April 05, 2011: Discussion of Utility Rate Stakeholder Committee Member Appointments

Legal Disclaimer for purposes of Legal Disclaimerness.

This is the closest thing to a word-for-word transcription that you’re probably ever gonna get. Although I left out most of the “ums”, “ahs”, and other “verbal tics” I left in most of the gaffs in grammar, fractured phrases, disjointed sentences, and other “verbal incoherencies” that came out of mouths that night.

And if one Councilmember interjected while another was speaking I focused more on that Councilmember who “had the floor” (so to speak). 

And I’ve also inserted the occasional (?) in those places where I wasn’t quite sure what the heck they were saying.

So…if you think I’m adding, or subtracting, and/or changing verbiage in a deliberate attempt to make your favorite speaker sound like and abject fool, or unable to put together a complete coherent sentence, or even finish one thought before rambling on to another, I suggest you get your own copy of the Video, go to 1:20:32 minutes in, and listen for yourselves. I think you’ll find my rendition to be darn near verbatim.

Heck, the original may still even be up on the City Website.

I’ve also taken the liberty to underline, bold, and otherwise emphasize certain words and phrases that I feel are exceptionally important and helps get the main point across.

I’ve even stuck in a little commentary tucked here and there.

We begin at the very beginning of what was the second to the last Item on the Agenda that Night: Item #14. City Council to Provide Staff Direction for Appointments to the Utility Rates Stakeholders Committee.

Begin Transcript

Interim City Manager Vickie Lewis : Basically, this item is being brought back at council’s direction. At your regular meeting on the 15th, we were directed to advertise for volunteers for a Utility Stakeholders Committee. Those advertisements were put out on the website. We put it on Channel 2. We put an article in the paper. We have received back, roughly I believe, a total of 7 or 8. Of those, we received 1 from Foster Farms, Livingston Union High School,  Merced Union High School District, and 5 members of the community: Claire, if you’re in the audience I apologize if I mispronounce your name, I believe it’s Gehrman, Katherine Schell Rodriguez, Pam Tamez, Mike Torres, and Warren Urnberg.

Basically, the Council has the option at this point to either re-advertise for additional Committee members or to re-advertise for more applicants then select and make interviews or appoint some or all of the current applicants before you tonight.

{At this point, Mayor Espinoza asked if any of the applicants were in the audience. Then opened the meeting for Public Comment. There was only 1 applicant in the audience. The 1 applicant who showed up to the meeting that evening was not chosen to be on the Committee.}

Luise Flores: I just had a quick question for clarification. The members who weren’t named: the Merced Union High School District people. Are they Livingston residents or what is their relationship to the City.

Interim City Manager Vickie Lewis : I’m sorry, are you (?) Foster Farms is the Industrial, the schools would participate as schools.

{At this point, the discussion was brought back to the Council}

Councilperson Samra: Mr. Mayor, I’d like to go ahead and start off with this. I was sort of hoping that we would of had more letters. I know we have Industrial Representation. We have the Education. We have residents. I was hoping somebody from the Commercial side would of submitted a letter, but we didn’t. But there’s no need to keep stalling the project. We need to move forward.

What I’d like to do is suggest, and I’m not going to pick the names as yet, is to seat the Industrial side and the Schools and then name 1 or 2, whatever the council decides as far as residents, and then just resubmit the Commercial side of it. So if somebody from the Commercial side of it wants to put their name in from a section we can easily consider that person.

I’m trying to go by sector, not more of a number of people. So then reopen it for just for the Commercial side of it. If a Commercial business wants to apply than they can go ahead and bring them back and add them to it. (?) not just start the whole process all over again. That’s just my feeling. I don’t know how other feel right now at this time.

Mayor Pro-Tem Aguilar: I think that’s a (?) I also think that we do have like he had said, Council Member Samra, that we don’t have anything from the Commercial so if we were to go ahead and , once again, seat the three that we do have here and look at the applicants, maybe pick 2 of the applicants and keep in mind that I will be part of the whole, the roll in making decisions with the company we have and I believe Council Person Samra was also appointed as a sub-committee.

So, if we could move forward with that tonight, that would be great. At least select 2 of the ones or 3.

{Mayor Espinoza than asked if Councilperson Land or Vierra had any comments}

Councilperson Land: I’m fine with that.

Councilperson Vierra: Well I just thought with the few that you have, you’d just appoint all of them.

{Note from the GardeningSnail: after all, there were only 8 people total who turned in a letter of interest at the time.}

Councilperson Samra: That’s a good idea but, usually what happens if you get too large of a group trying to get everybody’s schedules lined up, it becomes a nightmare. Trying to get 10 people in a building, it doesn’t happen, you know, we can entertain the idea of course.

{Note from TheGardeningSnail. What 10 people? THERE WERE ONLY 8 APPLICANTS! EIGHT! E—I—G—H—T! NOT 9. NOT 10. BUT 8!}

Councilperson Vierra: But the thing is, your saying 2 or 3 people but you’ve already got 3 large groups, now wait a minute, 3 large groups. Your looking for an Industrial. The largest users are going to control the committee, who use, one of them, uses 60 to 65% of the water. So your community, your residents are going to be subsidizing again.

You’re going to make it top heavy with the big users.

Councilperson Samra: Well, I’m not sure how you’re gonna make it top heavy. It’s by Industry. It’s one person.

Councilperson Vierra: They all have a vote.

Councilperson Samra: But it’s not a vote. It’s to work on the process of working with staff and coming up with solutions and then bring it to the Council. The council is going to have the final say anyway regardless.

It’s just more of a, we know that, its an ad-hoc committee to make recommendations to the council based on information gathered.

And I don’t know that it’s gonna be top heavy. I’m not sure how you’re coming up with that.

Note from TheGardeningSnail: Final say? So does this mean the Committee comes up with all the “solutions” that will be presented at a Prop 218 Hearing for the Council to vote on?

Final as in a straight up or down vote at the Prop 218 Hearing? 4 Council votes in favor and it passes – anything less and everything stays “status quo”?

Remember, the last time around the Council “changed something” after “listening to the people” at a Prop 218 hearing, Foster Farms sued saying (among other things) the “change” was a “new scenario” that should have had a brand new Prop 218 Hearing all over again. Sure would have been nice to have had that ruling from the California Appeals Court: The legal clarifications would have been nice to have had before we danced the Prop 218 dance all over again.}

Councilperson Vierra: Look. I’m just saying Top Heavy in that the largest users are going to be more on the committee or to the 2 or 3 residents.

Councilperson Samra: But you’re forgetting there’s two Council members as well.

Councilperson Vierra: But they’re giving input. They’re giving input and they’re gonna make the final draft that comes to the Council.

Mayor Pro-Tem Aguilar: I’d like to respond.

Councilperson Samra: But also while these workshops, whatever you want to call them are open so any citizen can attend and have their input. So, it’s not like its being shielded from anybody. It’s open.

I’m hoping that the Merced Sun Star and whoever, community, I know we have Mr. McGuire out there, others participate. Ask questions. Its just, its just a process.

Mayor Espinoza: Yeah. I don’t think there’s a lotta applications, So I agree with that, but its up to you guys, whatever, you wanna make a motion?

Mayor Pro-Tem Aguilar: Could I just add a few things to that? I know that Mr. Vierra came off with regards to- especially we have Foster Farms and the School districts that are gonna be part of the ones that do use a lot of our water, our City water, and of course we’re gonna, they’re gonna works with us. That’s what this is about Mr. Vierra.

One of the meetings that we discussed this had to be talked about Town Hall Meetings. Town Hall meetings are places where we come, the citizens can come in and listen to what some of the things that they’re suggestion and maybe make recommendations and bring them back to the sub committee where the sub committee can sit and reflect on what was brought to the table and then go from there.

Once again, the final decisions will be coming back to the council Mr. Vierra and that is a long discussion we had on the Industrial.

{Note From TheGardeningSnail: Anyone out there remember when that long discussion on the “Industrial” took place in Open Session?

Am I understanding “the process correctly” Have Stakeholders meetings to work with the Staff and Consultant and make suggestions, and hash out all the details, then have Public Town Hall Meetings, then have another Stakeholders Meeting where they Sit and Reflect on what happened at the Town Hall Meeting before having another Town Hall Meeting before having the Prop 218 Hearing?  Am I getting this right? I can’t help but wonder how many “meetings” are going to take place before the Official Proposition 218 Hearing.

Does anyone realize the Fiscal Year ends JUNE 30th?

I’m typing this on June 26th, and as far as I know, the Stakeholders Committee has yet to meet and do any real “work”. If it did, I sure didn’t get my invitation as a “member of the public”. Oh, they’ve had their first “meeting that wasn’t really a meeting” already. But that one wasn’t about doing anything productive doncha know.}

Councilperson Samra: I’d like to add that once the Stakeholder Committee works with the consultant, the process comes to the council and we still have to go through the entire process with citizens input. So its not like that’s the end of the process.

It’s just the beginning of the process just to make sure that everything we do is in front of everybody and that’s to more or less point to how those Rate Analysis were gathered: how they were concluded. How the conclusions were given.

For us to sit here and go through this very complicated task of water line replacements, type of filtration systems we would like to put in (?) Its gonna take Council a lot of time to go through a lot of information to where citizens can understand and feel comfortable with it.

{Note from TheGardeningSnail. “The entire process with citizens’ input” Does that mean “Official Proposition 218 Hearing” ? I am typing this the last week of June 2011. Anyone want to take bets on when the “real” Prop 218 Hearing will be held?  End of 2011? Beginning of 2012? Ever?

And did you see that reference:  “to how those Rate Analysis were gathered”?  Rate Analysis. The Stakeholders Committee will definitely be discussing how any new Rates were calculated: else, why does having this Committee help “point to how those Rate Analysis were gathered"? Back to Councilperson Samra:}

If the Council tries to do it at every meeting we’ll be into it for next year and I don’t – that’s going to be good for anybody: To come up with this slow of a process too.

So its more of a transparency and how we even get to the point of where it comes before the Council. It’s the transparency before it gets to the Council: not necessarily once it gets to the Council.

Once it gets to the council, of course, we will be transparent: being in a public forum. That’s what I’m lookin at.

Mayor Espinoza: OK. Do you guys have a motion? You guys wanna move forward (?) I think you already gave your ideas so (?) I’m lookin to what you guys wanna (?) you guys wanna vote for.

I don’t think 8 people’s a lot. So its up to you guys. Mr. Vierra – you wanna make a motion?

Councilperson Vierra: No.

Councilperson Samra: All right then I’d like to, and if anybody else wants to throw names in there by all means, I’d like to take the 3 sectors as submitted as an appointment and then I would like to appoint, and I know I’m gonna mispronounce the name so, Claire A. Gehrman. I hope I got the name right. If I didn’t I apologize.

The letter shows public record. If you look at – excellent qualifications having government background in different things. I think it would be a very very good person to come in with an open mind and not be afraid to ask tough questions.

So that’s one person I would like to appoint and now I’ll leave somebody else to appoint somebody else.

Mayor Pro-Aguilar: I have a suggestion, a person I’d like to appoint. I’d like to appoint Warren Urnberg. My reason for selecting Mr Urnberg is being that he’s been here in our community for the longest time and he’s always been involved with politics with regard to issues with the water issue prior to the new council coming forward and in his letter he keeps in mind the economy – what citizens are facing at this moment and I think that’s not something that was taken into consideration before we got into the mess we were in and we wanna be transparent and I believe that Mr Urnberg would be an asset to this group.

And I also agree with Mr. Samra in regards to that lady Claire. One of the things with her – she recently came into our community so she’s coming in to – kinda like a neutral sense where she is learning and getting to know our community so I think that’s gonna benefit it – benefit us also. So there’s a balance there between the two. So thats the second person I want to…

Mayor Espinoza: So do you want us to also pick one or make a motion?

{Note from TheGardeningSnail: Doesn’t the Mayor have any of his own ideas and thoughts on this? Anything? At all?}

Mayor Pro-Tem Aguilar: I would like to make a motion, unless someone opposes. I would like to make a motion to approve the 3 sectors that are listed with addition to Claire A. Gehrman. and Warren Unrberg.

Councilperson Samra: And are you also making a motion to (?) the Commercial sector”

Mayor Pro-Tem Aguilar: At this moment I think that was an issue and I would think that’s a good idea. That is my motion.

Councilperson Samra: And then I will second that.

Mayor Espinoza: We have a 1st and 2nd. Roll Call Please.

Note from TheGardeningSnail: The motion passed 5-0. Then the Interim City Manager asked for more clarification about what to do next. Note it is not the Mayor who will respond but Councilperson Samra.

Interim City Manager Vickie Lewis: I’m sorry, the Mayor. Could you tell me how long you want this put back out into the community? Do you want it brought back to the next meeting? Do you want it to go out for until May? What would you like?

Councilperson Samra: I don’t know. End of the month perhaps: to bring it back to the first meeting and then up to the time of Council meeting the day before, whatever time, let them have that time to submit. Because it makes no difference you know.

Interim city Manager Vickie Lewis: Fine.

Councilperson Vierra: Are you putting it out just for commercial?

Councilperson Samra: Yeah. Cuz I’m just trying to get different sectors.

Interim City Manager Vickie Lewis: OK. 1st meeting in May. Then it will be brought back.

End transcription







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