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Your City Council Report


 For April 23, 2013

Ganja, Grants and Bloody Noses




By Marc Garman

With editorial commentary in italics

Tuesday's meeting of the Vallejo City Council was presided over by Vice Mayor Gomes as Mayor Davis was absent.


Presentations and Commendations

Police Sergeant Kelly Schroeder, Corporal Brian Estudillo, Officer Mary Pedretti and Officer Ronald Braxton have retired from Vallejo PD. They were presented certificates of appreciation by Vice Mayor Gomes and wished a, “good, safe and enjoyable retirement,” by Councilmember Sampayan, himself retired from VPD.

April 26 , 2013 has been declared Arbor Day in Vallejo, May 2013 is Tourism Month, and May 2013 is now officially “Older Americans Month”

Two new COV employees: Dan Marks has been welcomed as Interim Economic Development** Director and Ron Pierce has been appointed Acting Fire Chief. Pierce has previously served in Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz.



First Community Forum

VM Gomes reminded everyone that she is, “not as nice,” as The Mayor. Three minutes is three minutes and when your time is up, it is UP!

Longtime Vallejo resident Pam McMillan related an incident in which a “large bullet” came through her sliding door. Apparently, the bullet was from a shooting at a local convenience store, “JJ's” at the corner or Sereno and Fairgrounds, which McMillan described as a nuisance. “We deserve a safe city,” she stated, noting that the police department is terribly understaffed.

Retired Vallejo Police Officer, and VPOA Past President Burky Worel described what he sees as the “gang of four who don't like police officers,” on the council. He complained that the council majority has not hired more police with Measure B (Participatory Budgeting) funds because they claim the hires would be unsustainable, yet new firefighters were hired with a 2 year SAFER grant. “You need to quit making excuses!” he opined, adding “When the gang of four votes no, then the community will know,” (that they hate police)

Vice Mayor Gomes took a moment to respond to Worel, who is a regular critic. “I think I'd be in a lot of trouble if I hate police,” she said, “I'm married to a retired police captain.” Gomes also noted that councilmember Sampayan retired from the Vallejo PD.

Jenny Aguilar and one of her associates on the Participatory Budgeting youth commission called attention to the fact that a number of PB programs are focused on youth.

Stephen Chester, a newcomer to Vallejo described the difficulties he has had in his first two weeks in town. He had his home broken into twice in twelve hours and noted that the “police seem overwhelmed.” He also said that despite these problems he “loves what he sees in the community,” and intends to stay.

Rosanna Jackson, a Vallejo resident and city IBEW employee raised concerns over the cuts she and her family have had to deal with through Vallejo's recent turbulent financial past. “My concern is our contracts,” she said citing a number of cuts she and her union have had to take. “Any other cuts or increases in medical would be devastating,” she said. IBEW and the city are currently in negotiation.

Kenneth Murphy, also a Vallejo IBEW member working in the Building Division described how he left the private sector in 2004 to “work in the community in which I live,” for less pay. “we gave up a cost of living increase and took a thirteen day furlough to prevent layoffs,” he said.

Greg Reason, President of North Vallejo Little League spoke about the recent shooting at a Little League Game. “As you consider your budget this year, increase the police,” he urged.

Darren Johnson, also spoke of the Little League shooting incident. “We need protection for our children,” he said as he proceeded to describe how he was urged to “go through proper channels, “ (i.e. the council) by Vallejo Police Officer Steve Darden. He described Darden as an “absolute joy” in his handling of the aftermath of the shooting.

Of note was the presence of the mainstream media hovering in the lobby and at the wings of Council Chambers seeking sound bites and juicy tidbits regarding the Little League shooting incident. While the whole shooting incident is terribly unfortunate...nobody actually got shot, thank goodness. It generally takes a phone call, press release or other type of nudging to get the likes of ABC reporter Alan Wang to grace our presence. That or blood running in the streets. Bottom line: Vallejo and the PD are in contract negotiations. It wouldn't be the first time the PD manipulated citizens into generating a little negative media pressure by using fearful people to help the mood in council chambers and at the negotiating table.

This is all very much a play directly out of the PSU handbook as outlined in the article “Time to Circle the Wagons” by Ron DeLord in American Police Beat Magazine:

Old hat for us in Vallejo at this point and we commonly refer to it as the “Bloody Their Noses” technique.

Is it right or wrong to capitalize on citizens' fear for a political agenda? It certainly is typical in Vallejo. Remember folks, this is about money. Or in the unforgettable words of former Police Chief Robert Nichelini, “Cut the staff as much as you want. We wanna be paid.”

When I went out in the lobby Wang was busy blabbing away to the camera about how few police Vallejo has. However, his numbers were wrong...or at least misleading. “Vallejo, a city which formerly had 160 officers now has only 58 on patrol,” he stated mugging faux concern to emphasize how horrible things are in Vallejo. Not to say that things are ROSY by any means...but I just hate it when the mainstream media guys make things even worse than they are...or are gently herded in that direction.

Fact is we did have close to 160 (158 I think) police at one point...but we now have 85 sworn officers...of which 58 are on patrol...when we had 160ish they weren't all on patrol. So, “Yes. You are being misleading,” I said to Wang, who took offense when I boned his shot. (boned = stepping into a camera shot to harpoon and render the thing useless) “Are you a police officer?” he demanded. “Nope. Local blogger from HELL and your numbers are wrong.”

Wang seemed noticeably annoyed that I had pointed out that he was slanting a bad situation worse just to provide a little extra vicarious schadenfreude action to the viewers. The death of a sound bite always pisses them off. To his credit, Wang apparently didn't use the misleading statements in the report that did air.

Linda Daniels Vice Chair of the Vallejo Participatory Budgeting Committee outlined the progress of the process thus far, “Assemblies and expos have been awesome,” she said.

End Community Forum.

Consent Calendar

Approved UNAN

8A Communuity Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds and HOME funds

According to Guy Ricca from Housing and Redevelopment, the size of Federal CDBG grants are allocated based on the level of poverty, age of houses etc. in a city. “Vallejo is what's known as an entitlement city,” said Ricca. That says a lot.

The CDBG grant money totals $973,468 for 2013/14 and $973,468 again for 2014, 2015. It can be used for infrastructure projects as well as social services. Each of the various non-profit and social service organizations in line for CDBG funds in Vallejo is looking at $18,500 in grant monies each. Not a whole helluva lot.

Action item 8A received rumination in a bifurcated process. i.e. because VM Gomes and councilmember Sampayan have a conflict of interest in the allocation of funds to Fighting Back Partnership They recused themselves from the vote for that part of the funding approval. Councilmember Brown presided.

Public Comment 8a (part 1)

Mrs. Lawson reminded us that the Betty Franks Senior Lunchroom in North Vallejo has closed due to Mrs. Franks being ill and that there, “is no social service in North Vallejo.” She also complained of the, “lack of community-police relationship,” in the Crest.

Pat Delson expounded on the, “wonderful job,” done by Fighting Back Partnership in South Vallejo.

Rosemary Thurston, President of the Fighting Back Partnership Board urged the councilmembers to approve the funding which would allow them to, “continue our good work in South Vallejo.”

Catherine Parker, Vice Chair of the Housing and Redevelopment Commission indicated that Fighting Back Partnership, “is doing a great job,” and asked the council to support the allocation of money.

Councilmember Brown noted that approximately $15,000 of the $18,500 in CDBG funds would be used to pay employee salaries.

Assistant City Manager Craig Whittom commented on this stating, “What 18,000 buys,” as opposed to using city staff, “is a bargain considering the services provided.”

The funding was approved unanimously, with councilmember Sunga calling for the vote. Mayor Davis absent, VM Gomes and councilmember Sampayan recused.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming,” announced councilmember Brown as Gomes and Sampayan emerged from the back room.

8a (part 2)

After discussion and comments from various proponents of numerous projects, and considerable ruminations of the plight of the Betty Franks Senior Lunchroom in North Vallejo, a decision was made to set aside a $15,000 allocation for the possibility that the lunchroom might be re-opened by some other volunteer organization. This decision reduced the allocation for the other non-profits to $15,000 from $18,500 and holds the money aside until the end of May when the status of the lunchroom will be re-evaluated.

Comments from the Public, Dais and Social Service Organizations

Kathy Hall, executive Director of Meals on Wheels: “So much need, so little funding.”

Phyllis Harrison: “Betty Franks Senior Center is the last social service program in North Vallejo.”

Rey Bernardes, Christian Help Center, Global Center for Success: “48,323 meals served” for homeless and hungry. “Thank you for your support.”

Claudia Humphry, LIFT3 Support Group, (support group for domestic abuse): “The City of Vallejo PD rescued me. Support Vallejo PD.”

Nathan Stout, speaking on behalf of SAGE, urban streetscape project, “Trees help protect the streets.”

Wendy Jones, Continental of Omega Boys and Girls Club: “Thank you Vallejo for opening your arms.”

Sarah Nichols, Executive Director of SAGE, encouraged the passage of the CDBG budget to help fund her “mean streets to green streets” program.

Liat Meitzenheimer: “Betty (Franks) made sure they had things to do, games etc.” Meitzenheimer emphasized that the Betty Franks provided more than just lunch at her facility. The Senior Lunchroom also provided a social setting for many seniors who would otherwise be isolated from their peers.

Councilmember McConnell inquired if it would be possible to take any action to increase the amount of CDBG monies received by Vallejo. “What could we do to increase that allocation?” he asked.

City Park Community Center – or tales of the perpetually swelling project budget

Among the projects considered for CDBG funding was (and has been for some time) the construction of a community center in Vallejo's City Park. This is a project that has been knocking around for several years and is, at this point both overdue and over budget. The original plans called for an approximately $200,000 cost, which has now ballooned to somewhere around $400,000. The original architect who offered to design the building pro-bono is long gone, and city staff is now engaged with a third architect for a much bigger and more expensive project. Not much like what council originally approved. This caused considerable dismay on the dais.

Sunga, “What is the progress?

Gomes, (to Guy Ricca) “Why the price increase?”

Ricca, “It's a different building now.”

Gomes, “A different building than we approved?”

Brown, “How did that happen? That it got a different design than we approved?”

(Ultimately, this one looks like incompetence or staff milking the system or both.)

Council approved item 8a unanimously (Davis absent) with the provision that $15,000 would be set aside until end of May for the possible re-opening of the Betty Frank Senior Lunchroom and direction to staff to “complete the City Park Community Center ON TIME”


8b Moratorium on Cannabis Dispensaries

Staff provided a brief overview of cannabis dispensaries in Vallejo starting with CA State proposition 215 approved in 1996 legalizing Medical Marijuana Collectives (MMDs) and Vallejo Measure C which approved taxation of MMDs (but does not legalize the land use for MMDs)

The city has collected $340,000 in tax revenues since last March from currently operating MMDs.

The proposed moratorium would halt the issuance of business licenses for MMDs for 45 days until May 28 with the option of being extended another 45 days.

Public Comment

Sean Dwyer, California Urban Relief Center MMD: “time the City of Vallejo take steps in regulating dispensaries”

Morgan Hannigan, current MMD business license applicant, former volunteer at Better Health Group MMD:

So, we're maybe 3 years into this fiasco,” stated Hannigan outlining the raids on MMDs and the recently dropped charges against several that have been raided and the dismissal of charges. “We do not seem to be following the proper procedure,” opined Hannigan who has submitted an application for a MMD business license, and been refused.

In response, Planning Manager Andrea Ouse outlined the city's position: Not currently accepting the $500 application fee etc. because MMDs are considered an “illegal land use” by the city at this point even though 31 licenses for MMDs have already been issued and tax collected.

Councilmember Gomes noted the contradiction in this, “So, we're not required to, but we've issued 31 already?”

Ouse also mentioned the existence of an unknown number of marijuana delivery services operating in Vallejo, but indicated that her information was sketchy and at least partially anecdotal.

Councilmember McConnell entered into a line of inquiry as to the feasibility and legality of collecting tax revenue from these entities.

Doug Darling: “The image of this city should be considered extremely carefully. How many pot clubs is too many?”

Burky Worel, retired VPD and past president VPOA, stated, “Vallejo is not the only one who had the police shutting down pot clubs.” “Who made the decision to raid the pot clubs? Who did authorize the actions VPD took?” he asked. (Worel feels that the VPD is being unfairly held out for the raids which he believes were federally compelled.)

In response, City Attorney Quintana indicated that, “All law enforcement action comes from the police department.” A statement which would, at least on the surface, appear to indicate the past year's cannabis raids were compelled by VPD. Quintana continued to explain about that the Riverside case, (which would decide if cities have the ability to issue an outright ban on dispensaries) is currently close to a decision and would be highly influential.

It's no secret I've been a big proponent of taxing marijuana,” stated Councilmember Brown, the prime proponent of Vallejo voter approved Measure C to tax MMDs. “but I do not support out of control 'mushrooming' of dispensaries,” she said.

Gomes called action by the council on MMDs “long overdue” with Sampayan agreeing.

Councilmember Sunga is strongly opposed to MMDs. He will not inhale. He asked what impact the moratorium would have on current dispensaries, to which staff replied, “none.” He kept repeating his opposition repeatedly and redundantly with constant re-iteration. Finally, an explanation that the moratorium would not prevent Vallejo from issuing an outright ban, should we so choose seemed to placate him.

City Manager Keen noted , “Other cities have been pretty successful at banning these. Vallejo attracts them.”

Councilmember Gomes put in a final word of clarification, “We need to hit the pause button,” adding (directed at Sunga), “This doesn't mean you support Medical Marijuana.”

Moratorium approved UNANIMOUSLY, Mayor Davis absent.


**errata: Dan Marks is the new interim Economic Development Director, not Planning Director as previously stated 4/30/13