Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Groundhog day and other council meeting notes

Some notes from tonight's council meeting (which dragged on past 1 am tonight, which it hasn't for a while):

  • It looks like it will be Groundhog Day for trash station theater, as some members of the community are continuing to be upset about the decision, but can't find the money or the legal position to hire attorneys to make the CEQA challenges necessary to actually derail the project. Instead, they will continue to rally outside the meeting and at public comment. Over two dozen people spoke on this issue. It didn't help matters that a Cristina Carrizosa-requested report on the next steps for the transfer station was made right before adjournment at 1 a.m. Since as I explained before, the decision cannot be referended since it is a granting of a conditional use permit within existing structures, the city attorney explained that the only time this would come back would be the development agreement for the transfer fees, or if the applicant somehow violated the conditional use permit. And any attempt to extract a large amount of money that would essentially render the project unprofitable would result in legal action by the trash station proponents.
  • Carrizosa mentioned that there were 8,000 signatures against the trash station, but unfortunately those aren't voters. To really make a difference you have to defeat the incumbent candidates that voted for the trash station. Unfortunately this means narrowing down the field and concentrating your efforts on one person, since there are no runoff elections. Or, you could try a recall - and Ginna Escobar is a prime target. On a police fees issue (more later) she was smug towards Carrizosa. She has been shown not to pay attention when the public is speaking, and from this member of the audience, seems not to care much about the public and is often unprepared. Even if signature gatherers can't come up with the approximate 2,500 signatures necessary to recall her, the trash station opponents should at least gather the 30 signatures necessary to file an intent to recall, and serve it on her during a council meeting. I'd love to look at the expression on her face when that happens. (Here's a sample form from Fullerton.
  • Steve Atchley is a loquacious guy. Being a professor does that to you, but he is sounding strident and dismissive of the legitimate concerns people have about outsourcing, the transfer station, and other issues. I recognize he doesn't want the city to go bankrupt. We need the money saved from outsourcing, and we need the money from the trash station. But he could calm down a little and try not to be so argumentative from the dais. (It may not matter, since when there are five or six candidates in the race, the incumbent title, access to slate mailers, and a strong base will get you back in office easily.)
  • We spent an hour filleting the Public Works Director on the park service outsourcing - although much of that was well deserved as he seemed unprepared for the challenging questions and the protest made by a losing contractor. We spent thirty minutes on a public hearing for police fees, with the staff report on the fees sprung on the public on a Thursday evening after a month of delay - and more micromanagement from the dais about the fee structure. Questions are fine, although supposedly one of the strategic plan goals was for questions to be asked of the department head via email (especially if it is something that is evident from the report). But more preparation needs to be done to give council members and the public time to digest reports, so that maybe some of these questions could be preemptively addressed.
  • Which leads to the billboard issue. A billboard company paid to place a ballot measure on the ballot, which was turned down by two of the five council members present, thus causing it to fail since four votes were needed. Carrizosa and Freddie Rodriguez definitely have cause to be skeptical about this issue, especially about the timing of this, as a competing billboard company made legal arguments about the lack of notice. Carrizosa was right in bringing up the fact that approving a ballot measure, and it passing, could lead billboard companies to believe that billboard approval was ministerial in nature, not discretionary, and lead to lawsuits - much like the Universal Waste lawsuit on the First Street trash station. The ballot initiative also would have allowed the city to permit digital billboards, which can cause light pollution for large distances if not regulated properly. If the billboard companies wanted to put it on the ballot, they should have just hired signature gatherers instead of this sneaky process.
  • Library tax was put on the ballot with a $38 per year fee, no sunset, and minimum 38 hours of service. Although I think it's enough money to keep the doors open for 38 hours, I do agree with Danielle Soto, the City Attorney and City Manager that the minimum time severely restricts future flexibility. Fortunately, it appears that the special tax on its own will keep the doors open of the library for 38 hours, although there may be no reference service, no book purchases, and no new equipment should the general fund situation not improve.
  • I'll have more on conditional use permits and liquor stores in a separate post, but I do find it extremely disturbing that the community development director would recommend not to set a public hearing on a 4-3 decision, appealed by a fellow council member. There really needs to be a policy such that these appeals automatically go on the agenda should it not be a supermajority vote. This would discourage those applicants who were turned down unanimously from appealing, while avoiding the waste of time of the double hearings - one vote to determine whether or not to hold a hearing, and another to actually hear the issue. 
  • Election filing closes on August 10. Will some of the challengers get out the way, or will they choose to split the vote? Fortunately the City Council is going on break for a month, but we can look forward to last minute political jockeying in September.


meg said...

Thanks for the summary, Cal!

John Clifford said...

Thanks from me too. I could only watch on TV for a little while and public comment seemed to go on forever.

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for the summary, I gave up and went home.

Kathleen M Jones

John Clifford said...

Interesting that Councilmember Atcheley, who stated at a recent council meeting that HE and the council were more important than appointed committees because they were elected couldn't stay for the end of the meeting. He's being paid to attend the meetings. He knows that sometimes the meetings run long because there is an obligation for elected representatives to actually hear public input.

My hats off to the rest of the council who stayed along with the 20 brave souls from the community, who even though they weren't being paid and weren't elected to attend the meeting, stuck it out. That's community involvement and pride. Councilman Atchely once again expressed disdain for the process and the public. At least the appointed commission that he showed disdain for stayed for their entire meetings and worked on various committees for as many as 5 days a week without compensation.

Anonymous said...

Any more information on who will be running from mayor against "mooch" Rothman?

John Clifford said...

The only name that I've seen that has pulled papers in addition to Rothman, Jimenez, and Gonzales, is Councilman Freddie Rodriguez from the first district (downtown and west). He is in a "safe" district, so can run without having to give up his council seat.

A full-time EMT, he is not a bad guy (and I DO respect the fact that he maintains his full-time job),but I have questions about his support of John Pena downtown who has done work without permits; and his, understandable (given his close professional ties with firefighters), support of county fire. I've also heard that he favors contracting with county Sheriff's but that's not an issue at the moment.

Anonymous said...

While Freddie is a nice guy, I think it's his full time job that wouldnt make him the best choice for mayor. If you pull the councils attendance records, his is abysmal. I also understand that Robert Torres is now running for Atchley's seat. I wonder if this is Norma's attempt at a city take over?

Anonymous said...

I was strongly opposed to Robert during his run for school board. But after seeing his position during the waste transfer station, he'll probably have my vote.