LIVINGSTON CITY COUNCIL
MAY 4, 2010
A Regular Meeting of the Livingston City Council was held on May 4, 2010, in the City Council Chambers with Mayor Varela presiding.
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor Varela called the meeting to order at 7:03 p.m.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
The pledge of allegiance to the flag was recited.
Mayor Daniel Varela, Sr.
Mayor Pro-Tem Frank Vierra
Council Member Rodrigo Espinoza
Council Member Margarita Aguilar
CHANGES TO THE AGENDA
There were no changes to the agenda.
AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS
1. Livingston High School Student Computer Program Presentation.
Mayor Varela introduced Gary Stellpflug, the director of the Livingston High School technology program. He asked Mr. Stellpflug to come to tonight’s City Council meeting to talk about the technology program at Livingston High School. Mr. Stellpflug brought Eugene Hurt and Jesse Soto, two students in the technology program that had developed a game for seventh and eighth graders as part of the nationwide competition. The game these students developed is called “Space Adventures” and is based on astronomy. Kids playing the game are taken to a distant part of the solar system where their space ship crashes. They need to get back to earth by answering astronomy questions. The program developers and the participants in the game learn math and science as they play the game.
Mr. Stellpflug said that his technology classes are “under the gun” from the Merced Union High School District. He said that several of his classes have been eliminated. In the past, 30 percent of the students at Livingston High School participated in technology classes. Today, he is only allowed to accommodate 13 percent of the student body. Mr. Stellpflug said that the student’s work is posted on a website that he personally funds. He urged the community to lobby the Merced Union High School District to keep the program and allow more students to take technology classes. It was pointed out that Mr. Stellpflug’s technology program has achieved nationwide recognition and is one of the top five programs in the country.
Mayor Varela thanked Mr. Stellpflug and the students for coming to the meeting and giving a presentation. He stated that he was very excited when he toured his classroom and saw the student’s work. The students are very creative and engaged in learning the technology.
Mayor Varela said that last Saturday he had a conversation with John Alexander, the chief executive officer of the Livingston Medical Group. During their discussion, Mr. Alexander had expressed frustration over several computer issues facing the organization. Mayor Varela suggested that Mr. Alexander contact Mr. Stellpflug to see if some technology students might be able to help him. Both of them have met and they have established two student internships at the Livingston Medical Group. The Livingston Medical Group could potentially hire one of them to work as a regular part-time member of their technology staff.
Mayor Varela said that Mr. Stellpflug and his students were invited tonight to show what a great technology program that is offered at Livingston High School.
City Manager Warne told Mr. Stellpflug that his son had taken two classes in his program last year. He said that it was a great experience for him and City Manager Warne expressed appreciation as a parent for all that Mr. Stellpflug had done for his boy. He graduated from Livingston High School and is now majoring in computer science at the university.
Mr. Stellpflug said that many of his former students now work for Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Oracle. They are all over the nation.
Council Member Nateras said she has known Mr. Stellpflug for 18 years. He was her children’s teacher, motivator and mentor. He encourages his students and they come to his classroom early in the morning and stay late in the afternoon. She thanked him for being such a great teacher.
Mayor Varela thanked Mr. Stellpflug for what he has done. He said that the City wants to promote the good things that are happening in Livingston and Mr. Stellpflug and his students are part of the positive things in the community. Mr. Stellpflug ended by saying that the students wrote the programs for the games and did all of the sounds and graphics.
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND REPORTS
Supervisor John Pedrozo Announcements and Reports.
Supervisor Pedrozo was absent.
City Council Members’ Announcements and Reports.
Council Member Margarita Aguilar
· Reported that Livingston residents attended the Fire Department pancake breakfast on Saturday, May 1. The event was well planned and well attended. It appeared that people were enjoying themselves by helping out. She wanted to thank those people who participated and took the time to come to the breakfast. She also wanted to thank two Livingston Middle School teachers that provided her with a few students to help with the breakfast. Twelve students earned five hours of community service toward Middle School graduation.
· Commented that Sunday is Mother’s day. She wanted to wish everyone a happy Mother’s Day and wanted to recognize everyone out there raising their kids, whether they are a mom or a dad or whether they are single parents.
Council Member Rodrigo Espinoza
· Said he had nothing to report tonight. He asked to be excused from the meeting for a couple of minutes.
Council Member Martha Nateras
· Stated that Livingston hosted the City-County dinner on April 27. She thanked Donna Kenney, Kaye Greeley and Filomena Arredondo, and other City staff members for organizing this event. They did an excellent job. We had over 80 guests. The keynote speaker was Henry Escobar who talked about his book and leadership in the public sector.
· Reported she attended the Relay for Life in Turlock on Saturday. She joined her cousin’s team whose son was diagnosed with cancer. She went to support the family and also to check-out their relay so she could get new ideas for next year. They have over 60 teams each year. Livingston, a much smaller city, had 30 teams last year. They had a lot of good ideas which she plans to bring into Livingston’s relay next year. Next year she will be the chairperson for the luminaries. She needs to start working on that project.
· Reported that she will be attending the Livingston High School awards night on Tuesday, May 11. She will be representing the Rotary Club and will be giving four scholarships.
· Wished a happy Mother’s Day to all.
Mayor Pro-Tem Frank Vierra
· Wished everyone a happy Mother’s Day.
Mayor’s Announcements and Reports.
Mayor Daniel Varela, Sr.
· Commented that we want to celebrate our moms in the community. You can send those flowers and a card and tell them that you love them on that particular day.
2. Resolution Conditionally Approving Site Plan/Design Review 2010-03 for the Open Range Communications, Inc. Antenna Project.
Community Development Director Kenney presented the agenda item for Site Plan/Design Review 2010-03. This is the site plan design review of the antennas on the existing tower at 2270 Walnut Avenue. It is owned and leased out by AT&T and the carrier is Open Range Communications (ORC). AT&T is leasing a spot on the tower at the 145-foot level where they will put in three pedal antennas and one dish antenna. Open Range Communications went before the Planning Commission on April 13, and the vote was 5-0 to recommend approval of this project to the City Council.
Community Development Director Donna Kenney said staff reviewed the project to see if it conformed with the Livingston Design Guide and Livingston Municipal Code. Staff did not believe there would be any major aesthetic impacts. She asked the City Council to look at the photo sims attached to their agenda packets and said that they could see that the antennas are pretty small from that distance. It is her understanding that the tower will be full with the addition of these antennas until someone comes forward with a project to add antennas and possibly strengthen the tower through engineering. Community Development Director Kenney said the City has had a number of carriers coming through and looking at alternative tower sites. These new antennas should provide better broadband service for our citizens. Open Range Communications is a new business coming to town. Steve Christianson, a representative from Open Range Communications, is present and available for questions.
Steve Christianson, 3771 Copperpenny Lane, Auburn, California, thanked Community Development Director Kenney for her preparation for the Planning Commission meeting and for the City Council meeting. Open Range Communications is a new wireless provider that provides wireless broadband service to the community. They are a data carrier and not a voice carrier. The proposed antennas have the ability to provide high speed internet service in Livingston and support internet networks at the high school. This project is being financed by Federal stimulus money through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Open Range Communications provides internet service to smaller communities like Livingston. The company also provides internet service to Waterford, Newman, Ripon and Riverbank. Open Range Communications does not provide internet service to larger communities like Modesto because there are other service providers like Comcast that do this. Open Range Communications allows customers to have wireless access to the whole information network. Steve Christianson again said that Donna Kenney had done an excellent job and he likes to work with people who are well prepared for the meeting.
Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra said other cities are concerned about aesthetics and are trying to disguise these wireless towers as trees. Some of these towers disguised as trees look out of place, such as the tower that looks like a palm tree outside Fresno and the towers that look like pine trees at UC Merced and Lake Yosemite. If towers are the future, Livingston needs to look at what is being done in other cities to disguise the appearance of these wireless towers.
Community Development Director Kenney agreed. She recently attended a conference in South Lake Tahoe and had the opportunity to look at two different towers. Some of them were very attractive. Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra stated that, when he saw a palm tree along Highway 99, it turned out to be a wireless tower disguised as a palm tree. Livingston needs to look to the future.
Mayor Varela opened the hearing for public comment at 7:22 p.m.
Julio Valadez, 1158 Sixth Street, asked Mr. Christianson if his company was going to provide voice over IP. Steve Christianson replied he did not believe so at this time. Open Range Communications is trying to build-out its wireless broadband network in smaller communities. This is something the company may do in the future, but it is not a service they will be providing to customers at this time.
Gurpal Samra, 1034 J Street, asked how far from the tower will Open Range Communications be able to provide service. Steve Christianson explained the panel antennas will provide service between two and three miles based on how they are down tilted. The microwave dish is being “back hauled” to Turlock and Modesto. Modesto is his company’s “back haul” location and they have five microwaves there. Open Range Communications uses microwaves as part of their network in smaller communities.
Julio Valadez, 1158 Sixth Street, asked Steve Christianson if Open Range Communications is going to provide service on the outskirts of town. Steve Christianson stated that the company is only providing one tower in Livingston. The tower is 180 feet high, but the antennas are 140 feet above the ground. He did not know the company’s future plans, but knows the technology will only allow the company to provide service two to three miles from the tower. They are going back to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for additional funding every six months. In addition to government funds, private banks such as Chase Manhattan Bank have put $300 million into the company. Most of the company funding is Federal stimulus money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The company may provide other services as it builds out its wireless broadband network. Steve Christianson agreed with Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra that the towers need to be aesthetically pleasing. The problem with towers disguised as trees is that you only get one to two carriers on a tower. In contrast, the existing tower near the City Public Works Department has 16 antennas.
Mayor Varela closed the hearing at 7:37 p.m. as there were no further public comments.
Motion: Vierra/Aguilar to adopt Resolution No. 2010-42, Approving Site Plan/Design Review 2010-03 for the Open Range Communications, Inc. Tower Project. The motion carried 5-0 by the following roll call vote:
AYES: Council Members: Aguilar, Espinoza, Nateras, Varela, Vierra
NOES: Council Members: None
ABSENT: Council Members: None
Katherine Schell Rodriguez, P.O. Box 163, Livingston, wanted to talk about the budget. It is one of the most underused resources available to anyone who really wants to know where the City gets its money and how it spends it. The FY2009-2010 budget document has numbers on it going all the way back to FY2006. It is on the City’s website and it is in a PDF file that allows a person to search the document using key words or phrases. For example, you can type in key words like Court Theater and find out what was approved and when it was approved and how much was spent. The same thing for the Police Department, Fire Department, recreation, or even part-time employees where you can find a whole bunch of part-time employees in things like recreation programs, swimming pool, special events, youth basketball, soccer, adult sports and after-school programs. Katherine Schell Rodriguez said that it would be a shame to lose these part-time employees. She said when the independent auditor is here this summer to give his opinion on the financial statements, please be here with intelligent questions. Please be here no matter what time on the agenda the item is scheduled. Please be here and please stay and do not leave before it is his turn to talk.
Julio Valadez, P.O. Box 701, Livingston, commented that he was a member of the Kiwanis Club in Merced. He volunteered at the Junior Olympics this weekend and was the co-announcer. He was proud to say that Livingston Middle School won many awards. He asked what it would take to put the fireworks event back. Mayor Varela said the City Council would be talking about it later in the meeting. Julio Valadez stated that Pastor Kuyper suggested that when we come up to the podium that we give our suggestions on how to cut costs for the City. He is right. We should not just bring problems, but solutions. He said that he called Mayor Varela to ask him about the cost of the July 4 event. He later got the information from Vickie Lewis. He said to Mayor Varela, “I left you a message and you didn’t call me back again.”
Mayor Varela said he was sorry, but he never received a call from Mr. Valadez. Julio Valadez also asked if the City Attorney needed to attend every City Council meeting. He thought that this might be a way to save money. City Attorney Hobbs replied that it was up to the City Council if they wanted him to attend City Council meetings.
Mayor Varela stated that is was absolutely necessary that the City Attorney be present when we have a meeting. Julio Valadez asked if it was the same in all cities and whether previous Livingston City Councils had always had an attorney present at City Council meetings. Mayor Varela responded that the City has always had an attorney present. Julio Valadez asked for the reason for the City Attorney to be present at City Council meetings. Mayor Varela explained that he is the City’s legal counsel.
Julio Valadez stated that when the City Attorney is asked a legal question, all he says is he cannot comment on pending litigation. He said that he is looking for ways to save money and thought this might be a way of doing it. He stated that he did not think the City Attorney needs to be at any meetings. When we ask questions he says he cannot comment. And then we ask the Council and you do not answer most of the time. He wanted to let everyone know that right before the meeting started we served Mr. Frank Vierra with the recall. He just wanted everyone in the public and at home to know that.
Mohani Thiara, 2747 Claret Circle, thanked Mr. Varela for inviting Mr. Stellpflug to the meeting. Her son also had Mr. Stellpflug for a teacher and he is doing an outstanding job. Her son is attending Sacramento State this year and won first place in a media production competition. She wanted to thank Mr. Stellpflug for doing so much for the kids and Ms. Nateras for her comments about Mr. Stellpflug.
Mohani Thiara said that she was listening to the previous speaker talk about wasting money. She said that the recall election is a waste of money when the City is going to have an election in November. The recall leaders went out and spent money, interrogated people and provided the public with false information. She said that the previous speaker questioned the need for the City Attorney to be present at City Council meetings. Everyone knows this. The presence of the City Attorney does not waste money. It is the recall election that is a waste of money when Mayor Varela, Council Member Nateras, Council Member Vierra and City Manager Warne are doing an awesome job. We need to give them a hand instead of blaming things on them, especially when the ex-Mayor and other Mayors before him did not do their jobs. Ms. Thiara stated that she intends to be at every City Council meeting.
Mike Torres, 1616 Eighth Street, said he stayed home for the last City Council meeting and tried to watch it on the television. He said it was like a silent movie because you could not hear what the people were saying. He said that he did not know who was at fault. He said that the system cost between $40,000-$50,000 and should be fixed. He stated that last month the meeting lasted so long that probably half the people turned their TV off because they could not hear anything.
Council Member Espinoza said he thought the City spent about $52,000 for the television system and it took about a year to put it in. He is aware that people have been asking for improved audio and he also knows that the City is working with Mario Campos from Quick PC Support on improving the system. Mike Torres stated he could hear everyone tonight.
Mayor Varela asked Mario Campos, the person responsible for the City’s information technology systems and the television system, to give an explanation.
Mario Campos stated that the quality of the DVD that comes out of the City’s television system is flawless. He said the City is having trouble getting the signal across through Charter Communications’ system. The company’s representatives have promised to give the City a new box and it will hopefully come this week. Mr. Campos said that he has replaced all of the connectors and all of the cabling on the City system. The sound is good when people talk directly into the microphone. But when people turn away from the microphone, it is difficult to hear them. There is nothing the City can do when people do not speak into the microphone.
Council Member Espinoza stated that the City Council meeting will be re-televised at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.
Mario Mendoza, 1421 Brandy Court, stated we never misinformed the community when we went out to get recall petition signatures. He said that Ms. Mohani accused former Mayor Gurpal Samra of misinforming the community at the last City Council meeting. He said that this was not true. He was there. He doesn’t want to be rude, but that is how it is. He said allegations that Gurpal Samra was misinforming people and promising to reduce their taxes are lies. He knows this because he helped collect signatures.
Robert Kuyper, 1811 Park Street, stated he was the pastor of the United Methodist Church and wanted to make it clear that the church is outside the City. The church has a well and uses a septic tank, so the water rates do not affect the church. He is speaking as a private citizen since he lives in the City of Livingston and pays for the water. He said that the audience should not be talking to each other and not debating each other in City Council meetings. Many people may not be aware that the City Council cannot speak to each other about City business outside of City Council meetings because it violates the Brown Act. Everything must be done in public.
Pastor Kuyper said that City Council meetings are the time that the City Council member should be talking to each other about the matters before the City. If the audience is interrupting City Council members, then the communication between City Council members is faulty. He sees the City Council sitting separately and not communicating with each other, especially on the water issue. If the audience is loud and noisy we are going to have difficulty hearing the members of the City Council. He said that he wears a hearing aid and has trouble hearing the meeting because people in the audience are speaking to each other and making noise. He also suggested that the City Council and public debate ideas and not personalities. It should never be appropriate to make a personal slur or to say anything negative about the integrity of any of the people on the City Council. The City Council members have a difficult job. He was not even sure he would want to do it. You may be a little bit insane to want to do it. It is a difficult job. People in the audience can communicate with the City Council privately by phone. He hopes that we can debate at a higher level.
Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra presented the consent calendar items as follows:
3. Resolution No. 2010-20, Directing Revisions to the General Plan Update and EIR and Retaining the Municipal Consulting Firm of PMC for Such Services.
4. Approval of Minutes of Meeting Held on March 4, 2010.
5. Approval of Warrant Register Dated April 27, 2010.
Motion: Varela/Vierra to approve the consent calendar items as presented. The motion carried 5-0.
DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS
6. Resolution Calling for a Special Election to Determine Whether Mayor Daniel Varela, Sr., and/or Councilmember Martha Nateras Should be Recalled.
Mayor Varela stated he would like to go on record as saying NO to the recall.
City Attorney Hobbs presented the agenda item and commented that at the last meeting there was a sufficient number of signatures on petitions to support a recall election for Mayor Varela and Council Member Nateras. He said before you tonight is the decision as to when to set that recall election. By State law, the recall election has to be set between 88 days and 125 days of tonight’s meeting and must be held on a Tuesday as indicated in the staff report. Essentially, this gives the City Council the option of setting the election on any Tuesday in August. So, it is at the discretion of the Council as to which day they would like to set the election.
Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra made a motion to adopt Resolution No. 2010-21, Calling for a Special Election to Determine Whether Mayor Daniel Varela, Sr., and/or Council Member Martha Nateras Should be Recalled and Setting August 31, 2010, as the date for said Special Election.
Council Member Espinoza asked if the item could be opened to the public before a second motion and vote was taken. Mayor Varela opened this agenda item to the public.
Theresa Land, 995 Hilltop Avenue, stated she would like to suggest that we have the special election on August 24 or 31. Her reason for that is that school will be back in session and she thought we should not have the election before then since people might be on vacation or elsewhere. She wanted to make sure that most of the community will be here, and they will be here if school is in session.
Katherine Schell Rodriquez, P.O. Box 163, commented that because of State election laws and the recall committee’s choice of timing the recall cannot be combined with the June primaries or the November General Election. She said it is not Mayor Varela’s nor Council Member Nateras’ doing that is forcing this recall to be held in August. It is not Mayor Varela’s fault that there will be a mayoral election in August and again in November. Others have the liberty to disagree with her, and she hoped such disagreements would be disagreed upon with a civil tongue. Katherine Schell Rodriguez said she is getting just a tad tired of hearing the “just resign and save the City money mantra.” If the purpose of this recall is really only about saving money then a person would want to do everything humanly possible to get it combined with the November General Election. After all that is when we would be doing our electing anyway. She does not know who was the legal advisor for the recall committee, but she thought he or she or they or whoever missed a point on the saving the City money deal.
Mohani Thiara, 2747 Claret Circle, agreed with Katherine Schell Rodriguez. The recall election is a waste of money. We should not do the recall. She agrees with her 100%. We have been talking about saving money and then doing a recall. She said to quit blaming these people. She thought they have done a wonderful job and the City of Livingston needs to give them a second chance. She said thank you so much and she will answer the gentleman’s comments next time. She will come prepared for all the accusations that were made and she will comment during her three minutes during Citizen Comments.
Julio Valadez, 1158 Sixth Street, said that he read that the recall election was going to cost $54,000. He said that we want the fees raised a different way. The City has spent $241,845 in legal fees through March 11 according to City paperwork. There was another $92,000 approved last week. Now part of this will be reimbursed by developers, but it still includes some legal fees. Mr. Valadez said City Attorney Hobbs answered his question on whether an attorney was needed at each City Council meeting.
Kaye Greeley, 1571 Monte Cristo Way, said she was proud that we have such a lovely City Council. She said it is embarrassing to see everything that comes out in the newspaper about Livingston makes us look like a zoo. She knows many people in Merced and Atwater. Every time she sees these three City Council members being attacked by a particular group in Livingston, she is shocked and pleased at how they act in front of other people. She has witnessed these three City Council members at other City and County meetings, and they are always applauded by other elected officials for their integrity, their professionalism, brightness and for their wisdom—and we are recalling them. Kaye Greeley said she did not understand this situation and we are spending money to do it. Everybody is complaining that we do not have any money. This is really silly and it all started with the water issue. The water rates should have been raised in your term and before your term (pointing to Gurpal Samra). These City Council members were just doing their job. She said it is a sad situation and we should feel embarrassed about the recall.
Manuel Mercado 1449 Second Street, stated many people are missing the point about why Mayor Varela and Council Member Nateras are being recalled. Money has nothing to do with it. It is not about money. The reason we are recalling you is because we envisioned something different when we elected you. You were really going to follow your own brains instead of being the sheep and just following whatever the City Manager says. He felt that all you people are educated people. He knows Martha Nateras personally and said that she is a good person. Money has nothing to do with it. It is about the right and the wrong that is being corrected. This turmoil started with the water bill, but at the beginning of the situation if you people would have stood up and represented the people that elected you, confronted them face to face and actually tried to correct the problems, none of this would have happened. So now you are trying to tell us that we are not intelligent enough to save the City money. It is not about the money. Who cares about the money. It is mostly about the character of the City. He believes that you have character, but you just follow the wrong advice.
Mike Torres, 1616 Eighth Street, said he read that the City of Hughson was going to conduct its own recall election. He asked the City Attorney if Livingston could conduct its own recall election. City Attorney Hobbs said we would have to discuss this with the County Elections Office as they will be running the election. Mr. Torres asked if the recall election could be held in conjunction with the November general election. City Attorney Hobbs stated that State law requires that the recall election be set for one of the Tuesdays in August. It cannot be consolidated with the November general election.
Mayor Varela closed the public comment portion of this agenda item and asked the City Council members if they had any comments.
Council Member Espinoza stated that the City of Hughson’s recall election was only going to cost them $24,000. He did not understand why the election would cost more than twice as much in Merced County. He knows that the City of Hughson’s population is about half the size of Livingston. He thinks this issue is about money because this is a low-income community. The people do not have money or jobs right now. This is the reason he did not vote to raise the water rates. This is the worst economy in our life time. We have never seen it this bad. The newspaper said that the water rates only went up 100%. Citizens were paying $60 and now they are getting a monthly bill that is $200, $250 or $300. Council Member Espinoza said he guessed that people have been coming to the Council. This is why the people decided to do the recall election. He thought that everyone in the community is not opposed to an increase, but not this much. He wants to wait a year and see what happens. We were supposed to bring the rates back to the City Council, but the issue never came back. He felt that he was being pushed by the City Manager to raise the water rates. He said he was told that the City wells were going bad and the water rates needed to be raised. Citizens cannot pay all these high rates. What makes him angry is that all this money is being paid to the City Attorney. If the rates are decreased, the City is not going to be able to afford to pay the citizens back all that money that was illegally taken from them.
Mayor Varela said let’s just stay on the subject of the recall so we can move forward.
Council Member Aguilar referred to Mike Torres’ comment about holding an in-house recall election. She talked to Vickie Lewis about this and it was her understanding that Merced County is going to handle the entire recall process and she would think twice before changing it. She received calls from recall proponents in regard to the time that the City was taking to count the signatures. Council Member Aguilar said it might save money, but she believed the City is not equipped to do what the County is doing even though it will cost the City money. It is not whether or not the election is going to cost us, it is when it is going to happen. That is what we are deciding tonight.
Council Member Aguilar (in Spanish) stated “It is not about having elections in the City where the votes count, but that the County is going to be in charge of this and my information to you is that today we are just going to select a day. It’s not about how much it is going to cost, because it is going to happen, but about the day we are going to pick to hold this election. It is not about money, it is simply that the majority of you picked us Council Members to be the voice of the people and since some of us decided to go a different route, that is why we are where we are today. That is what I wanted to tell you. Thank you.”
Motion: M/S Vierra/Aguilar to adopt Resolution No. 2010-21, Calling for a Special Election to Determine Whether Mayor Daniel Varela, Sr., and/or Council Member Martha Nateras Should be Recalled and Setting August 31, 2010, as the date for said
Special Election. The motion carried 5-0 by the following roll call vote:
AYES: Council Members: Aguilar, Espinoza, Nateras, Varela, Vierra
NOES: Council Members: None
ABSENT: Council Members: None
Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra said he was voting to set the recall election date, but he was not in favor of it. This is a legal issue and the City is required to do it by law.
Mayor Varela stated that he was going to make a comment because his fellow City Council members were able to make a comment and make their point before they voted on the resolution setting the recall election date. He said that when we were elected, we were not elected to grant favors to any member of the community. We were elected to make the decisions that will have a positive impact for the future of our community. We all knew the water rate issue was going to come before the City Council. It was a pressing issue. People were complaining about taking baths in dirty water. An attempt was made four years ago to raise the water rates. Two years later, just before the election, the water rates became a pressing issue again. The majority of the City Council listened to the safety concerns and recognized the need to upgrade City wells. It is not something that we take lightly and we knew that raising the rates, regardless of how much we raised them, was going to hurt people’s pocket books. PG&E raises rates and we do everything we can to conserve energy. We made the right decision so that our community would have good, clean, filtered water in the future. We would also have the funding to replace the infrastructure that has been in decay since the 1920’s. Mayor Varela said that with his comment, he votes for the resolution.” This is America and the people have their voice to be heard.
7. City Council Guidance on Skateboard Park Design and Site Selection Process.
City Manager Warne presented the agenda item. He said that on August 4, 2009, the City Council waived the second reading and adopted Ordinance No. 582, approving Amendment No.1 to the Kishi Country Lane Subdivision Development Agreement. City Manager Warne said that the City Council will remember that the new developer of the subdivision wanted an extension of time to the Development Agreement (DA). In return for that extension of time, the developer agreed to $1.5 million worth of financial benefits to the City including the dedication of a well to Livingston. In addition, the amended Development Agreement (DA) also provided that the City would not have to reimburse the developer for the upsizing of the water lines and sewer lines and the cost of the well beyond what was needed for the subdivision. As part of the $1.5 million financial benefits to the City, the City also negotiated a $100,000 contribution by the developer to the City for a skateboard park.
City Manager Warne stated that the developer has paid the $100,000 to the City. The City has also sent out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a consultant to assist the City in determining the location and design for a skateboard park. The City received proposals from RJM Design Group, Spawn Ranch Skateboard Parks, Wolly Holiday Design, and California Skateboard Parks. Copies of the proposals were included in the City Council’s agenda binders. City Manager Warne said we are here tonight to take Council guidance on how they would like to proceed to choose the consultant, select the site and design the skateboard park.
Mayor Varela said he recommended that the City Council turn this project over to the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission can work with staff and a team of kids and interested community members to select a site and complete the skateboard park design.
Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra said he wondered why this project had not gone to the Planning Commission in the first place. This is why Livingston has a Planning Commission. The Planning Commission can give the City Council guidance and make recommendations to the City Council.
Council Member Aguilar agreed with Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra. She felt that the Planning Commission could review the project and come back to the City Council with recommendations. Council Member Aguilar said that one of the consultants that responded, Spawn Ranch, did not include a public process.
City Manager Warne commented that there are two components inherent in the Request for Proposals (RFP). One was a site selection component and the second was a design component through engineering and construction documents. If you sent the skateboard project to the Planning Commission they could recommend a consultant to the City Council to hire. They could take the lead in working with the community to determine the site and the design. Any work done by the Planning Commission would ultimately have to come to the City Council for final approval.
Council Member Nateras said she would like to invite some of the skateboarders to this meeting so that they could have input. She said who else would better know about skateboard parks than the youth that use them. Council Member Nateras said she would not know what questions to ask.
Mayor Varela said he thought there were already some youths anticipating a skateboard park because even when Gurpal Samra was Mayor there were a couple of boys that were inquiring about a skateboard park. He said this is something that has been longed for in our community. Mayor Varela commented that he appreciated what City Manager Warne has done and how he has been able to creatively find the funds for this design plan. He said staff has done an exceptional job in moving forward with this project and providing what is needed for our community.
Council Member Espinoza agreed with the rest of the City Council. He thought the input from the skateboarders and the community was important. We have had complaints from them because there is no skateboard park. He knows many of them have grown up already and never had a chance to use a skateboard park. Hopefully, we will design and build a park as soon as possible. Council Member Espinoza said that before the next City Council meeting we need to advertise as much as we can so we have more input for the Planning Commission.
Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra suggested that the Planning Commission come back to the Council with a couple of recommendations for skateboard park consultants since there are four proposals. He also wanted the Planning Commission to recommend two or three skateboard park sites. There will be opposition by some residents regardless of the site that is chosen.
City Manager Warne stated that if the Council turns this matter over to the Planning Commission, they could review the proposals and set up interviews with the various consultants. They could ultimately recommend a consultant for the City Council to retain. The Planning Commission could then work with the consultant to put together a planning group, which would not only include the Planning Commission, but appropriate representatives from the community to actually move forward through a site selection and design process.
Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra asked if the final decision on the site is up to the Council. City Manager Warne said yes, everything rests with the City Council; the final decision is on design, on location and all aspects of the skateboard park rest with the governing body of the City
Council Member Aguilar said this is a lot of information and she thought it would be good if the citizens could have access to information on the City website. She asked if it was possible to download this information on the website. City Manager Warne said the City could put the proposals on the website. Council Member Aguilar recommended that there be sufficient notice of the meetings so the residents can plan to attend. She said that is was especially important for the youth to be involved in the skateboard park design. She felt that it was important to be sure that Livingston High School, Livingston Middle School and the elementary schools get the word out.
Mayor Varela said it was his recommendation to send the project to the Planning Commission.
City Manager Warne said he would recommend that the City Council forward this project to the Planning Commission and direct them to be the lead committee to select the consultant, recommend a design and recommend a site to the City Council.
Motion: M/S Nateras/Varela to forward this project to the Planning Commission and direct them to be the lead committee to select the consultant, recommend a design and recommend a site to the City Council. The motion carried 5-0.
8. Request by Council Member Espinoza and Council Member Aguilar to Discuss July 4 Celebration.
Council Member Aguilar presented the agenda item regarding the City’s annual July 4 celebration and fireworks which would not be held this year due to financial constraints. She stated this information was brought to our attention by residents and also by the Merced Sun-Star and Livingston Chronicle. She said she was disappointed to find this out from the newspapers about the cancellation of the fireworks. She hoped that this was not a “done deal.” and a solution could be found.
Council Member Aguilar asked the City Manager when did he take this action and why was it not brought to the City Council. She said that we need to come together to suggest ideas on how we can go about getting the money for the event. She asked if local businesses were considered as sponsors. She said we have a number of businesses in the area including Gallo, Foster Farms, Liberty Market, True Value and local clubs. Were any of these avenues explored before hand? She thought many of the residents were also very disappointed. It is almost like no Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day. July 4 is a day that people come together and share time with their family. They honor the people who have served at different times in the armed forces. Council Member Aguilar felt that the City should have done a lot more. Livingston is well known for its fireworks. We have people that come here and they are so excited and we see so many families. That is the only time they get together because their loved ones are home and they have the three-day weekend. She thought that this is something that should not have been treated like it was not important.
Council Member Espinoza stated he was upset about canceling the event for the same reasons. The City Manager did not come to us. It is two months before July 4. This should have come before the City Council three months ago. We could have approached businesses to see if we could have obtained the money. Council Member Espinoza said he would like the City Attorney to donate money for the fireworks. His firm has taken all of our money. He does not want to make the City Attorney feel like he is being pressured, but the citizens feel that all the money is going towards legal fees. He said $25,000 is not a lot of money since he made $92,000 from the City. Council Member Espinoza said the City spent over a half a million dollars in legal fees during the last six months. He is upset that the City Manager did not come to the City Council to allow enough time to stage an event. Right now it is too late unless somebody is willing to donate the money.
Mayor Varela stated that it is was unprofessional for Council Member Aguilar and Council Member Espinoza to make such comments. The handwriting is on the wall. We hear about the County cutting wages, cutting jobs and losing staff members. Mayor Varela said the economy is finally hitting us and we are unable to put on a fireworks display because of the budget and because of the costs. He said that everyday the newspaper contains stories about budget cuts. The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s recently lost some deputies because of budget cuts. Mayor Varela said that Livingston is fortunate if we only lose the July 4 celebration. We have our streets being swept. You can flush a toilet and everything works. Your garbage is being picked up, your City is cleaned, and you have services that other communities are losing.
Mayor Varela said that he can understand the feelings of disappointment because the July 4 celebration was cancelled. The July 4 celebration is as big as Memorial Day or Labor Day, if not bigger. Mayor Varela commented that these are the real issues that we are dealing with. We are dealing with budget cuts and budget shortfalls. We are dealing with the real issues of financing government services in the County, State and the Nation. It is finally touching our door steps. The July 4 celebration is important, but it is also important to make sure as a community that we have the infrastructure that is needed to move forward. So he validates your arguments and your concerns because they are important issues.
Mayor Varela said that he is unhappy that we are losing the July 4 celebration, but he is glad to say that we have City workers that are not losing their jobs or we are not dealing with service reductions. We have a full force workforce, a complete maintenance team, and we have great personnel. We read in the newspaper that school teachers are being laid off. We just heard that Mr. Stellflug’s program is being cut. Mayor Varela said he was trying to figure out how he was going to get some funding for Mr. Stellpflug because he thinks it is important that we get our IT kids prepared. It is important that this teacher does not lose whatever grants or the amount of money that he gets.
Mayor Varela asked City Manager Warne for his comments regarding this issue.
City Manager Warne stated that throughout the State of Californian all cities and counties are faced with the effects of the downturn in the economy. We have been much more conservative and prudent in the City of Livingston than any of our neighbors. We have not had to take some any of the drastic actions that some of the other cities and counties have had to take. He said the City is operating with ten fewer employees than prior to the recession. We have not had to lay off anybody, but the vacant positions have not been filled. Everyone is being called upon to do more work and the City is expected to continue providing the same level of municipal services as in the past.
City Manager Warne stated that he understands how unpopular canceling the July 4 celebration is and he expects to be criticized for it. City Manager Warne said he is fine with being criticized because that just goes with the territory of a City Manager, but as we look as what should be cut or what needs to be cut, this is one area that we can save money. It will help us to continue to provide high municipal services. People who suggest that we can just go along without making any cuts anywhere and never raise any utility rates are just not being honest with the people. We have made internal adjustments. We constantly seek out grants. In fact, today we opened the bids for the $871,000 federal highway administration grant that we received to build sidewalks in the City of Livingston. As unpopular as this is, it is something that we need to do. We cannot put taxpayer’s money into this event. Something had to be done and we needed to move forward and make a decision.
City Manager Warne said that we want to continue to provide the citizens with the same level of public safety services and other municipal services that we have hitherto provided. If we all spend some time with our families on July 4, and put this item on hold, we can continue to get through this recession that is affecting everybody. We will not have to do some of the more draconian things that other neighboring cities and counties have had to do.
Council Member Aguilar stated that City Manager Warne did not answer her question about getting sponsors for the July 4 event. She said that we are not asking to lay off anyone or to cut staff. We have lots of developers. What have you done? You have not answered my question.
Mayor Varela said he would rather find a community investor that will provide funding to help the people of our community, such as a school computer program or the skateboard park. We cannot just have a party every year because of the way the economy is.
City Manager Warne explained that the City cannot put taxpayer’s money into the July 4th celebration, and that is the bottom line. If some other person wants to do something to financially support the July 4 celebration that is fine, but we have reached the point where we need to make a cut here as unpopular as it is. We talked about it as staff. He has been working on the budget with Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Vickie Lewis. We need to make some adjustments and this is one of them. We have said we cannot fund the event with taxpayer’s funds.
Council Member Aguilar stated that you are not going to answer my question.
Council Member Aguilar (in Spanish) stated,” For all of you that are watching this, my question was (yeah, I am going to translate, Mr. Varela, because those non-English speakers voted for you too, so out of consideration I am going to do that.) Once again, I am going to say that my question was, “What other things did the City Manager do before making the decision to cancel the 4th of July celebration?” I had mentioned that this is when family gets together in honor of various family members that are in the service, during this three-day weekend, to get together, and I asked him what he did. Did he consider going to businesses to ask for donations? There are many of them. There are churches. We have four or five churches that are going to get together to pray. Well let’s get together to raise money. I am not asking him to leave City workers without a job; I’m asking him what did he do? He has not responded to this question and I am waiting for an answer.”
Council Member Aguilar stated that we talk about promoting volunteers, being proactive, and giving to the community. She suggested that City employees give a little bit of their time that day. The police officers have to be on duty and they have to deal with different issues. Council Member Aguilar suggested that they volunteer their time. We talk about volunteering. Let us promote it. That is another option. It is not going to cost anything. It is just going to cost your time. So if the employees are so committed to the City just like you want us as representatives to be committed to the City, let us stand together. Council Member Aguilar knows there are sponsors out there. If she is able to do some asking, she would be more than happy to do so. She was sure that she will have plenty of residents join her.
Council Member Aguilar (in Spanish) stated, “Once again, that the City employees take that day and give us back the time as volunteers. If they are talking about it that they do it. Thank you.”
Mayor Varela (in Spanish) stated, “I want to take this time to respond to what Ms. Aguilar said about the 4th of July Festival. The festival has been cancelled for the following reasons: The City proposes $25,000 for this project and Ms. Aguilar said that money can be raised from other people in the community such as Gallo and Foster Farms or probably any other business, but funds cannot be transferred for such activity as the 4th of July event. Now, if there is anyone, I would prefer to look for people that are willing to donate $20,000 or $15,000, and instead of having an activity like the 4th of July event, I prefer to invest those funds helping with projects for the youth in our community, to promote activities so that they don’t have to participate in certain activities outside the home where they will probably encounter problems. We just had a school presentation. The teacher, Mr. Stellflug, came to do a presentation on a project they are instituting and it is possible that it will get eliminated due to budget cuts. Now, if there is a chance to find someone that is willing to donate $10,000 or $15,000 for a project, these are the types of projects that we would like to support because we are building the future of our community and as the City Council, our business and our participation as leaders of this community is to look for ways to help our community advance in the future. We cannot just sit down and say that we are poor. Yes we are poor, but we try to take the time in our lives to do the most we can to reach the maximum number of opportunities. Therefore, if there is anyone out there who wants to donate $25,000, I would like to speak with them, not to bring the 4th of July event, but to bring a good education system for our young boys and girls who really need that type of support. Thank you.”
Danielle Gains, representing the Merced Sun-Star, commented that under State open meeting laws everything has to be translated verbatim when you are speaking in two different languages. Otherwise, the City and your public will understand the meeting in a different way, depending on what language they speak. She believed the City Attorney could advise the City Council. Your meeting has veered far from public meeting laws.
City Attorney Hobbs said he was not sure that what Ms. Gains said was entirely correct. If the City Council and members of the public want to speak in a different language, there is nothing he can do to stop that.
Mayor Varela stated that he said everything in English earlier and just reiterated everything in Spanish. He said that he would rather take the funding that a local business would contribute to the July 4 celebration to help fund Mr. Stellflug’s project at the school level. That is all he said.
Council Member Espinoza said he was aware that last year and the year before the City paid for the fireworks. He said that Foster Farms and other companies donated all the money for the fireworks in the past and it had always been a common practice. The donations were coming in until last year because we have had problems with Foster Farms and other companies. It was a common practice to ask for company donations for the fireworks. This is why he was asking the City Attorney to donate some money towards the fireworks.
Council Member Espinoza (in Spanish) stated, “In the past the companies paid for the 4th of July fireworks. They would give donations for the 4th of July fireworks and the last couple of years the City has paid for it, but they are saying that the City cannot use City funds to pay for the fireworks and that is exactly what the City has done in the past, so if that is what they have done, they are not telling us where the money came from.”
Council Member Espinoza said that he stated in Spanish that the City has not disclosed where the money came from to fund the fireworks celebration the last two years. The Mayor said that the City cannot use public funds for fireworks.
City Manager Warne commented that we heard rumors that businesses had donated to the fireworks in the past. He asked the City Finance Department to go back through all the City’s accounting records to see if there had been any donations for July 4 fireworks. Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Vickie Lewis went back through the General Ledger and she reported to him that there have been no donations since 2002. He did not know what happened prior to 2002.
City Manager Warne said that the cost of the July 4 celebration has been a line item in the general fund and it is very clear where it is in the General Ledger. The suggestion that somehow there is something wrong with the way it has been done in the past is simply incorrect. He has not gone out and contacted companies to solicit fireworks donations. He has been busy with many other issues with the City. He invited any Council Member and any public spirited citizen that wants to go out and solicit donations to do so. It is their right as citizens. In the past the fireworks have been funded by the City. We have a lot going on in the City right now.
Council Member Espinoza said he thought it was a little late. We would have liked that information two or three months ago. He told Mayor Varela that he would like to open this item to the public.
Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra said he has heard Council Member Aguilar say about going to the community and asking the businesses for donations. He said we have a Sober Grad Nite program at the high school that is on the fringe of folding because of funding. They are beating the doors down trying to get money. Nobody in this community wants to step forward. They have been asking for help, but when you go to their meetings, they are lucky if they get twelve adults to attend. The students that show up are larger in number than the adults. Atwater High School and Buhach High School have ended their sober grad program this year. These seniors from that city are going to be out on the street.
Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra knows that Council Member Aguilar has had a couple of students that have gone through the sober grad programs. If we cannot get funding for that, then how are we are going to get funding for fireworks. He did not feel that the City should use its staff and funds to help an out-of-town group of people when we cannot even help our local sober grad nite. There is something wrong with this whole picture. He said that he is telling the City Council that, if there is no sober grad program, graduation night is going to be a sad one. Students are going to be at places where they should not be. The people out there are not giving and Foster Farms is the first one that he thought would donate. Last year Foster Farms gave $250 to the sober grad program. A large portion of the families in this City work for Foster Farms and they have students at the high school. Yet, they will not help locally. They would rather give to the Gallo Theater in Modesto. Look at who they give the big dollars to. It is not their own town people and these are the people that work for $9 an hour at Foster Farms. Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra said he would like to know how you are going to get money out of these people. He is talking the Foster Farms and Gallo. Mike does not come forward either. For sober grad he gave us a package of cheese.
Council Member Aguilar stated that the City Manager said if any citizen would like to go out and get some sponsors or get some monies, they could do so. She thought that the solicitation of donations was his job. He should make sure that he informs the City Council with advance notice of some of the things that are happening. The management was not interested enough. She was disappointed that the City Manager did not bring this to the City Council and allow them to take a vote. That is the bottom line.
Council Member Nateras told Council Member Aguilar, “I would like to have you put your money where your mouth is. You go out and promote and bring in the funds. The City Manager told you we don’t have any money. As disheartening as it is, I am a big fan of July 4 and I am always out there helping them with whatever I can, but I never see you out there.”
Council Member Aguilar said “excuse me.”
Warren Urnberg, 1331 Eighth Street, said he wanted to direct his comments to the Mayor and City Manager. Ms. Aguilar brought up a lack of communication. He was at the meeting last month when a young man from the public brought up the cancellation of the July 4 celebration. They were not even aware of it. This is a lack of communication. Mr. Urnberg said that this could not have happened that week or the week before. This had to been done or thought about at least a month or two ahead of time. The July 4 celebration is where families get together. You also have your vendors there. He agreed with Council Member Aguilar about checking for sponsors. There is a lack of communication in City Hall.
Katherine Schell Rodriquez, P.O. Box 163, said typing in the word “donations” into the City budget yielded the following results under the donations: skateboard park, $100,000; special events, $1,000; 2010 donations miscellaneous, $350; and Wild flower project for 2010, $500. But there were zero donations for July 4. She said this is a perfect example of the kind of project a citizens’ service committee could have been working on if so much time had not been wasted in petty politics. Citywide events like Make a Difference Day, Complete Count Day for the census, a sweet potato festival and the 4th of July festival are just a few of the large scale projects perfectly suited for a citizens service committee to coordinate. But no, we had to endure meeting after meeting of fussing, feuding and sniping over whose idea was it for a citizens’ service committee. So much time wasted and so much momentum lost. This could have been handled so much differently had the citizens’ service committee been put in place when it was first suggested. A citizens’ service committee could have found out and beaten the bushes, knocked on doors and coordinated with the other service committees in the City, but no, we didn’t need a citizens’ service committee then. But now we want the City Manager to go knock on doors for money.
Julio Valadez, 1158 Sixth Street, said with the citizens’ service committee would not have helped because they would not have notified them until the last minute. He stated that someone had asked Mayor Varela to translate into Spanish during a previous meeting. You did not want to do it. He wondered why today he was able to speak very fluently in Spanish. In a previous meeting you didn’t even want to translate. He believed as a citizen he does not have to translate, but for those at home who speak Spanish he will translate.
Julio Valadez (in Spanish) stated, “Mr. Varela made it sound like it was going to cost a lot of money and said he wanted to see what individual alone would donate $25,000. We are not asking the community to donate so much money. If we were to ask for donations for this event, only whatever amount they want to donate or we would ask the businesses around town to donate, but Mr. Varela made it look like we wanted to ask only one person for a big amount and that is not so.”
Mr. Valadez said what he was saying is that Mayor Varela in a previous meeting was asked to translate into Spanish. He could not or did not want to do it. But today he spoke very fluently in Spanish. He made it sound like he wanted one specific individual to donate $15,000 or $20,000 if we were to hold the fireworks event. That is not the case. What we are asking Mr. Warne and Mr. Varela is why the rest of the City Council was not notified or the public notified in advance. We may have been able to plan it and go out into the community. He said Foster Farms does not want to donate to Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra, but they might want to talk to other people. They may want to do it for the community, but not for him. The same thing applies for Mr. Mike Gallo. We have been able to get money from him for a community event for the Merced Kiwanis Club. They are very good about giving so it just depends on who is asking. Maybe that is all they want to give you is one piece of cheese. Mr. Valadez said he was not trying to be disrespectful, he was just trying to say that maybe with a different person asking they will give more, whether it is Mr. Gallo or the Foster Family. Mr. Valadez said he was willing to donate something. Everybody should put their money where their mouth is. He will put in $100. He asked, “Ms. Nateras, if I donate $100 will you donate a $100?”
Council Member Nateras said that she would donate $100. He asked City Attorney Hobbs if he would donate $100. City Attorney Hobbs said he was not going to answer that question right now.
Mike Torres, 1616 Eighth Street, asked how much did it cost the City last year for the fireworks. City Manager Warne said $15,000. Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra said total expenses were $25,364 and income was $5,010. Mike Torres asked what was the City’s total expense for the fireworks? City Manager Warne said $15,000, but it goes beyond that because you have to provide police officers and there are other costs.
Mike Torres stated maybe it is an impossible thing, but at least we can talk about it peacefully.
He said this whole thing with the Council maybe it’s a bad thing talking about the 4th of July, but at least we can communicate a little bit. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. Let’s find a solution. He reiterated that if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. Mr. Torres said he was not negative, he just wanted to ask some questions, and if he can’t hear, he is sorry. He stated, “Mr. Varela right off the bat you want to close up the meeting and I hate to say this, but you are the captain of the ship, all the waves come from your side.” We are up here trying to have a meeting and have citizen comments to try to solve a problem. You think that we are bickering here. Stop and look in the mirror. Same thing going on over there. Ms. Nateras you point fingers over there and they point fingers over here and nothing gets settled. The Mayor and City Manager say let’s move forward. We are moving backwards. I can’t grasp why you can’t seek common sense. This is why we have a meeting. I can’t talk to you individually all week so this is the time when I have you all together. And talk about negative, like he said if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen, but let’s talk about a solution and if it finally says we can’t do it, and then we can’t do it. But why talk negative because somebody has bad luck about getting donations from one club or whatever. Maybe we can find an open door and make it happen. But talking about negative right off the bat you guys are negative.”.
Gurpal Samra, 1034 J Street, had a question for the City Manager. You said that a lot of costs for the July 4 event include police officers. Does that mean that if we don’t hold the 4th of July event you are going to have other officers on the street beyond your normal patrol? He asked that the clock be stopped. City Attorney Hobbs told Mr. Samra ask your questions and then the City Manager will respond.
Gurpal Samra said the reason he could not do that is because his response would dictate what his next question would be. City Attorney Hobbs said he just offered Mr. Samra a suggestion on how to use his three minutes. Mr. Samra said he understood, but he was doing this for a reason, because the City Manager’s answer would dictate his next question. He asked how was he going to know what the City Manager’s response is if he is going to have to ask all the questions and go sit down. He might not even say a word.
City Manager Warne stated that there is overtime for Public Works Department employees and the Police Department employees for the July 4 celebration. He said that he has stated that the City can no longer use taxpayer’s money for the July 4 celebration. Most cities in the State of California have cut their taxpayer support for these special activities years ago. But if a group of public spirited citizens wants to come forward and do something, they are welcome to do something on a private basis.
Gurpal Samra told City Manager Warne that he did not answer the question. There are a certain number of officers you are going to put on overtime anyway because it is a holiday event. He knows this because he knows the Police Department is going to put a number of extra officers out there just because it is a holiday. Some of those costs are already built in.
Mayor Varela stated to Mr. Samra that there is a major difference between having a major fireworks show with activities all day in comparison to when the sun goes down and the families start using the fireworks on their private property. There is a major difference there sir.
Gurpal Samra stated that the business community over the years has stepped up to the plate, be it for toys for tots, winter coat drives and other events. He said if the right people ask, they will give money and they have given it very generously. If we did not burn our bridges with these businesses, they would be willing to step up to the plate a lot more. Mr. Samra said that not everything gets translated from Spanish to English or English to Spanish. He remembers that at the last City Council meeting, Councilwoman Nateras spoke in Spanish. His name was used and he had no idea what was said. So do not tell him that things are being translated properly.
Mr. Samra stated that as a Mayor and City Council Member, he has asked Gallo and other people for donations. They have never turned the City down. Perhaps, giving Mr. Vierra a slice of cheese is a hint to him.
Mayor Varela concluded public comments on this agenda item at 9:13 p.m.
Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra asked Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Vickie Lewis how far back she went to check on donations. Ms. Lewis stated that what she indicated to Council Member Vierra was that the last donation reflected on the City’s books that she could find was a donation from an individual for $5,000. That check bounced and he never made good on it.
Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra commented that if he assumed then we have expenses of approximately $25,000, and you take in revenue of approximately $5,000, that means for the last eight years, since 2002, we have lost $20,000 per year for eight years which is $160,000.
Vickie Lewis said she would not agree to that without scheduling it out and checking her actual ledgers. Mayor Pro-Tem Vierra said that the City lost $20,000 this year. Vickie Lewis commented based on the shortfall that was projected, she would say that was probably correct.
Council Member Nateras said she would like to apologize to all her constituents. She said Mr. Torres was right about the negative comment she made. She also apologized to Council Member Aguilar. Council Member Nateras stated that she tried to keep her mouth shut, and tried to be professional, but it was hard. You do not know how difficult it is. We get attacked from all of you and there is always negativity. Very few come up and give us positive comments. She apologized. She said if we want to have a 4th of July celebration and there is a person who wants to donate and wants to work towards the cause, you know she is here because she is there at every event to help the community.
Motion: M/S Espinoza/Aguilar to fund a 4th of July celebration using General Fund monies. The motion failed to carry with Mayor Varela, Mayor Pro Tempore Vierra and Council Member Nateras voting no.
9. City Manager Announcements and Reports.
The meeting was adjourned by consensus at 9:15 p.m.
City Clerk of the City of Livingston