Tuesday, February 26, 2013
But I digress. Every two weeks we offer our take on how the evening's City Council meeting is going to shake out. We have been right, and on occasion we've missed the mark by a mile. But not so much lately. Our average has actually been pretty good over the last six months. Which means that just about anyone can figure this stuff out. All it takes is just a little concentration.
Following the various presentations, ceremonies and Council reports, some of which will warm your heart while others will have a different effect, the meeting kicks off with Item 1a, which is the CONSENT CALENDAR. Also known as RESOLUTION NO. 13-11 APPROVING CERTAIN DEMANDS, we here at The Tattler call this the spending of the money. It always comes first because how can you be spending more when you haven't tidied up all the math from last time? Tonight $1,071,699.81 goes out the door to a couple hundred different places, with about half coming from Item 1c. There is a long list of amounts in the Staff Report, some of which are notable for their size, others for where they go. SoCal Edison pulled down a neat $37,996.23, Norman A. Traub Investigative Services got $4,642.32, the Forensic Nurse Response Team (!) $730, and various winners of the I Love My Library contest split up $535.00.
b) APPROVAL OF PURCHASES/SERVICES FOR SOLE SOURCE VENDOR DC CONNECT - This involves a $37,000 grant from the California State Library that has been titled "Sierra Madre Stories and Treasures." Somehow all this denotes that City Staff has selected a vendor to sell us a pair of "[i] Cell technology story boards," one of which is to be installed in the Library's History Room, the other at Lizzie's Trail Inn. Exactly what stories will be told on these boards is not spelled out in the Staff Report, though I can think of a couple if they're interested. I suspect there could be trail donkeys in the stories the City has in mind, some of whom now sit on the City Council. Since this is a purchase of over $25,000, the City Council has to bless the selected vendor before these purchases can proceed.
c) AWARD OF CONSTRUCTION CONTRACT TO PERRY C. THOMAS CONSTRUCTION, INC. FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE CITY-OWNED PORTION OF MWD EMERGENCY CONNECTION PROJECT IN AN AMOUNT NOT TO EXCEED $569,255.00 - This is our portion of the financial pain involved in hooking up Sierra Madre's rapidly depleting water system with the Metropolitan Water District. You know, just in case there is a water emergency, like suddenly 300 or so new condos show up downtown. A very slow and deliberate emergency. Bids went out to various pipe guys, and the winner was none other than Perry C. Thomas of Monrovia. The one odd thing in the Staff Report is Perry's bid is listed as $517,505.00, not $569,255.00.
d) CANCELLATION OF BOTH AUGUST 2013 CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS - The City Council wants to take a vacation. We all want to take a vacation. They get to vote for theirs.
2. PUBLIC HEARING - ORDINANCE NO. 1335 MUNICIPAL CODE TEXT AMENDMENT 12-01: AMENDING CHAPTER 5.56 (BATHS AND MASSAGE ESTABLISHMENTS), AND CHAPTER 17.36 (COMMERCIAL ZONE) OF THE SIERRA MADRE MUNICIPAL CODE TO CONFORM TO STATE REQUIREMENTS - Contrary to the rumors we've all heard, this one was not put on the agenda by the Mayor. It was initiated by Danny Castro, who apparently is aware of something I was not. Which is the City of Sierra Madre has nine massage establishments within its borders, and that the City gets a cut of the action by charging them for business permits and licenses. Just like most everyone else who attempts to do business in town. The catch being that selling permits to the those in the massage trade is contrary to State law in certain cases. Here is how the Staff Report puts it:
Chapter 10.5 of the State's Business and professional Code ("B&P Code") requires that cities allow massage services to be provided without the need for City permits, such as conditional use permits or a license to perform massage services, as long as the massage therapists and practitioners have acquired a State certification on a voluntary basis, or that a massage business employs only State certified personnel to perform massages. It is important to note that the State's B&P Code preempts local standards regarding massage establishments.
I wonder, are other professional services, those that are State licensed as well, also absolved from enduring the City permit and licensing process? People should check.
3. DISCUSSION - UPDATE FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON REPRESENTATIVE REGARDING 2011 WINDSTORM AND SIERRA MADRE OUTAGES - The wind blew, the trees flew, and this update took more than a year to do. Mr. Ben Wong from Southern California Edison will be in the house hoping to counter the widespread belief that his company was especially inept in its response to the 2011 windstorm. In the spirit of fair play, here is an article published by the Los Angeles Times titled "State regulators slam Southern California Edison for windstorm response" (click here). And from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune we have this: "State regulators: Edison broke rules in response to 2011 windstorm" (click here). Take it away, Mr. Wong.
4. DISCUSSION - PUBLIC FACILITIES IMPACT FEES: PLANNING COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS - This is a resumption of the City's near endless attempt to raise fees on new development. The rationale being that new buildings have an impact on public facilities, and therefore those doing the building need to pay more. It was shoved off on the Planning Commission for a while, who have now come back with their take on this matter. There will be some discussion on this by the City Council, of course. All of which leads to this:
Financial Review - The costs to prepare a new fee study involve awarding a contract to a consultant. Funds in the amount of $50,000 have been set-aside (General Fund dollars) in the FY 2011-2013 budget for a fee study consultant.
Whoot, there it is!
5. DISCUSSION – STATUS UPDATE: MARKET DEMAND STUDY - The $30,000 our previous City Council spent on the Buxton Market Demand Study has become a quite legendary example of clueless behavior by our elected officials. Apparently Nancy Walsh was conned by Buxton at a League of California Cities meeting a while back, and John Buchanan figured it could be useful as a way of showing the City that Nancy is actually capable of useful work. It didn't quite work out that way.
The Staff Report launches into a long discussion of how the Buxton Services information was received by our merchants, but little is said about what - if any - effect it had on how these Sierra Madre businesses actually used it. I suspect because the demonstrable effect of bringing more business to our downtown area was nil. But most damning of all is this conclusion in the Staff Report for this item:
The City's contract with Buxton Services expired in December 2012. The contract included a subscription to their SCOUT program, which provides increased access to market intelligence that supports efforts for business retention and recruitment within Sierra Madre. Attached is Buxton's proposal for continued services, with a cost of $15,000 for (a) 12-month subscription to SCOUT, which would permit up to three users. The attached proposal includes a complete list of data that Buxton will provide under an extended 12 month service ... However, it is staff's recommendation that this contract not be extended at this time.
Can we say failure yet?
6. DISCUSSION – ACCEPTANCE OF ROPS 13-14A AND DUE DILIGENCE REPORT FOR LOW- MODERATE HOUSING AND NON- HOUSING FUNDS FOR THE REPORTING PERIOD ENDING JUNE 2012 - This has something to do with the outcome of the dissolution of redevelopment agencies, and how a lot of CRA money is to be permanently clawed back by the State. The consequence to Sierra Madre being that perhaps some of the purchases that were (to use Josh's unfortunate word) "encumbered" a while back might not be paid for out of CRA funds after all. Something that would be ironic since the purposes of those encumbrances was to prevent our CRA money from being taken by Sacramento.
What this may mean is that such things as that $30,000 Buxton Market Demand Study, should the State choose to not pay for it out of their CRA haul, would have to come out of Sierra Madre's General Fund budget. Something that many here would regard as being a colossal failure of the G4 Council. We don't have that information yet. The Tattler eagerly awaits it.
7. DISCUSSION – STRATEGIC PLAN FROM OCTOBER 24, 2012 RETREAT PUBLIC COMMENT - Not sure there will be too many from the public left in the house when this one finally rolls around. Items such as this always get stuck at the end of the agenda, which means that they either don't get discussed because there just isn't any time left, or if they are the City Manager's presentation gets rushed through as everyone there wants to go home. And they should.
Live blog tonight's City Council meeting!
We will be here this evening to offer our insights and gentle criticisms as this meeting unfolds its many delights. Be sure to join as! We have gotten as many as 200 comments on this blog during City Council meetings. All are welcome, except Steve.
Posted by The Moderator at 5:30 AM