Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Monday's Council Meeting Report
Hmmm, Where to start?
The council chambers were completely full with standing room only in the outer lobby. About 100 folks were there to discuss the DPOA issue and others for the various issues such as the closing of Monroe St. and the city's budget cut and outsourcing proposals. Here's a a recap of what happened:
This is so complex I've decided to shorten this post and add it as the next post so this is not too long.
MONROE STREET CLOSURE
With over 30 speaker cards, this became the largest issue of the evening to be heard. Residents of Monroe spoke to the burgeoning problems with "cut through" traffic on Monroe, which juts out from Orange Grove and Garey and curves up to meet McKinley. Monroe has been a convenient shortcut for those who don't want to get caught in the traffic trying to get on the freeway when they want to head east on McKinley. Tales of cars ending up in front yards and accidents as well as fear for the safety of the growing number of families with children in the area made an impression on councilmembers.
In opposition were Frantz Cleaners and the Dentist office at Monroe and Orange Grove, both of whom felt that the closure would have negative impacts on their businesses. Other speakers opposing included residents of surrounding streets who feared that the closure of Monroe would move the problem to their streets.
However, councilmember Lantz gave a very well thought out history of the intersection and the problems that have occurred during the past 20 years or so. She noted that when the street was originally laid out, that there was no freeway and that the changes in traffic patterns necessitate such action.
For myself, a resident of Monroe, I spoke to the historic nature of our district, which was more urban and does not have cul-de-sacs and questioned making such a drastic change while acknowledging the very real problems that exist. I'm afraid that I probably was not as clear as I could have been in my 3-minutes. I was not actually against the closure, but felt that there might be an alternative mitigation.
The council voted unanimously to support the closure of Monroe. At least it should have a positive impact on my personal property value as being on the only "quiet cul-de-sac" in the city's National Historic District.
It was pointed out at the start of discussion that this was not a public hearing, but mearly an exploratory meeting so that staff could better understand the council's direction on preparing the budget. There were several speakers from the city's employees' union decrying the use of outsourcing and the probable reductions in service as jobs are taken over by individuals who don't know the city and have no long-term committment to serving our citizens.
There was a lot of discussion about the impacts of cuts. Councilmember Soto was concerned that if we moved to outsource a service such as street sweeping that we'd have a hard time bringing it back in-house if we wanted to, especially since the plan would be to sell off all of the city's equipment. It was also noted that at one point that we had outsourced the street sweeping of Holt Avenue and that it was so bad that we had to take it back.
Councilmember Lantz spoke at length about the fact that they were not given "apples to apples" comparisons as to where the savings were coming from. In some cases the solution to elimianting a city position was that the duties would fall to others in the department, but how would that affect service? Would there be additional delays in getting jobs done. As for the outsourcing, the proposals note that there would also be a reduction in service, but there was no indication what the costs would be of a similar reduction using current city staff.
Probably most intersting was City Manager Lowry's analogy to the budget process as potentially being a yo-yo diet with the budget getting fat and skinny as conditions change, but what she felt we needed was liposuction. I can only guess that she means getting rid of anything that is fat and then going on a starvation diet. Unfortunately, from my perspective, the patient might be thin, but dead in a very short period.
The next meeting on the budget will be on June 15. Mayor Rothman asked that the meeting be dedicated to the budget and that other items be postponed to later meetings so that they can concentrate on the budgetary matters.
Also on the agenda was an ordinance mandating water conservation throughout the city. This was a requirement by the Metropolitan Water District if the city wanted to be eligible for grant funding for water related projects in the future. Basically MWD was telling the city what it had to do, even though Pomona gets over 75% of its water from local sources and only relies on MWD for a maximum of 25% of its water.
The ordinance includes restrictions on when residents can water their yards, with automatic irrigation limited to three days a week and a maximum run time of 15 minutes. For myself, in my back yard I have a system with three zones that each run for 10 minutes, three times a week. The sytem is a moderate drip system, unlike lawn sprinklers which run full tilt. So will I be out of compliance with this new ordinance? Do my plants have to die?
Speaking on the subject was Dawn Van Allen, owner of The Garden who expressed concerns about her business which relies on irrigation system watering. Ms. Van Allen was assured that her business would be protected under the new ordinance.
With an amount of conern, the council passed the ordinance. Councilmember Lantz noted that with cutbacks and an already overburdened code enforcement division, that we probably have little to worry about from the "water police." However, she did hope that all residents would conserve water as much as possible, especially in this period of drought. Staff noted that they are planning on having "friendly reminder" cards created to give to residents when violations of the new ordinance are noted.