|Landman, Cotati citizens chat it up
Some of his harshest critics and staunchest allies made their way to the Redwood Café in Cotati on Monday night for an informal gab session with Mayor Mark Landman.
Landman sat alone on stage with only his notepad, bottle of water and microphone as he answered questions from the audience. Also on hand were Cotati city staff members, including City Manager Dianne Thompson and Police Chief Michael Parish. Councilwomen Wendy Skillman and Susan Harvey also were in attendance.
The session covered a wide range of issues – from plans for the city’s northern corridor on Old Redwood Highway to what can be done to keep the Rancho Adobe Fire District station open every day to the salaries of city staff to the possibility of building a hotel somewhere downtown. The city’s ban on fast food restaurants also took up a good portion of the session.
The relaxed setting also seemed to tamp down the heated rhetoric and name calling that occurs at regular city council meetings. Still, there were some heated moments, particularly when the salaries of city staff was the subject.
One audience member said, “I have objections to how much money is being spent on the staff…hiring an assistant manager for $100,000 who so far I haven’t seen him do anything. That money could have been used for infrastructure. There’s no much that needs to be done in that department. I’d like to see council reevaluate salaries of the staff.”
Landman responded by saying Cotati’s salary structure is in line with similar cities of its size. And he added, “Certain jobs have a certain price range. If you go to a dentist, you pay a certain amount. If you’re a dentist or a police chief, you have to go to school and work hard, and you get good pay, as well you should.”
As for the northern corridor, one man said when he and his family are out for a walk, they’ll go no further north than La Plaza Park because there are few areas in the northern corridor that have sidewalks.
“It’s not walking friendly…it’s kind of like a no-man’s land,” Landman said. “But that’s one of the improvements you’re going to see over the summer.”
There also was the subject of big-rig trucks using Old Redwood Highway through downtown Cotati as a shortcut to Highway 101 to avoid the Cotati grade. An audience member said the noise and the fumes from the trucks are unattractive for those who wish to dine or sit outside at one of the downtown restaurants.
One Cotati business owner suggested a downtown hotel would help attract new tourists to Cotati. He said one reason cities such as Healdsburg and Sonoma have thriving downtown areas is because hotels make those cities destination points. Cotati, he said, basically serves the same clientele, which stagnates growth.
RAFD is closed in Cotati two days a week, which concerned an audience member. He told the story of how his young son at one point stopped breathing and RAFD in Cotati was called. Because he is a firefighter in Novato, he was able to revive his son. The response time was 3 minutes for RAFD to get to his home. Had the RAFD station in Cotati been closed, it would have taken a bit longer to get to his home from the Penngrove or Liberty stations.
“Try holding your breath for as long as it takes to get from those outside stations and see how that works,” he said.
Landman suggested RAFD keep the Cotati station opened all the time because it serves the most populated area.
There also were discussions about roundabouts as well as the building vacancy throughout Cotati.
Landman said he’d like to hold a couple more informal gatherings before the year is out.