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Sebastappeal by Sarah Glade Gurney

The Fires

Oct 23, 2017
by Sarah Glade Gurney

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I enjoyed Sunday, October 8, as a crispy clear, warm Fall day in public service: starting at our Fire Department’s free pancake breakfast, then staffing the City table at our crowded Farm Market on The Plaza, and concluding with a poignant goodbye to our Open World visitors from Ukraine, at a lovely outdoor dinner.

Later that night, as I breathed smoke and watched grey ash float down in the darkened sky, our world changed forever: fires raged out of control across Sonoma and Napa counties. As I submit this article, we don’t know the full extent of the devastation.

We do know for certain the dedication and professionalism of our public safety personnel: our volunteer firefighters, police officers, reserve officers, and city staff. On a holiday, these folks rushed to duty in response to a dynamic and unprecedented disaster.

Our community stepped up, too, to open our evacuation shelters and make sure that fire victims were safe, had access to food, water, and bathrooms. Volunteers offered to cook, to serve as nurses, doctors, and counselors, to organize information, to care for children, and to handle many other tasks. Residents offered spare rooms to displaced families and backyards to distressed pets. Businesses delivered sandwiches and supplies.

“Our fire and police departments have been incredible in this emergency as have the residents of Sebastopol,“Mayor Una Glass says with gratitude.  She continues, “Coincidentally, I had directed Staff last month to prepare a report on our emergency procedures and preparedness. It will be presented to the City Council in the coming month.” This future agenda item will provide the opportunity to debrief on this experience in order to be more effective during the next emergency.

Thank you to everyone for your spirited and generous mobilization in response to this crisis. Our hearts go out to the evacuees, to those who have lost everything – homes and businesses – and to those waiting to hear about their families and friends in the stricken areasy.

On Other Matters

Pay Attention until Adjournment

Each Council Agenda includes a series of items at the end called “Reports.” This part of the meeting presents the opportunity for Staff to address the whole Council, as well as Council Members to share with our colleagues what each of us is doing in Sub-Committee work or on a County-wide assignment and what each of us hears from the community.

The last minutes of each meeting are often ignored. The public has gone home for the night, their issues already discussed. The few dedicated Council watchers hang in there, with depleted attention.

The reality is that the “Reports” part of the agenda gives us the opportunity to update each other and our constituency about our individual efforts. This is our one important chance to stay in communication with each other, because otherwise, pursuant to the Brown Act, more than two Council Members cannot talk to each other about city business in any other setting.

This part of the agenda is key to knowing how Council Members spend our time on assignment outside of regular meetings, what countywide boards on which we sit decide, and what we’re thinking about current and future issues.

To Car or Not to Car

I recently reported on an article that I read in the September issue ofAmerican City and County, titled “Millennials in Transit.” The column on current issues and trends provides insights into the latest social, financial, and political movements shaping our communities.

The 83 million people born between 1982 and 2003 are rejecting cars in favor of alternative modes of transportation. Millennials want to live in walkable communities with transit nearby and easily accessible. Pragmatic consumers of mobility, they are multimodal, searching for the best trip option, not jumping in their private cars every time they go somewhere. They look for optimization: of time, money, and life in general.

They shun cars as an unsatisfying and unnecessary expense and prefer more frugal, debt-free lifestyles that respect the environment and use technology wisely.

Young people’s shifting attitudes toward transportation will change the way our city plans and operates. Will parking spaces, parking lots, parking structures, and three-laned roadways be the highest and best uses of our real estate for future generations?

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