Your City Council Report
Vallejo City Council
December 17+18, 2007
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Monday, December 17 Study Session & Tuesday December 18 City Council
report combines the Monday study session with the Tuesday council
meeting because arguments brought forward from particular council
members on Tuesday were quite illuminating.
And why didn’t they not ask their questions and/or raise
their concerns on Monday during the study session, when the audience
would have a chance to question them?
More on that below…
Budget Study Session at the last minute scheduled for Monday at 5:00
pm had both city finance staff and residents scrambling - staff to be
prepared and residents to get there.
I was annoyed that this was scheduled with such short notice, the
overall discussion turned out to be illuminating and the finance staff
were very clear. They are doing an incredible job under what must be
very stressful conditions. The
finance staff worked up to the minute the meeting started—and they
also worked all weekend—and they did not even have time to make
handouts. So the meeting recessed while staff did frenzied copying.
Not a good use of their or our time.
I just hope this is the last time a meeting as important as
this is called in such short notice because accurate accounting
requires time for composed analysis and that gets difficult when staff
has to scramble to prepare for a meeting – especially one that is
also highly politicized.
study session started with an introduction by Craig Whittom – he set
the stage for budget discussions with the council and labor unions.
presentation painted a bleak picture of where the City is headed if
everything remains the same: no cuts to public safety (they
won’t have it) and no new revenues: gloomy financial projections
based on housing market slump, looming state deficits, and the recent
prediction from Alan Greenspan that the economy has a 50% chance of
going into recession.
ominous financial picture shows that in 2 ½ years the City will be in
debt by $22.6
million—by June 30, 2010 (Should the City play the
explains the direction we are headed in:
The City’s deficits are like balances on a credit card, and
the “reserves” are like savings accounts.
At the end of the fiscal year, Vallejo had $4.2 million in reserve (the
savings account basically)
This year, it is projected that we will bring in $82.9 million in
revenue, but spend $88.1 million – we will spend $5.2 million more
than what we earn. The
City will have to use up the $4.2 million in the savings account, and
put $1 million dollars on a credit card.
Next year, the City will bring $82.8 million in revenue, but spend
$93.0 million –spending $10.2 million more than what we earn.
Since there are no savings left, the entire $10.2 million
overspend will all go on the credit card, giving us a new balance of
$11.2 million that we owe.
Ø In 2009/10, the City will bring $86.1 million in revenue, but spend a whopping $97.5 million – spending $11.4 million more than what we earn. Since there are no savings left, the entire $11.4 million overspend will all go on the credit card, giving us a new balance of $22.6 million that we owe.
And these overspends are in large part due to the
Public Safety contracts – they make up 76% of the budget this year,
and based on their contracted exorbitant raises—they already got 10%
this year and they might get more!—by 2010 they will make up 100% of
the budget, with literally NOTHING to spend on pothole repair, senior
Davis, the crackpot lawyer for the Fire Union: the Henke/Riley
gang—the folks that are eating away at our entire General Fund
budget, told the Times Herald that he doesn’t believe the deficit exists.
He is still under the delusion that the city is hiding money.
Alan Davis, here’s the question to you (as David Corbett so
insightfully asked at Tuesday’s Community Forum):
the City is hiding money, who’s hiding it?
Who exactly are you accusing of this offense? Finance Director
Stout? City Manager Joe Tanner?
Mayor Osby Davis?
Davis, would you say this in court?
of course Alan Davis wouldn’t because he would be thrown out on his
ear. Every other
department has given, given, given.
Alan Davis is merely attempting to divert attention from the
fact that his pals Henke/Riley from the 1186 Fire Union (And Steve
Gordon from the Police Union who is always willing to go along for the
ride) are the only ones left with cash. By 2010, with the exorbitant increases to these unions’
salaries, there will be only enough money in the general fund to pay
for public safety salaries.
contrary to what Alan Davis may think, there are very smart folks in
our City who are paying attention and understand the dire fiscal
situation we are in. A
big thanks to all of them who made it out in very short notice to an
early meeting in the middle of the holiday season to express their
concerns. And big thanks
to those who were there on Tuesday as well, since that turned out to
be the more crucial meeting to attend. Below are their comments, from Monday and Tuesday, with
answers from staff.
OUT OF THE GATE, HANNIGAN GOES AFTER A “FIRE UNION CRITIC”
member Erin Hannigan—who garnered vast support from the Firefighter
Union and from Fire Union VP and Fire Captain Jon Riley—made many promises on the campaign trail that she understood the City
budget. She was trained
all weekend on the city budget but on Tuesday night she started off by
saying she was confused and didn’t understand it.
Is Hannigan getting lessons from Sunga?
she did not understand the budget, why did she not ask questions on
Monday night during the Study Session? Or over the weekend? Is it because she did not want the audience to be aware of
her motives? Seems Hannigan (Riley-igan?) was trained very well –
bring out the knives long after public comment is closed.
said she was uncomfortable because some proposed reductions weren’t
specifically identified: Hello???? Again, what was she doing all
weekend? Wasting the Finance Staff’s time apparently.
was quite apparent that Hannigan was after one of the two “Fire
Union Critics” within the Fire Department: Budget Analyst Patty
Keener. (Keener, if folks
recall, was sued by her “colleague”, Asst Fire Chief Kurt Henke
and President of the Fire Union, for defamation of character).
City moved Keener over to the Finance Department in order to have her
do some non-Fire Department work so that the City could charge her
time to other funds and save some General Fund money.
It was quite apparent from Hannigan’s comments that she was
going after Keener – wanting to have her laid off.
Hannigan was also interested in getting non-IAFF vacant
positions added back that had been removed to create saving.
Show us the money Council member Hannigan.
Hannigan was uncomfortable approving this budget: She seems to be
shirking her fiduciary responsibility. Fiduciary responsibility is
the highest standard of care, or prudence and caution, required of a
Council member. In her
role as a fiduciary, Council member Hannigan (and all others) is
expected to be extremely loyal to her constituents (hello: not just
those who voted for her or those who donated to her campaign) to whom
she owes the responsibility. Council member Hannigan (and all others) must not put her
personal interests before her responsibility, and must not profit from her position as a
fiduciary. (Definition courtesy of Wikipedia)
This includes the promise of campaign donations, past, present and future.
for all, Tanner said that not approving the budget was not
catastrophic because the cuts were already implemented internally.
FIRE FIGHTERS COULD GET A RAISE EVEN BIGGER THAN 10%!
member Wilson – at least understanding his role – suggested
offering policy decisions that could address the deficit problem. But
then he just didn’t offer any policy items….
Wilson nitpicked, like Hannigan, Bartee & Sunga. He asked why the recent Firefighters Cost of Living
Adjustment (COLA) increase hadn’t been paid to the Fire Department
employees (uh, because we have no money, man—and smoke two joints in
was slightly more discreet than his IAFF 1186 counterparts Bartee and
Hannigan. Stout told
Wilson that they were waiting for information from two other cities
(the firefighter contract requires we compare our FF salaries with 14
other cities) before adding the recent contractually obligated
increase, since it would be so much work to add yet another increase
because they all go way back to July (WHAT? More firefighter raises as we go
someone say “Franz Kafka?”—and who’s the cockroach?)
we are waiting for two other cities to determine if the Firefighters
get yet another raise THIS YEAR above the 10% they already are
guaranteed to receive!
then asked about how the Fire Department overtime was budgeted.
Finance Director Stout made it very clear that this year’s
Fire Department overtime was budgeted adequately based on prior
years’ actual expense. In
past years, overtime was underestimated by ex-Fire Chief Parker and
the Fire Department went way over budget – by more than a million
dollars (in part due to Fire Union officials’ abuse of “Union
Business Leave”). The
Finance Staff wanted to make sure that this year Firefighter overtime
would not result in huge overspends. Wilson said he was “just trying
to get a handle on what we’re doing here.”
WHO’S AT THE DAIS? BARTEE OR HENKE? WE CAN’T TELL
member “Bartenke” (Bartee channeling Kurt Henke, President of the
Fire Union and Asst Fire Chief for the City of Vallejo) was much more
contrite with staff this night—maybe he’s read my prior columns?
I give him this at least.
I still would not want Finance Director Rob Stout’s
job…insults from Council members (and Fire Union lawyers) with
insinuations of hiding information when he and his staff are
struggling to present budgets in the most dire situation in the
history of California cites just doesn’t cut it, especially
considering Rob Stout’s stellar resume!
hemming and hawing (maybe a little nervous about what he was about to
regurgitate from Henke?) and making some lame, unclear and
unsubstantiated observations to support his idea, Bartenke offered an
Eliminate Fire Chief for six months
Have the Police Chief assume both roles for six months
Eliminate the Deputy Fire Chief for six months
Eliminate the $100K for the union arbitration and apply it to prior
cuts to community based organizations (CBO’s)
Limit overtime, except for police & fire (ha-ha).
proposed cuts to Fire and Police Administration would conveniently get
rid of Interim Fire Chief Russ Sherman, a “Fire Union Critic”
(named as such by the incendiary (get the pun?) Times-Herald).
Bartenke suggested completely gutting the Fire Department
Administration, placing Police Chief Nicholini with the responsibility
of overseeing both Police and Fire.
but only for sixth months. Enough
time to leave the Fire Chief position vacant while Henke/Riley/Alan
Davis ensure that Sherman is gone and then they hand-pick a new lackey
Chief, just like they hand-picked the inept Parker, the very Chief who
allowed them to drink and carouse on City time. Yeah, right.
then Bartenke suggested growing the Fire Department by proposing that
the non-union Fire Department jobs (now vacant and slated for
elimination) be absorbed by the Union.
Here’s my suggestion: only if the Fire Department can issue
building permits, because with the costs of this ill-considered
proposal, there would be no money left for a Planning Department.
wait a minute – first Bartenke wants to cut the Fire Department
administrative staff to “save money” because “we are asked to
vote on a million dollar deficit” and then he goes on to suggest
adding back these other four positions?
Just how much would adding THESE cost the City?
Bartenke’s motives—carrying the Fire Union’s water—was
quite apparent. And how much exactly are we supposed to save?
speaker Alan Wildermuth keenly pointed out, Bartenke’s proposal was
not simply an amendment but a completely new resolution, because
Bartenke’s amendment was so different than what staff had proposed.
Wildermuth argued that this was not allowable, because the
public would not be given the opportunity to understand the impacts
and make comments about them—and the staff didn’t even have a
chance to analyze it to see if it was even plausible!
throws out some crazy back-of-the-envelope scheme that he and Henke
probably worked out over the weekend, and he expects it to even be
taken seriously? The
audience was obviously agitated and was not going to have it.
Several cards were submitted that were NOT heard because the
public comment section was closed, so we all spoke right afterwards in
Community Forum, including Wildermuth.
UNDERSTANDS THE BUDGET – HOORAY!
the town bells! Sunga was
able to understand the budget! But
he had questions about—guess what?—Fire Department personnel.
He wants to know why Fire Dept Code Enforcement was eliminated
and what impact it would have on the General Fund, since Code
Enforcement generates revenue. Sunga was told this job was not
eliminated but moved into the Planning Department’s Code Enforcement
Department to fill another vacancy.
Good question from Sunga—I am happy to know that he
understands the connection between staff costs and revenue certain
also asked about the Emergency Preparedness part-time Administrative
Assistant. This job was eliminated two years ago; I guess Sunga just
then went on to say he was “uncomfortable” approving a budget that
wasn’t balanced, and said he wanted to see Bartenke’s amendment
approve because “we could have a balanced budget to pass.” I was
simply stunned by this comment! Sunga
doesn’t want to approve an unbalanced budget but he takes
Bartenke’s amendment at face value???? Sunga’s attempt at due
diligence is CLEARLY falling short or he and Bartenke had some
discussions prior to the meeting…
SCHIVLEY DOESN’T FLINCH!
member Schivley would have nothing to do with Bartenke’s plan, or
with Sunga’s claim that he could not pass an out-of-balanced budget.
asked Bartee to restate his proposal- which he did—clearly
not comfortable doing it with ums and awes, since the audience had
already quite audibly expressed their deep displeasure with it.
Keep all the cuts proposed in place
Remove the Fire Chief
Remove the Deputy Fire Chief
· Have the Police Chief assume both roles for six months
Take the $100K set aside for additional arbitration apply it to CBO’s
Schivley so eloquently articulated, Bartenke’s proposal was a
complete wipe out of the Fire Department’s administrative function
and it smacked of political retribution (huge applause from the
Schivley called it like it is: Six months of no Fire Chief and then
the new one hand-picked by IAFF. Bartee was verbally smacked as he
deserved to be – and by association, Sunga, Hannigan & Wilson as
well. Bartenke at least has to be given credit for appearing to be
transparently kowtowing to Fire Union’s wishes.
member Schivley also did not support cutting funding for the Fire
Contract Arbitration lawsuit: The City is spending ½ million to save
$5 million and it’s a good investment.
And many agree: binding arbitration is (has?) killing this
if revenue projections weren’t bleak enough, on Monday, Schivley,
who knows the City’s finances like the back of her hand, noted that
the projected 4% growth in revenues in Fiscal year 2009/10 is too
optimistic given recent news about the State budget deficit, housing
slump and economy. Budgets are a moving target, and Schivley’s
observation completely illustrates why the City needs to be very
conservative with revenue projections. There are simply too many
factors that are completely beyond the City’s control.
UNKNOWN FACTOR—IMPRESSES THE AUDIENCE
Davis—speaking to the most significant agenda item since he was
sworn in only a week prior—rejected Bartenke’s amendment and even
most of the staff’s recommended cuts.
He preferred to look at all suggestions for cuts on February
12, and reminded the Council that it is easy to view balancing the
budget piece-by-piece. It is a huge problem that must be approached in a global
manner and he can’t support ideas that nip away and that are
indicated that he supports CBOs but can’t shut his eyes to the
problems of the City to help these CBOs.
Hopefully this means that Davis supports the continued court
challenge by the City against binding arbitration.
As a lawyer, he must be aware of how it completely ties the
City’s hands and gives all negotiating power to the Public Safety
indicated that he was not prepared to approve Staff’s resolution or
Bartenke’s alternate. He
wanted to only add back, as required by the Fire Union contract, the
increased staffing levels and approve minor adjustments to non-General
comments were greeted by enthusiastic applause from the audience and a
confirmation from Schivley that she would support his compromise.
then withdrew his amendment (more applause from the audience).
asked for any comments—meaning from the council—which garnered
laughter from the audience since several cards were submitted in
response to Bartenke’s amendment.
comments by the audience (during Community Forum)
Corbett: Compared budget amendment presented by Bartenke and
some other council members to “rearranging the deck chairs on the
Titanic.” Corbett stated that he was seldom as angry as he was this
evening: Mr. Bartee’s resolution was shameless. Reminded the
audience that Henke stated last week with Davis; swearing in that he
was “back on top” and that it is shameful that Henke thinks he’s
back on top of us or anyone on this council. The idea of getting
rid of the interim fire chief when its clear you only want to get rid
of Russ Sherman is unconscionable and Bartee owes Sherman an apology.
Garman: (VIB’s illustrious Editor) found Mr. Bartenke’s amendment
to be an abominable idea (just in time for Xmas: the abominable
snowman!) Instead of targeting individual and specifically non-IAFF
positions as a means of saving revenue, the City needs to address the
contract and salary issues that are systemic and have a real lasting
and significant impact. Eliminating the Fire Dept mgmt is a terrible
idea. Pursue revenue for
Community Based Organizations by retrieving funds outlined in the
indiscretions committed as outlined in the Union Business leave Report
as previously suggested by Council Member Schivley. Garman thanked Schivley and Mayor Davis for their
reasonableness in light of this situation.
asked that the Fire Union take some of their hundreds of thousands of
dollars in political donations and instead fund the CBOs.
Meitzenheimer made the most compelling and non-political argument
against eliminating the Fire Chief:
Forcing the Police Chief to oversee a troubled Fire Department
is irresponsible while crime continues to rise: in 2 years crime has
escalated 3 fold. The City needs a fulltime Police Chief to oversee
the Police Department. There
were three shootings in Millersville this past Monday; how will the
City explain cutting police and diverting the Police Chief to the Fire
Dept.? Who will tell the
mother who has lost her son on that street about cutting even more
police services? Meitzenheimer
described Bartee’s amendment as totally irresponsible.
Kurshan, during the Budget public comment period, reminded Bartee and Sunga that they should
go to the Unions
to discuss making concessions since they have such a good rapport with them.
And that everyone in this city was waiting to see what
happened tonight—if those Council members who were supported by the
IAFF are towing the Union line. During Community Forum, Kushan
threatened Council member Bartee with mounting a recall effort;
stating that he (Kurshan) is currently between jobs and has the time.
During Community Forum, Kushan threatened Council member Bartee with mounting a recall effort; stating that he (Kurshan) is currently between jobs and has the time.
Wildermuth was the last to comment: and again, he keenly asked the
City Manager if it is appropriate to amend a resolution so drastically
that it becomes a completely different resolution which demands it to
be put off to another agenda for public comment.
Bartee’s amendment was entirely different – wasn’t a
slight amendment- became an entirely different resolution that required
Roe talked about believing in the Lord: said we can put cops all over
the place but still have crime and we need to get down, pray, be led
by the Lord and by moral principles. Spoke of his business in Am Cyn
and having a reserve fund, and fiscal responsibilities.
Didn’t understand if after tonight we were $1 million in debt
or $9 million in debt as was stated in a prior meeting.
Robert is not remembering is that in a prior Budget meeting, the
Finance Staff did present a budget with a $9 million dollar
deficit—cuts presented this evening brought it down to $5.3 million.
Budgets are a moving target!
public comments included three young ladies from Lyndon LaRouche’s
campaign asking that the Council sign a resolution relieving all
sub-prime mortgages and that they were supporting a “physical
based” economy – an economy based on physical goods in the
community—rather than a monetary based economy.
requested that the community forum be agendized for 30 minutes prior
to the meeting. Apparently there is a cost associated with it (staff
commented on Meitzenheimer’s request of increasing “Deemed
Approved” Ordinance Fees: these are fees assessed to businesses who
sell alcohol as well as smoke-shops.
These businesses have a big impact on Vallejo—just check out
the local liquor stores and smoke-shops—but they are only required
to pay a one-time $300 fee. The
City of Oakland charges them $1,000 a year.
The idea is to charge these businesses more and to allocate the
revenue to the beat health program.
Meitzenheimer indicated she would prefer Bartenke not sponsor
her idea—she’d rather some other council member not tied to IAFF
1186 do this.
asked about when his request for information regarding the Enterprise
and Foreign Trade Zone (on Mare Island) and a business
(unintelligible) committee was to be brought to council.
I have said this before: I am hoping that this proposal is NOT
warehouse space on valuable Mare Island property that does not
generate sales and/or property tax because of tax write-offs. We are
Yes there were a few other items:
Hearings items 7 A-B: Subdivisions on Mare Island becoming part of the
Mare Island CFD—this required an election and Lennar being the sole
property owner voted 100% for it—wish we had these sort of results
in our mayoral (and council!) elections… Wilson had to recuse
himself—some Arc Inc business on Mare Island.
also had to recuse himself on another public hearing: Item 7C,
development of a 24-unit condo development with the borders of
Illinois, El Dorado and Arkansas.
Seems his business is deep into Vallejo.
Fred Sessler, developer of some heinous apartments in my
neighborhood, is the broker. When his name is mentioned, I get
suspicious as he seems to be the epitome of bad-planning.
was also a Redevelopment Item: To enter into an agreement with Triad,
Belleci & Associates and the City of Vallejo to design the
sidewalk and street improvement.
There was some discussion about funding but seems like the City
is covered (grants to pay for the cost) and there were no questions
from Council or the Public
wished everyone at the meeting and at home a happy holiday.
meeting was adjourned by Mayor Davis with his wishes for folks to
enjoy a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday and Happy Chanukah.