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MLK Parade: Monday, January 20th -- The March starts at 9AM at 2833 Tennessee Street, Vallejo Adult School and continues  to Hogan Middle School, and the program begins at Hogan Middle School at 11:30 AM 

       


 

 

Your City Council Report

 

for January 14, 2014




By Anne Carr

1/16/14


With the Jan 7 Council meeting devoted to changing of the guard -- honoring outgoing Council members, and swearing in the new Council-elects -- the first real working session of the new City Council met last night, Tuesday Jan 14.


The pomp of swearing-in behind them, the Jan 14 Council swung into action.

 

 

Settling the Triad Lawsuit

 

In the “good news, bad news” category – setting aside the question of, “why did Vallejo break the contract in the first place?” -- the Council voted unanimously to settle the lawsuit brought against Vallejo by Triad, the former master developer for the downtown.

 

On the positive side, settling the lawsuit means that Vallejo can avoid further costly litigation, while Triad releases its development rights to 7 of the 12 downtown parcels. With the pending lawsuit, downtown development has been effectively frozen for almost 3 years, but now that it's settled, other development options might emerge. We’re guessing that Mayor Davis and his developer pal Joe Callahan have some ideas…


However, the settlement entails direct payments to Triad of more than $300k, a waiver of $91k in fees due from Triad, and the release of $620k in lines of credit. In addition to settlement terms, City Attorney Claudia Quintana had called the litigation “expensive,” but didn’t specify what the legal costs had been.


New Council member Katy Meissner was the only one to comment on the lawsuit, noting that while it was still pending, the proposal for Callahan’s downtown office building couldn’t go forward.

 


Regular meeting Jan 14

 

Despite a 4-page agenda, the really meaty Council business was light Jan 14: only a couple Action Calendar items; 11 Consent Calendar items (with two called out for more info); a couple Presentations; and 9 speakers in the Community Forums. Two hot topics were unscheduled – a discussion of water supplies, and some unhappy Section 8 clients.

 


Special $1-lease for the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau

 

Council’s main Action item was a proposal to grant a $1-lease to the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) for space in the Ferry Bldg. The one-year rent subsidy will enable the CVB to promote Vallejo at an International Travel Event in Chicago.


In proposing the deal, City Manager Dan Keen said that he expects to see a boost in transient occupancy taxes by an estimated $6000, along with increasing local restaurant and retail receipts resulting from the conference. These revenues would replace (more or less) the normal rental revenue of $7200, making the rent subsidy “worth trying.”


The special lease would be for one year only, as it’s expected that the new Mare Island Brewing Company may ultimately want to expand its Ferry Bldg footprint. Beer anyone?


Council voted unanimously to approve, after nudging the CVB on a couple topics. Meissner asked the CVB to show Council its marketing plans at some point, noting that in the past, the CVB focused on 6 Flags, and didn’t do much to include other Vallejo attractions. Sampayan asked whether CVB worked with Vallejo’s Econ Devt Folks (yes), and asked where the CVB might move if the new Mare Island Brewing Co expands its footprint in the Ferry Bldg (not clear).


McConnell raised concerns about the “convention” part of the CVB charter, noting that Vallejo lacks the meeting and banquet facilities for even small events. He asked CVB to stay focused on the kinds of visitors Vallejo could reasonably support, e.g., hotel visitors. Verder-Aliga asked for a copy of the recent branding strategy session hosted by the CVB.

 


Future Support for the Postal Service

 

The other official Council action was Malgapo’s request that Council discuss Senate Bill S. 316 once it gets out of committee.


Local postal rep Ronald Jones explained that the pending Senate Bill would support the Postal Service’s financial needs, ensuring Saturday deliveries, individual home and business deliveries, and up to 80,000 Postal Service jobs nationwide. Jones said that one option for a downsized Postal Service is replacing individual deliveries with the neighborhood postal boxes found in new developments. In Vallejo these boxes have been prone to break-ins.


Looking into the Senate bill, a Postal fact sheet lists retirement benefits as a top issue. Hmm, how to pay for public retirements, seems to be a familiar topic these days!

http://www.apwu.org/issues-uspsfinances/pspa-factsheet-2013.pdf

 

 


City Manager Report – Drought & Vallejo’s Water Resources

 

Council’s longest discussion centered on Vallejo’s water supply and the drought.


Public Works Director Kleinschmidt said that in a typical year, Vallejo uses 22k acre feet of water – well below the 45k acre feet Vallejo enjoys in water rights. With water from the state water project (Sacramento River), Lake Berryessa, and other water permits, Kleinschmidt said “we’re in “good shape,” even for a drought year.


Council members were quick to call for conservation efforts, with almost a full sweep raising various ideas.


Sampayan said that even though Vallejo has lots of water (in the 80s, West Bay folks would wash their cars here), he stressed that it’s not too early to think about conservation. He said that Vallejo should put out literature and let the public know now.


McConnell said that if we had 1-3 years of low rainfall, Berryessa would be affected, suggesting programs already used elsewhere, e.g.: financial incentives for replacing lawns, and water reclamation programs like those in SF. McConnell also said we should review our water rates to make sure they are not counter-productive, and look at who is using large quantities of water, e.g., golf courses. McConnell said that the Mare Island Golf Course has talked about ceasing operations based on its water costs.


Meissner asked about grey water, and whether Vallejo has permits for using grey water on lawns. Kleinschmidt said Vallejo doesn’t have grey water permits, but that the city should encourage this use. Umm, how? Malgapo wondered if water treatment becomes more costly as water levels drop, but Kleinschmidt said that water treatment and sediment is more of an issue after rainstorms – and that over time, the treatment costs balance out with drier weather. Verder-Aliga echoed McConnell’s call for incentives to remove lawns, asking that the city also address swimming pools & hot tubs in conservation programs. She said that the city should do special outreach to the school district, as kids home for the summer can become big water users.


Davis pointed out that the Solano County Water Agency has programs and materials available to reduce water usage, including free shower nozzles, certificates for water-efficient appliances, and low-flow toilets.

 

 


Consent Calendar Items

 

Beyond approving the minutes from Jan 7, there were 10 additional items on the consent calendar. Approved without discussion were the following:

  • the second step of an increase in the HOME program budget by $1,467, 258. Hmm, big ticket item, but I don’t remember what it’s for. I”ll have to check that…

  • feasibility studies for a Hiddenbrooke/Amer Canyon highway Interchange Project ($95k);

  • special tax services for Community Facilities Districts (CFDs) ($300k);

  • rules of order for the newly revised Beautification and Design Review Board;

  • adding a staff position for Participatory Budgeting (for a total of 3);

  • amending the Participatory Budgeting process regarding budget assembly timelines, alternates for the Steering Committee, and the resignation process for groups that miss multiple Steering Comm mtgs;

  • over-hire of 3 firefighters pending upcoming retirements;

  • budget to send new Council members to the League of CA Cities Annual Conference for new mayors and councilmembers.


BA Groves asked to pull 2 contract items for more information, saying she couldn’t find corporation papers for two vendors: B&M Builders, and the Akin Group LLP.

  • B&M Builders ($335k for concrete work, Measure B)

  • Akin Group, federal legislative services for the Solano Transportation Agency, with Vallejo, Dixon, Fairfield, Vacaville partnering for the work ($25k).


Kleinschmidt said the business and corporate license had been verified, and that he could double-check the paperwork the next day. Council unanimously approved the entire consent calendar pending those approvals.


Verder Aliga asked to be caught up on ongoing street repair projects, requesting a list and schedule of road work in queue.

 

 


Warm & fuzzies (With Occasional chance of Sharp and Jaggies)

 

Budgets are oh-so-much-fun, but it wouldn’t be Council without some rousing Presentations, plus the Community Forum Variety Show.


Presentations

  • The City swore in 3 new employees, all for the Participatory Budgeting project. The new hires are heavy on degrees (one Master’s in Planning, one Master’s in Public Policy), plus community outreach (all three). One is a Vallejo native (yay!), with a BA in Journalism. Hopefully they will rock Year 2 of PB.


  • Through a grant from the California Association of Realtors’ Housing Affordability Program, the Solano County Association of Realtors donated $50,000 to Vallejo’s Housing and Community Development Division.


A similar grant last year helped the City meet matching fund requirements for the federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program. In accepting the grant this year, Mayor Davis said he’d like to see funds used to hire a Coordinator for Loan Modifications -- a worthy idea, but it’s not clear one-time grant funds can be used that way.


  • In honor of Martin Luther King’s 85th birthday, and the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, the City issued a proclamation designating Jan 14-21 as Martin Luther King week.


Accepting the proclamation, a clearly distinguished local Pastor said if he had a chance to talk to King, he’d tell him, “Martin, we haven’t made it yet, but we’re on our way.” Also at the podium was one of only two recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal, a Montford Pt Marine (Montford Pt Marines were the first AAs to enter the Marines).

(apologies to the readers, I missed the name!)


(To observe the MLK holiday, there will be a parade on Monday, Jan 20, starting 9am at the Vallejo Adult School, 2833 Tennessee St, and ending at 11:30am with an event at Hogan Middle School. For more information, see https://www.facebook.com/NaacpVallejo.)

 

 


Community Forums/ the “open mike” theater

 

Community Forums can be quite the Variety Show, but Council got it easy in their first work session, with 9 speakers mixing it up with policy, a pep talk, a whine, and some service complaints. The first forum brought 4 speakers:


The CEO of Cannibis 29 said that unlicensed medical marijuana dispensaries (MMDs) give the MMD business a bad name, with unclean conditions, and locations in bad neighborhoods. He noted that none of the unlicensed shops are charging the City’s 10% MMD tax.


Burky Worel wasn’t happy with the answer he got last week about the exact hour when Council terms expire – so this week he came armed with a ponderous code book (and attitude) to answer his own question. Turns out, the official transition time is 8pm. Ok then!


Activist & Vet Jimmy Genn gave a pep talk, asking new Council members to consider their legacies. He urged Council to expect progress in small increments, and to listen to the people, instead of bowing to massive outside money. He warned Council, “we are watching,” and urged them to make decisions for the many. For full text of his speech, see the Primal Scream area under “Jimmy Genn.”


(BA Groves called out the promptly improved accuracy of listings on Channel 28, after her comments on it last week. She also said that in case the pension reform bill was raised again, she wanted to oppose the bill unless it exempted police, fire, nurses and teachers. I always enjoy hearing Groves – but if you exempt all those jobs, who is left?

 

 


Second Community Forum

 

Council’s second community forum featured three unhappy Section 8 participants; yours truly regarding Vallejo wages; and Stephen Hallett who asked about Vallejo’s MEI score and LGBT equality.


Council Forum can be the customer service desk of last resort for City matters, but some complaints can raise eyebrows in unintended ways. Take the Section 8 speakers who complained about rent increases that went from $139 to $328, and from zero to $500 respectively. Clearly these are big percentage increases, but wow, talk about great deals, even at $328 & $500. If you had paid ZERO for a 3-bedroom place – would you ever broadcast that, even if the deal went away?


Speaking of unintended effects, the Zero-Rent client said she couldn’t afford rent, but she’d had another baby recently (in addition to 2 teenagers). Not her most sympathetic play! An additional speaker said she was a “43-year veteran” of Section 8, but her complaint was unclear. Was she a renter or landlady, and what was her beef? Also, did she mean 43 years as a client? Yikes!


Yours truly raised the recent state comptroller report that Vallejo has the 5th highest employee wages of any city in the state. VIB has two recent articles on this shocking news.

“Analysis of 2012 public employee salary database”

http://ibvallejo.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1840&Itemid=1

“Vallejo Employees Still Rank Near the Top in Wages for State”

http://ibvallejo.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1839&Itemid=1


Law grad Stephen Hallett said the New Year was a good time to think about Vallejo’s progress in LGBT equality, specifically our anti-discrimination policy, and low score for the Municipal Equality Index (MEI). Vallejo had scored 66 out of 100 points in the MEI survey – even lower than places like Fresno (70 pts), and way lower than the typical Bay Area scores of 90+.

http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/mei-2013-see-your-citys-score



When Sampayan asked for status on the anti-discrimination policy, City Attorney Quintana said the LGBT equality efforts were “on the list,” and said she’ll get feedback on priorities from Dan Keen’s management meeting.


As the meeting wrapped up, McConnell had a juicy tidbit from the reception for the new Touro Provost. Apparently Touro may open a School of Nursing, and even a Veterinary School could be on the horizon. For now, the Vet School might be slated for NV campus, but no harm in trying to get both I say, well done!