Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happenings: City Council Won't "Landscape Local"; Redevelopment Woes

Tonight’s was a quick City Council meeting[1]. The most heated discussion was reserved for a $260,000 landscaping project--exciting, no? (Kellar wondered why an out-of-town company was selected over a homegrown company that made a lower bid.)

The evening began with Councilmember Kellar’s invocation. “On Saturday, I was invited to join the Gelig family,” he explained. They recently hosted a one-year remembrance for their son, Sgt. Ian Gelig, who died while serving in Kandahar. His death would also be mentioned by the Grandmothers for Peace group, three members of which spoke at the end of the evening.

After Kellar’s opening remarks, the camera pulled back to reveal that Councilmember Frank Ferry’s chair was empty. And no, it wasn't empty because he was sitting on Marsha's lap; he was absent.

Next on the agenda were some presentations to the City. Mayor Marsha McLean invited law enforcement speakers to take to the podium. Mark Divis, Vice President of ALADS (Association for LA Deputy Sheriffs) offered McLean a scroll with important dates from Santa Clarita’s history as part of “a simple thank you.” It was odd. McLean said “We are more than supportive of the 8200 deputy sheriffs that do their jobs here and we appreciate it so much.” Captain Paul Becker followed, delivering an update on public safety. He said that addressing juvenile drug use remains a priority for SCV Sheriffs. The J-Team (Juvenile Intervention Team,) has been successful since its formation last summer, receiving 147 crime tips that resulted in 57 arrests. Becker also said that a program focusing on recidivism among juvenile offenders has proved very successful, far-exceeding the normal standards of efficacy. Everyone thanked Becker for his leadership and outreach.

It was next time to address the Consent Calendar. Three written comment cards supported a move to prepare boundary maps for north Copperhill, a concrete step towards annexation. The City formally adopted a revised retirement policy that was introduced at the last meeting. Also notable was a purchase of the leasehold interests of auto businesses in Old Town Newhall. When the City bought the property these businesses leased, they became landlord. As such, they just didn’t like the locally operated, locally patronized automotive businesses, so they've given them the boot. Why let people work when you can buy them out, pay for new buildings, and try to attract a new business more in keeping with your personal taste? Planners envision the spot as "a mixed use project which may entail a theater, an art show room, retail space, and residential units."

While the Consent Calendar was approved as a whole, there was some friction on Item 5. City staff recommended that the council award a contract for landscaping along Sand Canyon Road to Santa Ana’s Valley Crest Design Group. They proposed a $258,848 project. However, Santa Clarita Landscape Development, Inc. proposed a $240,104 project--$18,744 cheaper and a way to “shop local.” According to the agenda, “Based on the review of the consultants' proposals, which included their technical qualifications, understanding the scope of work, Caltrans experience, and references, staff invited three qualified firms to participate in oral interviews with City staff.” Both Valley Crest and Santa Clarita Landscape Development qualified, but staff picked the guys from out of town. Kellar wondered why. Curtis Nay, Assistant City Engineer, said that Valley Crest had more experience, the primary criterion for awarding the contract (by law, it can’t just be the lowest bid) and that SCLD Inc. left some things out of their proposal. Pulskamp said that Valley Crest has had more experience with Caltrans as well. It appears that the City is just more comfortable using a company that’s worked for them on similar projects before--probably easier on them, too.

Bob Kellar said that there will be an article in The Signal coming up—they are usually written by staff and just signed by a councilmember, he revealed—in which “he” will promote all that the City does to help local businesses. He said he wouldn’t feel comfortable making that claim while snubbing a qualified, less expensive landscaping company from Santa Clarita, so he voted no. Ender joined him, but Weste’s “yea” and McLean’s “yes” were enough to award the contract to Santa Ana’s Valley Crest Design Group. (City Attorney Montes said 2 votes were enough as it wasn’t a resolution.)

During councilmember reports, Weste gave an update on Newhall Memorial Hospital. She said that some sycamores have been plopped in front of the hideous parking structure now hovering oppressively over residents of Valencia's lowlands. (She didn't phrase it that way.) Her comment was a classic case of window dressing--twofold, unsuccessful window dressing. Obviously, there's the reality that a couple of trees can't hide a concrete monstroisty. But more importantly, after a lackluster poll of patient satisfaction[2], a doctors’ vote of no confidence in CEO Roger Seaver[3], power plays on the board[4], and some shocking salary figures among executive[5], nobody really cares about a few sycamores. An update on landscaping ignores the slightly more important question of whether HMNMH is in a meltdown.

McLean gave the lengthiest updates. She asked people to voice their support for redevelopment agencies, arguing that they are invaluable when it comes to revitalizing communities and that their funds should not be redirected, as the State may well be preparing to do. She also announced a volunteer Senior Transit Ambassador program and suggested that everyone tune into the Norfolk Botanical Garden Eagle Cam, a camera that watches a Bald Eagle nest, as a “fun thing.”

When the Public Participation portion of the meeting arrived, Lynne Plambeck spoke first. She was concerned about the City’s plan to use money for bicycle trails to expand a bridge. Pulskamp replied that a 16’ wide Class 1 trail is part of the bridge and that only $6,000 in bike funds are being used on the $1M+ design contract for the project. She and several speakers were curious about an upcoming special session for the City Council, the topic of which was a mystery. David Gauny wondered aloud whether the City would use the meeting to cover their ass for not appointing a Library Board of Trustees, the basis for a recent lawsuit aimed at blocking the LSSI takeover. Pulskamp stepped in to say that the meeting will deal with redevelopment law. He frets redevelopment money may be going away very soon, and he wants to look at moving property and funds from Old Town Newhall's Redevelopment Agency to the City. He said they are in “defensive mode.”

Finally, the Lutnesses and a couple of grandmothers lobbied the City Council to consider a resolution to become a “City of Peace.” One woman said that, compared to 2005, she gets more honks and fewer middle fingers when she holds up her peace signs on Sundays, suggesting the public sentiment has changed over the years.

People criticized the Santa Clarita City Council for talking about immigration, saying it was an issue they had no control over. There’s no doubt that the City has even less control over foreign policy and warfare. Still, the grandmothers were able to speak their mind. So too did Kellar, who felt “there’s no good war,” but believed that implementing the ideas of the pacifists would lead to a “life expectancy of America of about two seconds.”

The meeting adjourned at 7:10.

[1]The agenda, for agenda seekers.
[2]No way to spin a lack of enthusiasm for the hospital
[3] Jim Holt wrote about it.
[4] Changes
[5] West Ranch Beacon has devoted a special blog to rants and raves about HMNMH--there seems to be a lot more to rant about than rave.


Alan J. Ferdman said...

Flying under the radar right now is the latest Sanitation District Fee increase. If passed next month, $314 of your yearly property tax bill will be going to Sanitation District 32 by 2013.

No information is being provided as to connection fee increases or what the financial impact of the Chloride issue will be. When our Sanitation Board Members were asked about the increase and future plan, at last night's City Council Meeting, they did not provide any information.

Like last year, there will be informational meetings we should attend and protest letters to send if the Sanitation District Staff cannot justify their proposal. There will only be one month for the public to become informed and take action. This is not a small increase and appears to be another” push it through quickly” issue.

Each of you should have received a notice in the mail.

Alan J. Ferdman said...

Querying on General Law FAQs it is obvious that our city Attorney was misinformed when he stated that 2 votes were enough to pass the agenda item relating to the Sand Canyon Project.

Stated plainly in the FAQs is “All ordinances, resolutions, and orders for the payment of money require a recorded majority vote of the total membership of the city council. Cal. Gov't Code § 36936”. Clearly 3 votes were needed.

Let’s wait and see how this anomaly is handled