Highlights from Vallejo City Council
February 24, 2009
By Marc Garman
City Manager Tanner's Contract Shut Down 5-2—Mayor slept through $12m deficit projection—30 Police and 2 Fire Stations expected to Close—The Magic Word is.......CONSEQUENCES
It is hard to put into words the self interested blind indifference and gross incompetence perpetrated upon the people of The City of Vallejo by The Mayor and four members of Vallejo City Council Tuesday night. There will be profound and long lasting disastrous consequences from the action taken, and yet the players in the latest round of fiscal atrocities seem oblivious. Perhaps they merely see Vallejo as a necessary evil in their journey elsewhere.
“If the numbers were given to us at the time, I must have been asleep.” comment by Mayor Osby Davis regarding his ignorance of the impending $12 MILLION budget deficit facing Vallejo
First Community Forum
In First Community Forum, VIB contributor Bob Schussel outlined the expected drastic cuts to Police and Fire services in the coming year. “The majority of City Council made a mistake in granting police a 10% raise” said Schussel referencing the recent contract approved for VPOA (Vallejo Police Officers' Association). He continued to ask, “What was City Council thinking when they didn't demand major wage and benefit concessions?”
Current projections indicate that another 30 Police will have to be laid off and 2 more Fire Stations closed in the coming year.
Herman Blackwell spoke about the impending merging of various commissions and said that he felt the process was being conducted excellently.
Ex VPOA president Burky Worel stated “It is not the Police Officers in the City of Vallejo who have caused this.” referring to the ongoing fiscal disaster that is Vallejo's budget.
Note: Vote on Charter review Committee moved to next week.
11A The Budget
“It is uncertain whether the General Fund will be able to meet its responsibilities.” Rob Stout Vallejo Finance Director
Amid a rapidly shrinking economy The City of Vallejo has agreed to give raises and free health care to its Police Officers. Revenues from sales tax and property tax, are declining at rates far faster than projected on a month by month basis. Losses at CALPERS are likely to translate into a higher percentage of employee wages being paid out. The City already pays 28.3% of Public Safety Employee wages and 12.28% of other employee wages to CALPERS. The projected $12 million deficit in the Vallejo General Fund Budget is likely to grow to greater proportions than anticipated as well.
The projections put forward by Finance Director Stout make a number of assumptions that may prove overly optimistic. Full payment by Lennar Mare Island of fees associated with providing services on MI (remember, Lennar is Bankrupt too) and full payment of fees from Vallejo's school district of fees for providing Police on campus are assumed. Good luck there. Approval of a new and expanded UUT(Utility Users' Tax) by the voters in addition to other possible taxes seems less than likely.
Bankruptcy costs are headed for $3 MILLION and The General Fund reserve is budgeted at a mere $500,000.
Of course, if not for operating under the pendency plan in bankruptcy, The City would already likely be around $17 MILLION in debt.
That said, Vallejo citizens can expect a continued and acute diminishment of the shrinking services we currently have. “You could eradicate everything in this City except Police and Fire and we would still not have enough.” said Finance Director Stout. He continued to add “This is my 5th hear and every year we've had to make cuts. The easy cuts are over.”
Stout also spoke about Vallejo's $135 MILLION unfunded retiree medical expense liability.
In Public Comment, accountant JD Miller spoke about “the little boy who sticks his finger in the dyke” and how that story illustrates the fiscal policy in The City and how the current council majority has continued this approach. Bob Schussel accused Stout of painting a “rosy picture” with regards to the budget, and also indicated that the proposed poll regarding tax measures was a waste of money. Retired CFO and CPA Paul Norberg gave a scathing commentary in which he spoke about his complete loss of confidence in the current council.
Mayor accuses Schivley of violating Closed Session Confidentiality
After comments from the public, councilmember Joanne Schivley thanked the speakers for their words “because you care about our city.” She continued “It has to be really frustrating when it looks to you as if the council isn't listening...and there are some councilmembers who aren't listening...in fact...sorry..I've gotta do this. The Mayor made the comment to me tonight that everyone who comes down and speaks and agrees with me---”
At this point Schivley was interrupted by a very agitated Osby Davis who shouted. “We're talking closed session—she is violating the charter!!” “Mr Soley !!” he continued asking the City Attorney to intervene.
Soley suggesting getting on with the vote.
“Anyway, you don't belong to Ms. Gomes and I. You're here because you care.” concluded Schivley.
“Where was all this information the night that the council was asked to approve the Police contract?” asked Schivley referencing the $12 MILLION deficit facing The City. After some back and forth, Stout and Schivley clarified that the $12 MILLION deficit projection was made available the night of the vote during Stout's presentation to council.
In his comments councilmember Sunga indicated that he feels that “Everybody on this council listens to each and every citizen.” As usual his comments brought laughter from the audience. “You can laugh!” he said eliciting more laughter, followed by “I think you have a good council. I think they listen.” After that there was silence. I'm not sure if people were trying not to laugh or puke. Sunga did support JD Miller's suggestion of a public meeting to discuss the budget.
Councilmember Gomes entered into a renewed round of sparring with Osby over the alleged giveaway of $700,000 in fees to Belvedere developer Gary Mandarich and the apparent sweetheart deal for My Cafe property owner Jack Higgins. The City is purchasing the Higgins property (needed for the Vallejo Station project) on an 8 month old appraisal that likely reflects a pre real estate bust value. Mayor Davis took “exception” to Gomes' comments.
The Mayor called for a possible further goals and budget discussion on March 10 at 6PM.
Speaking of comments that might cause the bile to rise, Mayor Davis indicated that he was not aware of the $12 MILLION budget deficit projection at the time of the vote on the police contract.”If the numbers were given to us at the time, I must have been asleep.” he said.
Budget update approved unanimously.
13D Revenue Augmentation
The City hopes to place a measure on the ballot to approve an expanded UUT(Utility Users' Tax). You have already been paying this “tax”, on some of your bills (I believe it appears as an additional charge on your electric bill presently)but it has been called a fee. Recently, the courts have determined that it is really a tax, and as such must be approved by the voters. The idea is to expand the UUT to your water, sewer, sanitation and flood bills etc. If the the current UUT were to disappear, it would represent a $5 MILLION loss to The City. Expect this on the November ballot.
The City also wants to hire a consultant to help with polling and messaging regarding additional taxes.
Here's the proposed expenditure breakdown:
$50,000..............polling and election
$25,000..............legal and financial
Bob Schussel spoke to the council on this matter as well. Schussel is a Ph.D psychologist with a background in market research. Bob worked for a major advertising firm for twenty five years. He feels that the plan to market new taxes to the populace, as proposed, is a waste of money. He urged the council not to “squander” money on a poorly thought out idea. Good luck getting the voters to agree with this.
Accountant JD Miller spoke of the system being broken.
Councilmember Hannigan agreed that, “This is going to be a tough year to put a tax measure on the ballot.”
Councilmembers Gomes and Schivley, both opposed the measure in their words and votes. Schivley spoke of it being unreasonable to ask the voters to approve a tax until we(Vallejo) “get our house in order” and Gomes said that she wouldn't, “be pushed into supporting taxes because poor decisions were made just two weeks ago”, referencing the deal with VPOA (Vallejo Police Officers' Association).
Considering that the economy is not expected to improve until 2012 0r 2013, it seems more and more possible that Vallejo may default on the recent agreement with the Police and end up paying their legal fees when they sue for breach of contract.
Revenue augmentation approved 5-2 Gomes and Schivley opposed.
Touro University Cancer Center—Some light in the dark
“I'm glad to I get to give you a little good news.” Bruce Lang—CEO Touro MI LLC
Plans to place a cancer treatment center on Mare Island are running ahead of schedule. While initial concerns over the pullout of Siemens Corp. from the joint venture raised concerns, apparently a new partnership with the Compact Particle Accelerator Company has resulted in the implementation of a new and improved treatment technology.
By avoiding the necessity of a massive cyclotron to generate accelerated particle beams, the treatment facility can be built faster and in a less massive form.
The project is being designed by ARC Architects of Benicia. Councilmember Michael Wilson is CFO of this company. His brother Tom is the architect. They recently moved ARC to Benicia...guess Vallejo wasn't good enough anymore. The center will likely open by the end of 2010.
“It's kinda a gloomy evening. I hope you got a little sunshine out of this presentation.” said Touro CFO Dick Hassel who thanked City Manager Joe Tanner for his leadership in bringing the project to Vallejo and “for helping us to get to where we are.”
Apparently, Tanner has been instrumental in encouraging Touro to develop their project on Mare Island rather than considering other cities such as Fairfield.
City Manager Tanner's Contract Shut Down 5-2
First, they said there would be a process including a performance review and some rationale to back up the decision on City Manager Joe Tanner's contract. A performance review was even put on the agenda for Tuesday night's meeting, even though councilmembers never received any paperwork or instructions regarding a review.
Then, at the last minute, any appearance of something resembling process was just removed. No review, no evaluation, no public outreach.
Citizens lined up to speak in favor of City Manager Tanner, but to no avail. The broad theme during public comment was one of frustration and futility. Many people started their comments with remarks such as, “The vote is gonna be 5-2 not to renew.” and “I feel at a loss”. Even VPOA past President Burky Worel spoke in favor of Tanner saying he believes Tanner is “competent” and that he should be retained as long as he has been fair to all councilmembers.
It felt a bit like trying to argue with the hangman at a neck stretching party. Pointless. As correspondence between Touro and Mayor Osby Davis has revealed, it would seem, that Touro Mare Island CEO Bruce Lang feels much the same way. The failure of Davis to respond to Touro, and put the positive impact of the Touro Cancer Center project ahead of his personal ambition is an unacceptable abdication of his responsibilities.
Councilmember Hannigan claimed to “appreciate the speakers tonight” but continued to insist that the decision to axe Tanner was merely a fiscal calculus. “This is one of those contracts that is too expensive.” she said as she continued to describe a conversation with Tanner in which she alleges he indicated not having long term aspirations in Vallejo. Pathetic, considering she had seen earlier communications from Touro as well.
Sunga made similar claims of alleged fiscal prudence.
Councilmember Michael Wilson said it was “a business decision” I'll bet Wilson is feeling an uncomfortable pressure on certain parts of his anatomy about now as a result of that business decision. His firm, ARC Architects has the contract to design the Cancer Center. I bet there have been a few heated words in the office.
Councilmembers Gomes and Schivley gave their support to Tanner with both their words and their votes.
The resolution passed 5-2. Gomes and Schivley opposed.
A Word on Marching Orders
Ladies and gentlemen. The decision by five members of Vallejo's City Council regarding City Manager Joe Tanner was an example of political payback, ambition and obedience being put above the interests of the Citizens of Vallejo.
Joe Tanner stood up to the IAFF (International Association of Firefighters) VPOA (Vallejo Police Officers' Association) and IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers). While these unions represent labor, they also represent a great deal of political might...specifically vested in the person of IAFF 1186 President Kurt Henke. Tanner is one of only two City Managers to ever challenge the stranglehold these unions and Mr. Henke have held over Vallejo.
The officials at Touro are ethical professionals. They could clearly see what was happening. If I had $2.2 Bn to invest, I would feel very uncomfortable dealing with a group of idiots who put the special interests and their own ambition ahead of the interests of the citizens or smart development.
I'll say it again. The ambition of Osby Davis to become a strong Mayor, and the slavish devotion of Hannigan, Wilson, Sunga and Bartee to the safety unions who have bought them, have found common ground. A n alliance has been forged that is not in the interest of the citizens of Vallejo. Joe Tanner represented an obstacle to a dangerous brand of chicanery that has put the economic recovery of Vallejo at risk.
Is a Mayor, who is willing to sell out in order to achieve a patriarchal dominance over our city, and in order to fuel an insatiable ego worthy of retention?
Are councilmembers who blindly follow marching orders from the special interests, and not in the citizens' interests deserving of the office they hold?
Think about it.
Thank you Touro for speaking up and bringing the attention to this that the citizens have not been able to.