Monday, July 30, 2012

Council Meeting Tonight

A special meeting has been called for tonight. This is the fourth meeting in July. The council usually takes August off but with everything that has been going on there is a lot of business to be taken care of.

I also heard a little bit ago on the radio that there will be a group at tonight's meeting protesting a police shooting in the city, so should be another wild time.

Here are some of the items on tonight's agenda for those who might want to attend:

  • Consent Agenda Items
    • Accepting a JAG grant for the Police Dept for $76,781
    • Renewing DPOA agreement to hire supplemental police for downtown at $120,000 for the year
    • Agreement with School District (PUSD) to cofund Community School Resource Officer
    • Agreement to lease purchase CNG Trash Trucks over 7 years for $4.1 million.
    • To put on the November ballot a city version of the charter amendment to compete with the Charter Review Commission's charter amendment
    • To put on the November ballot a $61 per parcel tax to go to the Fire Contract (total $3 million/year)
    • To put on the November ballot a $38 per parcel tax to go to the Library to continue library services
  • Changes to job descriptions to allow new library staff to be hired as hourly, non-benefited, part time workers
  • Ordinance allowing for the impounding of cars as nuisance when involved in an arrest for prostitution.
  • Public Benefit funding for:
    • $100 to Latino Art Museum
    • $200 to Fairplex Big Yellow Bus program
    • $75 for Latina Roundtable Meeting at Philadelphia Park
I'm sure that there will be comments to be made tomorrow on several of these issues.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Notice of Election

Since everyone is discussing these in other threads, let's remind everyone that the position of mayor and councilmember from Districts 1 (Soto), 4 (Lantz), and 6 (Atchley) are up for re-election. Voting is first past the post, with no runoff election. While the newspaper will likely publish a list of candidates as August 10 draws closer, discuss your potential candidates, rumors for candidates, etc. here in this open thread.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

One last story

The Pomona Public Library's final story time will be held this coming Tuesday at 12:15 PM.   If you're so inclined, bring a single stem of your favorite flower for your favorite librarian.

Manly Men of Opera

Ten luxurious bass voices will gather under the musical direction of  Brian Farrell to celebrate the unique sound and repertoire of the bass voice.  We will hear fathers, villains, and clowns – men at their most extreme:  from Don Juan to Macbeth to Attila the Hun, from the con man who sells the Elixir of Love to the Song of the Boatmen who pull barges up the Volga River.  There also be popular favorites like “My Funny Valentine” and songs from Oliver and Gilbert and Sullivan. ROC’s basses have gathered to raise their voices and to raise funds in support the mission of Repertory Opera Company – bringing quality performances to music lovers in our neighborhood.

Repertory Opera Company
Manly Men of Opera 2012
A concert of ten bass singers
August 12, 2012 at 5 pm
First Christian Church
1751 N. Park Ave, Pomona CA  91768
Celebrating the glorious resonance of ROC’s bass voices.
Tickets are $25.  Tables are $200.
Buy your tickets at or call (909) 230-4949

can't get a break

Poor Pomona.  First injury, now insult:  Reading this amusing piece in Spin on records (huh? what's a "record"?) you should never ever buy, I spotted Pomona's own Geggy Tah on the list.

You can have Melissa Etheridge and Porno for Pyros, but leave Pomona alone, guys!

how much is that birdie in the window?

In the comments on the next-most-recent post, Anonymous posted a link to a story on Sodahead ("a dynamic discussion community where you can discover, debate, and discuss issues that get you fired up") about Mayor Rothman, including a photo -- by Ren, right? -- of the mayor flipping him the bird.

I'm turning this into a separate topic because I am flat-out appalled.  Those who've met me know that I'm hardly a paragon of propriety, but then again, I'm not the mayor.  (I wanted to write that last clause in all-caps with a thousand exclamation points, but I managed to control myself.)

What disgusts me here isn't just the poor impulse control; again, I'm not one to talk.  But the fact that the mayor feels so confident in his status that he can just flip off a citizen with a camera -- now that speaks volumes.  That suggests a man who doesn't care what the voters think, because the photographer was Ren, for pete's sake -- the Weegee, Bill Cunningham, and Ansel Adams of Pomona, the man whose photos always get seen by the community.  

I can't help but interpret the mayor's insulting gesture as an indication that he thinks his re-election is in the bag.  Let's show him he's wrong.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Huge Step Back and a Little Step Forward

Predictably, the Pomona city council did not follow the overwhelmingly expressed will of the people, and voted in favor of the Valley Vista Transfer Station (with Freddie Rodriguez and Cristina Carrizosa casting dissenting votes). The "mayor" recused himself from the proceedings.

In the presentation of the project, the applicant made a number of concessions to public pressure. He said he would only allow CNG trucks only on the site (except for 50 diesel trucks); that he would reduce the tonnage from 1500 to 1000/day (but with possibilities for future growth); that he would pay for a code enforcer for the area; and that he would fund a green-up project in the industrial area around the site. He did not commit to Pomona-only trash.

Still, even with these concessions, the majority of the speakers spoke against the station. They clearly remained unconvinced that Valley Vista had Pomona's best interests at heart, or that the business would be good for the city. They cited the city's lack of investigation into the project's locale and its effects on the water and soil. They voiced concerns about exponentially increased truck traffic, noise, and pollution. They suggested that cash for trash is not a sustainable approach to waste reduction, because it relies on the production of trash. They noted that Pomona already has the highest rate of NO2 emissions in the state and that project still will generate 3 times the recommended thresholds. They argued that  the city should only take care of its own trash and not become trash central. And they pointed out that the project disproportionally affects working class, people of color communities. They suggested that many more of the council should have recused themselves due to conflict of interest. Their arguments convinced many that the Valley Vista trash-for-cash model is a huge detriment to the city of Pomona and not in the interests of the people.

Proponents argued that allowing the Trash station would encourage businesses to come to Pomona, that all business is more or less equally polluting, and that opening the 9th street station would allow the open air 1st street station to close. The most tragically regressive argument was that the station was necessary because Pomona would economically revive and produce trash, just like back in the good old days of 1000+ tons/day. The argument that Valley Vista would bring money to the city was not mobilized, because it was revealed in the project presentation (thanks to Rodriguez's questioning) that the promised $1 million annual revenue would not cover the $1.5-2 million on repair for the damages to the roads that the project would inflict. 

It was discouraging to watch the council's lack of deliberation. Atchley, who spent much of the meeting reading on his ipad, said immediately that he was in favor of the project. Escobar, who spent much of the meeting texting, had little to say. Carrisoza put a motion on the floor to bring the project to ballot, but it failed without a seconder.  This lack of debate provoked an improptu protest, as a number of angry citizens chanted, marched and spoke out against the lack of  democratic debate.

That moment was the small step forward, which could become a giant step in time. People in this city are angry. People are mobilized. People can make change, even if the council is bought and sold to unsustainable business and corporate models. People can take the city of Pomona back. There are community groups working on sustainability; on anticorporate living; on art; on democratic process; on stopping the erosion of the library; on health; on youth empowerment.  People are saying no to the way that their democratically elected officials treat them. The people of Pomona can make this city a place for people. Let's do it. The government will have to follow...or maybe it will permanently recuse itself.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why I support the Pomona Valley Transfer Station project

After reviewing the EIR, the numerous staff reports, and paging through public comment at the Planning Commission hearings, I've come to the conclusion that the Pomona Valley Transfer Station should be approved, with additional conditions. It seems that the IESC, one of the main organizers against the trash station, have also decided to make demands rather than killing the project altogether.

With the owner of PVTS also owning rights to the First Street Direct Transfer Station, this transfer station - which actually is directly across the street and railroad tracks from a school (rather than being over 2/3 of a mile away) - should close as soon as PVTS opens. Other conditions that should be imposed beyond the list of items in the staff report include extending the designated community liaison for construction issues to a permanent position for the life of the project, offering temporary relocation to the three residences which will have noise exceeding environmental limits during construction, posting signage at the station for a direct hotline to the City of Pomona for any issues related to transfer station operation, and expediting enforcement of violations of the conditional use permit to avoid the situation that happened with Angelo's Pizzeria. As the newspaper notes, PVTS will generate over a million dollars in revenue when opened. That's money that we need to keep services open. Utility taxes were on the ballot in the past and failed miserably, so it is clear that the only way we can attain more revenue is to attract more businesses. After thousands of dollars in effort in preparing environmental documents and plans, rejection of this project would send a bad message to future Pomona developers.

Overall, I am hopeful that this project will now not have to go into litigation, which would just paralyze the community again. I am hopeful that the City Council will follow the statutory requirements, hear all public comment, and come a decision based on the evidence before it. I expect a 4-2 vote to approve. See you all tomorrow.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Talking trash - Guide to Monday's meeting

As we head towards what may be possibly the best attended public hearing in Pomona in a long time, let's take a look at some of the arguments for and against, and review the possible votes for the project. Unfortunately, I won't be there for the hearing, as I have a work trip to Sacramento that week. So you will have to get your coverage from someone else.

Current view of proposed Pomona Valley Transfer Station from 9th St (Google Street View)

Supporters say that the trash station would generate much needed revenue, would not pollute the water and provide limited localized air pollution, and add dozens of jobs. They call the transfer of trash from smaller to larger vehicles the "carpooling" of trash, and state that some form of trash combination is needed to account for the closure of the Puente Hills Landfill. Their testimony is borne out by the EIR, and the revised Statement of Overriding Considerations, which shows construction impacts to noise and particulate matter, and regional NOx emissions increase beyond the threshold, although the environmental consultant noted that virtually any significant project would exceed the NOx threshold. Apparently, the two residential properties which would have received higher than permitted cancer risks identified in the final EIR will no longer receive those due to the modification that all commercial trucks will be non-diesel powered.

Opponents argue that the project is within one mile of schools, cause dangerous cancer risk to nearby residents, violate air pollution standards, import trash from other areas, and be located in the poorest part of Pomona. Some say there is going to be a perception of Pomona as a "trashopolis". They have now advocated a vote be taken on this measure. The more interesting documents were presented at Planning Commission meetings refuting the City's experts. (As a general note, the applicant did pay for the preparation of the EIR, however the City officially directs the work of the consultants.) Some of the salient ones include comments by Richard Millhorn regarding the accountability of the applicant's operations and Dr. Matthew Mahtuga regarding the uncertainty bounds in the estimates on air pollution impact.

Summary and reading the tea leaves after the jump.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Slowly Destroying the Library

At the library taskforce meeting yesterday, library director Bruce Guter presented the city's plan to keep the library open for another year, *but* with major cuts in services. It appears that the library is still under major threat. Unfortunately the city's plan requires laying off all the long term librarians on August 15  (the director included) and replacing them with people paid by the hour.  This is a classic corporate strategy of laying off long term workers who make reasonable salaries to hire less experienced, less qualified (and less invested) people at much lower wages. Guter seemed resigned to fall on this sword. Given the lack of forward political thinking about the library over the last few years, however, I'd be willing to bet that it is not his own sword that is running him through, but one held out to him by the city.  

The library will lose one of its major assets: the librarians. They are the people who develop collections and programs, help students with projects, help people find books and resources, take care of those resources, and maintain the technology.  Librarians are experts at finding all kinds of stuff, and at helping people to use the library's resources to find what they need. Professors, teachers, students, moms, kids, job seekers, home owners, pet owners, gardeners, entrepreneurs, reporters, attorneys, leisure readers all rely on librarians. Under the city's latest plan, even if the doors of the library stay open, the quality and maintenance will not be there. It is a tragedy to watch the politicians slowly destroy this institution that is one of Pomona's proudest and oldest features.

A few months ago the city had a proposal to outsource the library on the table, but it did not go forward because of public pressure. Now they are trying to do the same thing, but this time under cover of the citizens' taskforce. Don't get me wrong, the taskforce is amazing. Many concerned people gather with great ideas and energy for saving the library. Yet the evidence would suggest that the city is working in the background to undercut the process and to get what they wanted all along.

One of the taskforce working groups has suggested that there may still be money to be found within the existing city budget--pockets of money here and there. But if there is no political will, there is no political way.  According to the Daily Bulletin, Paula Lantz lays the political blame with the people, when she says that no one complained at the prior cuts. According to this article, Lantz said, "I don't recall getting a single email or a single phone call saying, `How dare you.'"

But Lantz apparently forgets that the earlier threat to the library was (intentionally?) eclipsed by the threats to the police department. Many people turned out to speak to the city council about the library a couple of years back, but weren't able to speak, partly because there was so much to say about the police, and partly because Mayor Rothman severely delayed proceedings. (I should note that these same circumstances are being repeated right now with the Parks; the outsourcing of Park maintenance and the loss of more public jobs are being completely eclipsed by the threat to the library. Those who came to the council budget meeting to speak about the Parks couldn't get a word in edgewise.)

I would like to hear politicians and city staff talk about how to make the library flourish rather than to talk about how further to decimate one of the city's most important institutions. The library is a testament to the kind of city Pomona once was. The actions of the city's caretakers will show whether they wish to reinvigorate Pomona and restore it to its former stature or just hammer more nails into the goddess's coffin.

Trash station theater - Lawsuit minefield

As was posted here last week, the public hearing for the Pomona Valley Transfer Station ("trash station") will be next Monday, July 16, at 6 p.m. on the Western University campus. At the city council meeting tonight, there were complaints about the location of the meeting, since Western U's president is a key supporter of the trash station, and that being on private property is non-neutral

To be fair, I was one of the ones that suggested a larger hearing room. When I heard "Western U" I was originally thinking Buffums, but the location is actually the "Health Education Center", Building 6A, which is next to the old Freeman's Shoes and a brand new building with twin 356 seat lecture halls necessary for simultaneous Spanish translation, required under the CEJ vs. Pomona (First Street trash station) precedent. (Of course, the CEJ now supports the Ninth Street Trash Station - since they were opposed to First Street as part of a proxy war between two trash giants, but I digress.) 

There are multiple issues, however, with the location:
  • You can't find it: Opponents have a point in that buildings on the Western U campus, for outsiders, are hard to find. "309 East Second Street" on the street grid nominally is across the street from Robbie's, not all the way down by Towne Avenue. Here's a campus map to orient yourself. Lots of signage will be necessary to direct people in the right direction.
  • Where's the parking: The big parking structure off Towne Avenue is supposed to be for patients and authorized Western University staff and students only. VPD lots in the area all charge for parking after 7 p.m. with the exception, ironically, of the lot adjacent to the hearing site. The streets south of Western U have lots of cars from the apartment complexes off of Third Street. With something attracting hundreds of people, and hundreds of cars, they will be scattered all over. People will park in the VPD lot without paying, or in the parking structure, get ticketed, and get mad.
  • Where can people assemble: One concern is that as private property, Western U can ban gatherings and assemblies - and since the president supports the trash station, they might have the motive to do so. 
  • Who's guarding the meeting: Another person at the city council meeting brought up the issue of security, and Western U's possible heavy handedness at the meeting leading to a YouTube moment.
The location is closer to the residents than City Hall, but is less accessible to public transportation, requiring a four block walk from Mission and Towne. The Village Academy High School auditorium, used for the PUSD redistricting public hearings, would have been a great choice but it doesn't appear anyone thought about it.

Of course, having so much interest in the public hearing leads to additional issues:
  • Limiting public comment leads to charges of bias in the decision. Because of the large number of speakers present, either the meeting will extend forever or you give a speaker less than the regular three minutes. You can shorten the time for the hearing by throwing people out for clapping (although again, see above about YouTube moments), but there could still be significant disruption. Someone with technical testimony will complain that their sixty seconds was inadequate to present their statement. And, if you dial down the time in the middle of the hearing, someone will complain of unjust treatment since early speakers got more time than late speakers, based solely on luck of the draw. And will there be four votes to squelch public comment to sixty seconds?
  • If you make a decision too late in the evening, you could be challenged. The Assistant City Attorney noted this as a reason for forcing the Planning Commission to adjourn at 11 p.m., which led to the trash station hearing being held over three nights. The CEJ argued that since the First Street Trash Station was approved at about midnight, that there was a lack of deliberation because people just wanted to go home. So any decision after 11 p.m. could be suspect in the eyes of a court. One option is to hold open the public hearing, send everyone home, and discuss this later, but...
  • There's too much important business to postpone. With the tax increase needing to be discussed in July and the regular city council break in August, there's a lot to pack through. In September the fire proposals will come to the table. Even without public comment, having only six voting members means that four out of six have to make a decision. Otherwise, the proponents could argue in court that the project is "deemed approved", turning the opponents' use of the Permit Streamlining Act on its head.
It's too late to change the location now, since further delay will result in a lawsuit by the proponents

Nevertheless it is clear that the lawyers for the opponents will have more fodder for legal action should it be approved, as do the proponents if this gets denied. Opponents need to ask who is paying for the City's legal bill - the proponents of the project, or the General Fund, and gather funds to hire a good attorney. Proponents need to get their forces together and try  a ballot measure to approve their facility if the council doesn't approve this, if they really want it.

Later this week I'll look at the arguments for and against. More information from the proponents is on their web site and Facebook page, and the opponents also have a Facebook page and web site. If you have any comments about this series, my email is in my profile below.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tax increases on the horizon for Pomona services

On Monday the Pomona City Council will be looking at possible revenue measures to help pay for Pomona services like the fire department, library, and other services. The last day to put a tax increase on the ballot is August 7.

Here are some potential taxes on the table:

  • Library tax - This would require a 2/3 vote, and would be on a per parcel basis or other "uniform basis". Resident and fellow blogger John Clifford has suggested a $38 per parcel tax, with the cost increasing based on inflation. There is precedent as Los Angeles County charges a $28.61 library tax in the unincorporated areas.
  • Fire services tax - Los Angeles County has an existing tax, Measure E, which bills single family homes $61.04 a year for fire services. As a "fee for service" city, Pomona was not included in the taxing area. A 2/3 vote would be necessary to have Pomona residents ratify this existing tax.
  • Public safety tax - Pomona studied such a tax in 2004, but the city council did not place it on the ballot. In 1998 a $65 per parcel tax was proposed, generating $1.8 million, but it failed to pass by a 2 to 1 margin.
  • Sales tax - A quarter cent sales tax increase could generate over $3 million, and would only require a majority vote. Local cities with higher sales taxes than elsewhere in the county include El Monte, Montclair, Pico Rivera, and South El Monte. The concern is that it would hurt existing businesses in the city, since the tax rate in Pomona would now be 1.25% higher than across the border in Chino Hills (because Los Angeles County has 1% additional going for transportation than the other counties). On the other hand, it is dependent on the business mix within the area, as Pico Rivera has not suffered a significant loss in taxable sales due to the sales tax increase, as it has the only 24 hour Wal-Mart Supercenter in a large radius. Pomona, on the other hand, competes with the same types of chain stores in Chino Hills, La Verne, and Montclair.
In addition, the County's "Water Quality Funding Initiative" could generate revenue for the city to address stormwater issues, which could free up money in the general fund. This is a $54 tax on single family parcels (with more on larger parcels), and is scheduled for vote in 2013.

Any such tax measure would need the full support of the city council. The Mendoza taxes failed miserably, and there has been expression not to increase the utility tax.

Also on the table on Monday is an introduction of paid parking for the streets around the courthouse and Metrolink station. Free parking is still available a short walk away from those areas, and on the north side of the tracks adjacent to the bus loading platform. The pay station model will be used instead of individual meters at each stall.

The fun begins sometimes after 6:45 p.m. Monday at Pomona City Hall.

Bicycle Master Plan Meeting July 18

Pomona stakeholders, residents, employees, business owners, and others are invited to participate in a meeting: July 18, 2012 (6PM - 8PM). Stakeholders will provide input regarding the BMP/ATP process and documents. Stakeholder Committee members are asked to act as a liaison with their respective organizations, sharing meeting information and soliciting input from other stakeholders. Specific information sought at the July meeting will focus on preliminary bikeway recommendations and potential policies and programs. 
The meeting will be held Wednesday, July 18, 2012, from 6PM - 8PM at the Emerson Middle School (635 Lincoln Avenue, Pomona, CA 91767), on the east side of Towne Avenue north of Lincoln Avenue. Please contact Senior Civil Engineer Matt Pilarz at (909) 620-3652 or email if you have questions. 

BMP Emerson Flyer

And no, this is all from special funds devoted to bicycle transportation, so no General Funds are used.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pomona City Council v. the People...Again

A public hearing is scheduled on the Valley Vista Waste Transfer station on July 16. The announced location is Western University. In the choice of a private, non-neutral site, once again the City Council shows its disdain for the people and for public institutions.

Why has the council chosen a private venue for a public hearing? Why not the Pomona Unified School District (which has a larger hall)? Or the council chambers (horribly small, but still public, despite the Council's best efforts)?
Moreover, the President of Western University, Philip Pumerantz, has come out in favor of the Transfer Station, and is rumored to be close to David Perez. Shouldn't the hearing be held on a neutral site?

Finally, buildings on Western U campus are notoriously difficult to find.

To show their good faith to the people they serve, Council should change the site to PUSD or leave it at City Hall.