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Petaluma creates city commission to address climate change

To help Petaluma better navigate its stated climate emergency, the city is establishing the first public body in Sonoma County designed to directly address the community's impact on global warming.

The city council unanimously approved an ordinance last week that established Petaluma's Climate Action Commission, an appointed body that will help craft policies and engage residents on issues related to climate change.

The commission is the brainchild of council members D'Lynda Fischer, Mike Healy and Kathy Miller, the ad hoc subcommittee that came together after Petaluma officials declared a climate emergency in May, making environmental sustainability a top priority.

Since then, city officials have aggressively pursued the issue. Last month, the council adopted a policy agenda for the next two years that emphasizes environmental measures, and has also moved forward on a zero waste goal and so-called reach codes for greener building practices.

'I'm pleased that we have gotten this done and turned around as fast as we have,' Miller said.

The council subcommittee outlined five main objectives for the commission so it can become a focal point on climate change within the Petaluma community.

Overall, the goal is to have it coordinate workshops with experts, address greenhouse gas emissions, suggest policies, encourage community involvement and examine actions taken by other jurisdictions that could be pursued locally.

'It's not an entitling body like the planning commission is, but rather a high-level policy-considering body for (making) recommendations to the council,' said City Attorney Eric Danly.

Members of the CAC will serve on staggered, four-year terms. One commissioner will be a city council member, which will rotate each year similar to the council liaisons that serve on other municipal boards like the Planning Commission or Transit Advisory Committee, for example.

Two commission members can reside outside the city, but must have had a Petaluma mailing address for no less than one year prior to their appointment.

Climate change activists demonstrated outside the Petaluma Community Center before the city's daylong goal-setting workshop in April, calling for an emergency policy resolution and the formation of a 'climate cabinet' to help systematically approach the issue of global warming.

Climate Action Petaluma member Trathen Heckman, executive director of Daily Acts, commended the city's efforts since, and said he would like to see a CAC member with a background in environmental justice.

'We all have to make some really difficult decisions based upon the moral crisis of our time — from the trips we take, to the things we consume, to the things we purchase,' Heckman said. 'It's a reminder and encouragement for us all to … really strengthen this muscle further to make the decisions that are required to keep civilization together.'

The city is currently fielding applications over the next month, with a public interview process slated for as early as September. To apply, email the City Clerk at CCooper@cityofpetaluma.org.

The CAC will meet at least once a month after it's established.

'Start working on those applications,' said Mayor Teresa Barrett.

(Contact News Editor Yousef Baig at yousef.baig@arguscourier.com or 776-8461, and on Twitter @YousefBaig.)

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