At their regular meeting Aug. 4, the Windsor Town Council is expected to pass two resolutions that will leave both filling a vacant council seat by a special election next year and modifying the mayoral selection process to the voters by special election on Nov. 2. The council will also continue the first reading of a more restrictive update to the town’s tobacco retailer license ordinance, taking into consideration complaints from business owners.
Special election to resolve council vacancy, mayoral selection dilemmas
Having canceled a planned special meeting to continue discussion on whether to appoint someone to the council seat left vacant following now-Mayor Sam Salmon’s assumption of the mayoral seat left vacant after Dominic Foppoli’s resignation, the council will move forward with a special election next year, pending adoption of a resolution Aug. 4.
The council has been deadlocked 2-2 over how to fill the vacancy. By failing to resolve the issue by July 31, the town defaults to a special election to fill the seat, and due to the delays caused by deliberations, the earliest available special election falls next year on April 12. This means the council will continue with only four voting members (including Salmon) until next spring when voters will fill the fourth non-mayoral council seat. However, that fourth council seat, which when filled will bring the council to five voting members total, will become competitive again later that year during the general municipal election Nov. 8, 2022.
Windsor currently has a complicated election system, with four council members elected for four-year terms based on geographical districts drawn throughout the town, and the mayor — the fifth voting member of the council — selected at large by voters for a two-year term each election cycle.
Per an item on the consent calendar, maintaining the current at-large mayoral selection process will also be left to the voters this Nov. 2. Voters could eliminate the elective office of mayor at the ballot box, allowing a five-member town council each serving four-year terms to select, every two years, a mayor from amongst themselves, as is common in other cities.
If passed by the electorate, the new mayoral selection system would go into effect following the general municipal election on Nov. 8, 2022.
Stricter tobacco regulations move forward, with modifications
As part of the anti-tobacco movement in broader Sonoma County, the Town of Windsor is moving forward with more restrictive tobacco regulations by amending its tobacco ordinance.
Windsor is one of a handful of municipalities in Sonoma County that requires tobacco retailers — of which there are 14 in town — to maintain a tobacco retailer license (TRL). Within town limits, tobacco purveyors must hold and annually renew a TRL, which subjects them to increased regulations than, say, Santa Rosa retailers. For instance, minimum pack prices are currently set at $7, which proponents say reduces the ability of minors with fake IDs to purchase highly addictive nicotine products.
Tobacco retailers are also required to pay an annual fee to fund enforcement, conducted by the Sonoma County Health Department and set minimum pack sizes.
During the first reading of the ordinance amendment at the July 21 town council meeting, local licensed tobacco retailers expressed opposition to the new regulations proposed. Among their primary concerns were being subject to racist attacks by would-be customers who didn’t understand the ordinance, claims of decreases in business value due to an inability to transfer licenses- and complications for first generation children who would likewise be unable to inherit their parents’ businesses and an increase on the minimum pack price to $10.
At the continued first reading Aug. 8, the town council will review the ordinance with the following changes:
Removal of the proposed increase to the minimum price for cigarettes, cigars and little cigars.
Removal of restriction on the transferability of existing tobacco retail licenses for businesses that remain at the same physical location.
Council also directed staff to create signage and other educational materials to be displayed at licensed retail locations to educate the public that the restrictions are ordained by the town.
Exceptions from tree mitigation fees for Hembree Lane developer
In a third and final item on the regular calendar, the council will review its tree ordinance, working to make residential infill more feasible by relaxing requirements for tree conservation on a 24-unit development proposed on Hembree Lane.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article stated that the council is holding a special election to determine whether or not to keep an at-large mayor seat in April 2022. The council is planning on holding the special election for that decision on Nov. 2, 2021.