Friday, June 15, 2012

Budget showdown on Monday

It's going to be a long Monday in Pomona.

Already various interest groups have fired up their e-mail lists and discussion groups. Local 1014, the firefighter's union, has placed an all-call to their membership on the closure of Fire Station 181. There is a Facebook group, "Don't close the Pomona library!!" created by a library employee. In addition, overlooked by the media, the latest installment of trash station theater happens Monday as well, with the city manager requesting the public hearing for the Pomona Valley Transfer Station be scheduled, denying trash station opponents' claim that State time limits have expired and that the project is therefore denied.

Here are the key items to look for:

  • Item 12 is the scheduling of a hearing for the trash station appeal. Possible hearing dates are July 2 or July 9. To avoid legal challenges, these hearings must end by a time certain and so could be continued indefinitely, as the Planning Commission used three meetings to hear the appeal. In addition, City Council could choose to deny a hearing, although that would trigger legal action from the proponents. But because of this risk, proponents and opponents of the trash station will spend their time convincing the council of their merits, and so all of the issues likely brought up at a public hearing would be heard now. The project itself has been modified such that all trucks leaving the facility will be CNG and the diesel fuel station has been eliminated.
  • Item 13 is a discussion of the "realignment" of fire services. It includes the closure of Fire Station 181, next to the Civic Center, and moving various equipment around the city, reducing the fire contract by $1.96 million or 8%. The firefighters' union has proposed instead that the city join the Consolidated Fire Protection District, instead of contracting in a fee for services arrangement. In this manner, property taxes move directly to the fire department, similar to the situation in cities created after Proposition 13 was passed. 
  • Item 15 is the state-mandated budget public hearing. Thirty positions are eliminated, with the closure of the library and the outsourcing of park maintenance. There are also accounting shifts in gas tax funding for street maintenance and internal services. Legally the budget must be adopted by the end of the year, or the previous year's budget continues on a month to month basis.

For those of you who don't go down the city hall often, the council chambers is small, with a capacity somewhere around 200 with about 40-50 people accommodated in the lobby. There is a loudspeaker that will blast the proceedings to the plaza. For those with cable or FIOS, meetings are also broadcast on the public access channel (Channel 29 for those with FIOS), although the quality of the audio can be questionable.

The meeting begins at 6:45 p.m., and although the city code only permits to go to 11:00 p.m. the council can choose to extend the meeting indefinitely. However, meetings have tended to be called at 7:00 p.m. or later due to straggling for council members to leave closed session. With the items on the agenda and public interest this meeting could last well beyond midnight.

Speaker cards are in the lobby and the city clerk reserves the authority to not accept cards submitted after the meeting has begun, although in practice speaker cards are accepted until the item has actually begun. The time limit is three minutes or at the discretion of the mayor. They go to the table in front of the public seating area. Generally they are not called in any particular order, with the exception of other elected officials who may be recognized earlier.

I've also been informed that the Los Angeles bureau chief for the New York Times is pursuing a story, either about the library itself or framing this and other budget decisions in a national context, to be published in the next few days. So interest is not waning on this one.


meg said...

Thanks for posting, Calwatch -- both the run-down of hot topics and the description of council meetings, for those who haven't been before.

And woo hoo, NYT!

goddess of pomona said...

Regarding your other post, Calwatch whatever happened about the Stater Bros. recylcing center?

calwatch said...

City Council denied the hearing, although there was no one to speak for or against (it was approved on consent calendar) so it is supposed to be closed, although they may try to move it to the front of the store so that no residents can complain. That might be palatable and still achieve the goal of Stater's not having to accept recyclables in their facility.