By: David Abbott
Aug. 2, 2010
Published with permission by Sonoma West Times, GoLocal Member since 2009
Councilmember Kathleen Shaffer made a good showing briefly filling in for 5th District Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who was stuck in traffic between San Francisco and the Sebastopol Public Library where the most recent in a series of Town Hall meetings took place.
Shaffer explained her vote regarding the recently passed smoking ordinance that banned cigarette smoking in multi family units, but allows the smoking of medicinal marijuana.
As a child growing up in Kentucky, she was surrounded by smokers unaware of the effects of second hand smoke. As a result, she was often sick, and wants to do what she can to prevent children from being stuck in a similar situation.
When a member of the audience of about 40 asked what constituted a multiple family unit, Shaffer said that any dwelling that shares a ceiling or a wall “with another family.”
“You can smoke in (an apartment) if you have a moat around it and a drawbridge you can raise,” she said, adding that neighbors can report offenders who are then subject to $100 to $250 fines.
Shaffer then announced that there will soon be upgrades to the City’s website, making it more interactive, and that phase III of the Street Smart program is soon to get underway.
The next phase will include upgrades such as “bulbouts” at the crosswalk of the SkateGarden, which will make it safer for pedestrians. There will also be feasibility studies for bike lanes, including the class I path that would head south from the Joe Rodota Trail along the western edge of the Laguna proposed by Lynn Deedler of the Design Review Board.
Deedler hopes to work with the County to one day have a bike path connecting Sebastopol to Petaluma, creating a nearly contiguous path to Forestville.
The Sebastopol Entrepreneurs Project is underway despite a few roadblocks, Shaffer reported, the main one being a lack of office space for the project.
Shaffer and fellow councilmember Larry Robinson have been working on the project for several months, which intends to build an “incubator” for business by providing office space, technology and advice from local business leaders. The incubator was originally going to be located in the city’s Adaptive Services Building, located near the Sebastopol Fire Station, but that space will soon be rented out to the Ceres Project, leaving the Entrepreneurs Project homeless.
It was at that point in Shaffer’s presentation that Carrillo showed up to the meeting.
Carrillo apologized for being stuck in traffic and launched into a rather bleak update/assessment on the state of the county, calling it a “challenging and depressing time.”
According to Carrillo, last year, the county experienced a nearly $27 million shortfall in revenues and this year had to trim $62 million in order to balance the 2010/2011 budget. The shortfall is due in part to the continued downward trend of property values and reduced sales tax collections, and the $395 million general fund is $94 million lower — or 7.4 percent — than last year.
The reductions came in large part through concessions from County employees, mandatory time off, and “significant cuts” to the workforce. There were 90 layoffs and the County workforce dropped from 4,100 employees to 3,800. Carrillo said the reductions came mainly through unfilled positions.
“Some counties have been making cuts in the hundreds,” he said. “We haven’t been filling positions for 2-3 years.”
He added that the County is already looking at a $15 million to $25 million deficit next year, and that it’s changing the way it provides services, doing more outsourcing and having tough discussions with labor organizations.
Carrillo voiced “significant concerns” about the future, adding that the biggest concern with county officials is dealing with the state’s $21 billion shortfall.
“The economy may be in the tank for several years to come,” he said. “It’s death by 1,000 slices.”
After giving his report, Carrillo opened up the forum for questions and discussion.
Sebastopudlian Colleen Fernald asked Carrillo when the Board of Supervisors was going to “uphold their Constitutional oath” to the citizens of Sonoma County and put forth a resolution condemning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Carrillo reported that it was beyond the purview of the Town Hall and it was not the job of the Supervisors.
Fernald persisted, but was eventually silenced by members of the community who asked her to desist if she didn’t have a question.
Charity Kirk voiced concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and said the county needs a “cohesive mass transit system.” She was also concerned about the lack of safe routes for pedestrians and bicyclists in many parts of the county, citing “seven or eight schools on Watertrough Road” with no safe routes.
Carrillo acknowledged the problem and said that problems existed not only in funding projects such as the SMART train and trail projects, but also in attitudes of motorists and cyclists.
“There’s a group in Cazadero that feel they can’t share the road (with Levi Leipheimer’s upcoming Gran Fondo fundraiser),” he said. “There’s a flyer circulating asking people to impact the roads with cars to interrupt the event.”
Local businessman Ron Basso suggested a solar co-op as a means of bringing efficiencies of scale to smaller communities interested in getting off the electricity grid and as a local economic engine.
Carrillo said that the county is moving forward with solar initiatives and is listening to ideas from all over the county.
“Rio Nido wants to put solar panels on the slide,” he said.
Other issues addressed in the forum included discussions about liability for landlords once PG&E’s SmartMeters