dollars, but city staff isn’t sure what assets would be counted. An oversight board would control this process; a successor agency would be established to dissolve these assets. The City Council can become this agency.  

7:49 Decisions from 6 months to a year can be looked at by the oversight board. This could affect agreements with the Sonoma Film Festival, S.O.S, Visitors Bureau, Sonoma Community Center etc. The city would still be expected to provide affordable housing, but would not have redevelopment funds to provide for this.

7:52 Affordable housing projects which could be confiscated: Village Green Apartments for Disabled seniors, a property at Broadway and Clay and a property at 650 West Spain. S.O.S is owned by the city, not the CDA.

7:52 The city couldn't develop another agency for 20-years.

7:53 Most of these liquidated assets would flow to the , an undetermined amount to the County.

7:54 If the city becomes the successor agency, $250,000 is provided a year to "wind down the affairs" of the redevelopment agency. Estimated shortfall of lost tax monies: $350,000, which doesn't include the loss of the economic development program.

7:55 OPTION TWO: "Pay for Play," nicknamed "the Ransom Act" would retain the redevelopment agencies. Under the volunteer program act, the city would pay an estimated $1.7 million for the first year. They've repealed the amount: it would be $1.4 million.This would be mostly distributed to the school district, since Sonoma does not have a fire district.

7:57 Local control would be retained, since there would be no local oversight board. Housing program would continue, would still receive the 20 percent tax. If the city opts-in, it can opt-out at any time.

7:58 A stay issued by the supreme court on Aug. 11 negates several things in the staff report.

7:59 Law suit: should have a decision by Jan. 1, 2011, which is the date the first payment is due. The court only stayed certain portions of the law.

8:01 "It is clear that during the stay, even if you opt in, cannot enter into any new contracts." It can only deal with business relating to pre-June 29 contracts.

8:01 "We don't know if the supreme court will adjust the enforceable obligation schedule, and it's just too risky not to adopt [it]." Kelly says this is a list of the current obligations of the CDA.

8:04 "If you opt in now you can always opt out in the future. Opting out is an irreversible decision, at least for the next 20 years," said Kelly.

8:04 "Opting out is really a monumental decision, essentially with a gun to our head," said Kelly. "There's no way to change to a viable economic model in those few months, opting in at least buys us some time...Let's opt out on our own time-line and terms."

8:16 Recommended strategy "unless it's changed in the last hour" is to adopt the enforceable obligation schedule. And to "opt in."

8:21 Opting in still puts the city in a 'statis quo' mode, unable to make new contracts.

8:21 Barbose asks: "What actions do we need to take tonight." Kelly. 1. Adopt enforceable obligation payment schedule (a list of debts, to allow the CDA to continue making payments on them); it requires a majority vote. 2. Opt in or out.

8:23 Council is taking questions about the payment schedule, which was not on the agenda since it was a reaction to the supreme court stay.

8:24 The schedule must be adopted by Aug. 28, after which they can only make payments on those options. If it isn't adopted, they can't make payments.

8:26 Rouse: What happens if we don't make the payments. Kelly: We default.

8:27 Sanders confirms the payment schedule is just for the rest of 2011.

8:28 Total debt requires $234k in monthly payments.

8:30 Pc: Josie Ingersal asks for confirmation of what the enforceable obligation agreement is. Sanders: "The reason we have the payment schedule is because of this recent court action which has told us not to do anything...until the Supreme Court sorts out what the governor has done, this is just a mechanism to stay in good standing with our loan payments."

8:32 "It did not stay the entire legislation...even those parts that were stayed, the attorney's we've retained to give us expert assistance aren't even clear if the parts that were stayed were stayed, but what was clear was that this part was not stayed," said City Attorney Jeffrey Walter.

8:34 Barbose moves to adopt payment schedule. Rouse seconds.

8:34 Brown supports maker of motion: "Comment that rings in my head is 'gun to my head,' as someone who loves the state of California it's an ugly position to be in and I resent it."

8:35 Motion to adopt payment schedule passes 4-0.

8:36 Onto second part: opt-in or out. Council questions: none.

8:36 Sanders: "I know all the council members have spent a significant amount of time with staff, throughout the weekend, keeping abreast of this moving target."

8:37 Sanders: This afternoon the council needed a 4-5 vote. As of 5:05pm, they're recomending the original ordinance, which would be a majority vote.

8:43 They have a specialist in redevelopment law sending text messages, Kelly suggests getting him on the phone. Sanders would rather not. "We have to deal with matters today, and we have to do with what we have before us today," said Sanders.

8:47 Golenpaul: "How much money do we have in our reserve. In my roundabout way it looks like nobody knows what's going to happen now, if we could pay the debts we're required to pay we can hold out until that time that this is decided by the state...Even this guy in San Diego doesn't know what's going on in Sacramento."

8:50 Josie Ingersal: "I believe [the Supreme Court] wanted to take the gun away, they didn't want you to have to adopt this tonight...if I were to advise you I'd say you don't have to make this decision tonight."

8:51 City has filed an appeal, believes payment should be $1.5 million. "We won't be sending any check in early," said Kelly.

8:53 PC: Bob Felder suggests going ahead with both emergency ordinance and regular one.

8:53 PC: Sonoma Valley Unified School District Superintendent Louann Carlomagno: "It is just as ambiguous on our side as determining who would get the funding and to opt in or not opt in. After conversations with Linda we're not sure what to recommend...These may be replacing dollars that we were already receiving."

8:55 Sanders: "Except for the last text message." Brown: "This is so bizarre, it's like the twilight zone in here."

8:56 Text message: Reason to opt in is to allow debt to be payed if the measure stands. "We should get some answers next week," said Kelly.

8:57 Rouse: "We don't have to make a payment until January, if we find out between then and now that what we're doing is wrong, then we can opt out."

8:58 Barbose motions to opt in. Brown seconds.

8:59 Rouse: "I have nothing else to say, I'm sorry."

8:59 Sanders: "I made my thoughts clear over the weekend to city staff..that contrary to what a lot of people in our community, it seems we've become addicted to redevelopment, I'm of the opinion that we need to get away from redevelopment."

9:00 Sanders: "We maxed out the redevelopment credit card to a tune of $16 million and we did that because we thought redevelopment was going away. Guess what, it's not going away and we've got all that debt...As much as I love the local control, it has enabled us to continue on a spending pattern that we can't afford right now. It's very difficult up here knowing that we're going to be handing over a check and losing some local control.

9:02 Sanders: "If we get rid of redevelopment the general fund is plumped up by almost $400,000, and that's what our debt is."

9:02 Sanders: "It's really important not to overlook the benefit to the general fund, projects are icing on the cake, that's what we need more city functions, not more projects."

9:03 Sanders: "With things this dire and people see a bicycle bridge going in a few blocks from another bicycle bridge, that doesn't look good."

9:04 Brown wants to respond. "Some of this is your own stated personal views...I on the other hand am extremely proud of what the city has done with its redevelopment agency, a significant part of the city staffing is paid for by the redevelopment agency."

9:06 Barbose: No redevelopment would = "a radical restructuring of the city, and we would lose employees and that's not something I'm ready to do."

9:07 Motion to opt-in votes, 3-1 with Sanders in dissent. Council will have a special meeting to figure out time-sensitive issues. 

9:09 Meeting would be adjourned to a mutually agreeable date, and then look at the motion, said City Attorney Jeffrey Walter.

9:10 Mayor Gallian is back.

9:11 Onto item 7B which is the potential plastic bag ban.

9:11 Sonoma County Waste Management Agency is looking to adopt a county wide ban. Agency is pursuing a model where the county and each city would ban plastic bags.

9:12 Presentation from Henry Mikus, Executive Director of the SCWMA.

9:14 "It appears the succesful formula is to ban plastic and impose a fee on paper," said Mikus.

9:15 "Anything we do would require a unanimous vote, over $50,000 worth of expenditure," said Mikus.

9:16 Three choices: 1. County-wide ordinance, agency would do analysis, would bear all the costs.  2. SCWMA would create a model ordinance, and each agency would have to adopt and fund. 3. Each jurisdiction does its own ordinance, agency involvement would be minimal.

9:17 Recommendation: go with a countywide ordinance for financial reasons. "Members of the grocers association have said they would prefer consistency county-wide," said Mikus.

9:18 Next step would be to hold a series of educational events in the jurisdictions.

9:20 Mikus does not anticipate legal ramifications, because the Manhattan Beach legislation didn't deal with paper bags, and was adopted of a population of less than 40,000-people.

9:21 Mikus: Cities who have had successful ordinances have done it by banning plastic bags and placing a fee of $.05-.25 on paper bags.

9:23 Rouse: "What you're saying is no more plastic bags, which I love, and we have paper bags but if you want one it's gonna cost a nickle."

9:23 Gallian: "When you do these presentations, would you be coming into the cities?" Mikus: No, "we would visit you here."

9:24 Public Comment: Julie Kurg. "I really hope that you guys support this and I think that it's an exciting development."

9:26 PC: Herb Golenpaul. "I brought this up after seeing that movie about what we've got in the middle of the ocean. If we get enough of the companies to like them then the ones that don't, we can boycott them."

9:27 Sanders: "I'd like to express my preference for the SCWMA to take the full lead on this."

9:27 Sanders wants to address communication to express this. Barbose and Rouse agree.

9:28 Sanders: It's amazing how long it takes us to prudently move through the process.

9:30 Sanders: As one unified group moving forward with over half a million constituents, I think it will help us to move forward. Council agrees on direction, 5-0.

9:32 Item 7C, request from Gallian to hold a City council study session on revenue generation.

9:32 Public Comment: none. Barbose is in favor of going forward with study session. Brown seconds.

9:34 Sanders: "I think the way this has been worded, I was under the impression it was more of a study session. How would you know what you would be giving imput on."

9:35 Barbose points out that Gallian lists several things including a TOT increase.

9:44 Sanders would like this study session to include explicit language demonstrating that the council is considering a TOT tax increase.

9:46 Rouse: When I said yes my answer was not based on raising taxes. There may be some answers that the public doesn't say because they feel they don't have a voice...There may be some innovative thinkers on how to increase City revenue without increasing tot." Carries 5-0.

9:48 Barbose would like to jump to hear the Pets Lifeline's item (7E) first.

9:50 Item 7E, Pets Lifeline is looking for some easement of City fees for "Black Cat Cabaret," a fundraising event held on the Field of Dreams in Sept.

9:51 Field of Dreams rental fee of $2,100 is collected by them, not the city. It may be possible to use a city-funded day for this event, but Kelly recommends against doing this because special event fees are meant to recoup staff-time costs of holding these events.

9:52 Brown supports this, "given the level of funding we provide them in years past, and what we provide to the redevelopment center."

9:58 Kelly asks where the money's going to come from, since the city has a deficit.

9:59 Pets Lifeline Executive Director Nancy King says she hopes that the event is becoming more of a destination event than just a fundraiser. They've been working with the hotels to push this. They also moved it to the Field of Dreams last year, so guests could enjoy downtown.

10:00 Golenpaul: "They went to the trouble of hiring a PR consultant. I bet they're paying them more than $900."

10:02 Sanders motions to support Brown's agenda item by using the city's subsidized day to offset the parking lot fee by $900.

10:04 "There's a nexus between what Pets Lifeline does and what a city service is," said Sanders.

10:05 Brown suggests Sanders tap into King to look into her earlier comment about wanting to enact dog-safety item.

10:07 Motion passes 5-0.

10:09 Kelly wants to clarify rules to nonprofits, to create a "level playing field" so several nonprofits don't come to council outside of regular budget-setting session.

10:14 Council votes to move all items except 7F, which is time sensitive, to designate a voting delegate and alternate for 2011 League of California Cities Annual Conference.

10:15 Final remarks: Sanders says she'd like the media to have a copy of building permit report. She also loves the Arnold Field parking lot re-pavement, but she's disappointed that the strip on the Depot Park side of the median didn't get repaved.

10:20 Brown: There is no Sonoma Valley Citizen's Advisory Committee this month.

10:20 Kelly says all reporters will get it.

10:22  Meeting is adjourned to Monday, Aug. 29 at 6pm for a second reading of (7A).

Sonoma Patch Sincerely Regrets: A previous version of this live-blog recounted the Sonoma City Attorney as Tom Currey. The City Attorney, since 2009, is Jeffrey Walter.

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