Decision-Making, Disagreement, and Debates
The current Sebastopol City Council is a great example of five people who frequently disagree, and argue their positions passionately, and in my opinion produce better outcomes as a result.
Example: I was a proponent and advocate for the Parking Ordinance. I was also a proponent and advocate for the Horizon Shine RV Village. Both initiatives created substantial debate among City Councilmembers and among members of the public. I am proud to have supported those two initiatives, and proud of the active and passionate debate that all City Councilmembers and the public engaged in on these two topics.
Are you looking for proof of this active debate? Feel free to review any of the Sebastopol City Council meeting video recordings to witness our many disagreements and debates. You'll quickly learn that healthy debate is alive and well in our town!
CASE IN POINT: The Parking Ordinance: A good meeting to review for debate on the Sebastopol City Council is the first meeting when the parking ordinance was considered. It was brought forward by the Police Chief and supported by the Ad Hoc Committee for the Unhoused (Councilmember Una Glass and me - Councilmember Diana Rich).
Let's walk through the process: First Step: the Staff Report – The Ad Hoc Committee supports the parking ordinance: Here’s the statement by the Ad Hoc Committee at page 3 in the January 18 Staff Report requesting direction on the parking ordinance, supporting the Police Chief’s proposed parking ordinance:
The Ad Hoc Committee for the Unhoused has reviewed the draft ordinance submitted by the Chief of Police. On balance, the Ad Hoc Committee is in support of the draft ordinance without the permit provisions, subject to input from the community and discussion by our fellow City Councilmembers. It is our opinion that the ordinance (without permit provisions) is a simple, uncomplicated, enforceable compromise that recognizes and takes into consideration the needs of multiple community interests, including the unhoused, our businesses, residents, and the community at large. It meets the goals set by the City Council on November 30 to develop a practical, enforceable, realistic parking plan to clear long-term encampments on Morris Street and to make changes in parking rules to prevent future collection of overnight lived-in vehicles on that street, as well as in neighborhoods and elsewhere in town. Additionally, the Committee would like to explore timed parking and has recommended that the Chief of Police provide location(s) and hour(s) of timed parking in commercial, industrial, and community facility zoned areas of the City. Streets under consideration include, but are not limited to, Morris Street, Laguna Park Way, and parts of Johnson Street.
Second Step: the City Council Meeting – Substantial Disagreement and Debate: The video recording of the January 18, 2022 City Council meeting can be found here. The parking ordinance Item begins at timestamp 2:15:29 and ends at 6:16:04. Yes, it took us four hours of questions and discussion, including an hour of public comment, to come to an agreement.
Issues raised and discussed by City Councilmembers included (but were not limited to) the following:
- Should residents be given permits for parking in residential areas (Vice Mayor Neysa Hinton).
- Would it be better to not implement the parking ordinance at all (Councilmember Una Glass).
- What impact would the ordinance have on residents who do not have driveways for their RVs (Councilmember Sarah Gurney).
- Would the parking ordinance deter visitors to town (Councilmember Sarah Gurney and Mayor Patrick Slayter).
- Would it be better to simply make our 72 hour rule more robust (Councilmember Una Glass).
- What costs would be associated with the various options presented by the Chief (Councilmember Diana Rich).
- Etc etc.
What was the outcome after the four hours of discussion? We modified the parking ordinance in response to the discussion, and then approved it. We had expressed our concerns, listened to the concerns of the public, listened to our fellow City Councilmembers and to City Staff, received answers to our questions and to the questions raised by the public, and processed the realistic implications of the various options. On balance each of us felt that approval was the right choice for Sebastopol. Mayor Slayter moved to approve the parking ordinance (6:10:27) and I seconded the motion (6:12:27). We all voted in favor.
Although these discussions take a long time, we benefit from the questions and issues raised during these meetings, and we produce better results. That's what democracy is all about.
Please take the time to review this meeting video or any other. They demonstrate that the Sebastopol City Council engages in substantial healthy debate on issues that are important to the community. That, for me, is one of the joys of being an elected in this town. I firmly believe that disagreement and debates make for better decision-making (so long as they are respectful).
For the minutes of the January 18, 2022 meeting, click here.