Fireworks, Politics, Resignations, Recreation, and a Mid Year Budget Review–February, 2015

Livingston, CA – 03/22/2015

So the 4th of July has formally asked they would like to come under the City Umbrella just like the Recreation Commission: to have a sand alone committee of sorts..so that has to be figured out. I know Legal Council will help out. That’s something they would like. One, because they would like to get the full support of the City every year. Excerpted from Comments and Discussion of future agenda items by Former City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez – January 20 2015 City Council Meeting: beginning about 19:52 minutes in. 

What we’re requesting is that we have the exact support or similar support as the Sweet Potato Festival. I don’t see what the difference is. I would like to see that support. Where, when you go to the Sweet Potato Festival, you see all staff is on hand. Every person from Recreation to Public Works’….so that’s what we’re looking for: the same type of support. Julio Valadez – Chair – July 4th Committee – Ibid.

Julio, I have a comment Since I know that you guys want to come under the City. But I think we already have a Recreation commission. And I think currently we only have 1 or 2 Commissioners on that. If you guys join the Recreation Commission, you guys could take on the Fireworks because the Commission is already-we don’t have to go through the process of doing a new commission. So we need more people on the Commission and the Fireworks would be part of Recreation. Which is part of, you know, you guys could take that on. That’s just an idea. If you guys want to. Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza – Ibid

So why might the July 4th Committee want to come “under the umbrella” of the City? or join the Recreation Commission? More on that a little later, but first.

YOU WOULDN’T KNOW IT BY THE TITLE
on the City’s Website, but there is an important informational meeting about the City’s Water Delivery System this Tuesday.

Water Workshop

As part of the settlement agreement with California River Watch, the City is obligated to provide additional information about the state of our Water System, and what the City is doing to address our Water Quality Issues.

Now..a brief look at some of the Agenda items covered during FEBRURARY’S City Council Meetings. As of the date of this posting, written minutes have yet to be prepared. However, if you would like to view an archived video of the meeting, you can do so by CLICKING HERE. You can also go to City Hall and request a Copy of the Meeting Videos.

The FEBRUARY 3, 2015 CLOSED SESSION included

  • 2 Cases of Potential Litigation

  • Continued discussion about the City Manager Recruitment

  • Another Discussion about Labor Negotiations with All Represented City Employees

During OPEN SESSION on FEBRUARY 3:

1. Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza Presented Key to the City plaques to members of Grupo Musical Los Kinos

2. There was a Report on United Front Security and Patrol Security Company Seeking a Business License.

3. The Minutes of Meeting Held on December 16, 2014 were approved.

4. The Warrant Register Dated January 29, 2015 was approved. Except for one check issued in payment for Radio Advertising for the 4th of July Celebration. Although Interim City Manager Odie Ortiz stated the payment had been “approved by management”, Mayor Espinoza stated he wanted that check “held” until he had more time to talk to the Chairman of the July 4th Committee. (My best guess is “management” meant prior City Manager Jose Ramirez)

5. A Resolution appointing Odilon Ortiz as Interim City Manager was approved.

6. A Resolution Approving the continuation Ruben Chavez for the Position of Police Chief was adopted.

7. The Council filled the Vacant seats on the Livingston Planning Commission after ACCEPTEING THE RESIGNATION of Planning Commission Chair Luis Flores. Mario Mendoza was appointed to finish Flores’ term: which ends in December of this year. Ananan Bath was appointed to the other vacancy: which is a 4 year term.

As Reported in the Merced Sun Star –

 “After Flores resigned, Commissioner Mario Mendoza – who was seeking another term on the commission – was appointed to finish Flores’ term. Newcomer Adanan Bath was appointed to the other vacancy.

Bath last year pulled filing papers to challenge Samra in his re-election bid in November. Bath ended up not running against Samra.

Mendoza, however, did challenge Samra but lost by about 300 votes.”

This means the person who “changed his mind” about challenging  Samra for office was appointed to a 4 year term on the Planning Commission.  The person who didn’t drop out of the race was given what was left over of Mr. Flores’ term.

8. The Council Accepted and Authorized the Temporary Outsourcing of City’s Street Sweeping Services to Gilton Solid Waste. According to the Mayor, this needed to be done because the engine on the Street Sweeper was “blown”.

9. The Council Discussed  Changes to the DTC Zone. There are Residential Homes located in the Downtown Commercial Zone. That means those homes are “non conforming uses” which has created a whole host of problems for those people who want to keep their house as a “house” and not convert it into a “business”.

There was discussion about how there would need to be some planning work involved in “fixing” the problem while at the same time avoiding “spot zoning”

10. The Council Discussed Changing the City Logo Slogan from “The Last Stop” to “Sweet Potato Capital of the World.” It seems some people think “The Last Stop” means a place where you go to retire and/or die. I guess most people have forgotten that Livingston had “The Last Stop” Light on HWY 99: before the realignment was done. Maybe such things aren’t relevant in “today’s world”.

11. The Discussion Item: “Twelve Acres of Industrial Land at the Max Foster Sports Complex” was Continued to a Future Meeting. From what I understand, there may be a dispute between the City of Livingston and a Developer over how much of a Reimbursement is due to the Developer.

The FEBRUARY 17, 2015 CLOSED SESSION included:

  • 1 case of Potential Litigation

  • A Conference about Labor Negotiations regarding All Represented and Unrepresented City Employees

During The Regular Meeting FEBRUARY 17, 2015 :

Mayor Espinoza and Council Person Mendoza were absent

1. An Item placed on the Agenda by Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza & Council Member Arturo Sicairos to Present and discuss idea of possible Sister City relationship with the State of Jalisco, Mexico. The consensus of the Council seemed to be it would be a great idea to adopt Zapotlanejo as a Sister City: perhaps via the Sister City Program International.

2. The Warrant Register Dated February 12, 2015 was Approved.

3. A Resolution of the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Livingston Approving the Recognized Obligation Payment Schedule (ROPS 15-16A) Pursuant to Health and Safety Code Section 34177 for Period July through December 31, 2015 was adopted.

Well 12 - 13 - 1- - 17 - 184. A Resolution Approving the Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration for Improvements to Municipal Well No. 17 was adopted. New well site equipment and improvements will include an estimated 2,000 gallons per minute capacity

5. A Resolution Approving the Purchase of Equipment from Tesco Controls, Inc. for the Well No. 13 and Well No. 17 Projects, without Competitive Bids  was approved.

Well 8 - 9 - 11 - 156. A Resolution Approving a Contract with Forsta Filters for the Supply of Three Self-Cleaning Filters to remove Sand from Wells No. 9 and Well No. 11B was approved. This was done because the previous vender could not meet delivery times as previously expected. This expense was not in the Budget: an emergency situation created by the drought.

7. The City Council Directed Staff to Approve the Installation of a Varible Frequency Drive on Turbine #1 at the Waste Water Treatment Plant. According to Staff, by installing the Variable Frequency Drive, the City would Save on energy costs in the long run.

8. There was another Review/Discussion/Direction of the Annual Fireworks Booth Selection procedures. Members from both the July 4th Committee and Livingston Youth Football were in attendance and talked about why their Organizations should qualify for “the council pick”.

9. A Resolution Approving the Recommended 2014-15  City of Livingston Mid-Year Budget Revisions was adopted. Although Interim City Manager Ortiz said it looked like the City was seeing a Recovery, Mayor Pro Tem Samra stated “Yes. It is good news. But we’re not ready to open the Credit Card.”

ADJOURNMENT

Now, let me tell you a Brief TALE ABOUT FIREWORKS BOOTHS,  THE SWEET POTATO FESTIVAL and THE RECREATION COMMISSION

Once upon a time, the way I remember it, the City was in charge of putting on the July 4th Celebration: fireworks and all. Then there came the year of The-Run-Up-To-The-Recall. And, somehow, in the middle of all that, the order for the fireworks didn’t get put in in time.

It was as if the Conspiracy Theory Comet from Hell had struck: because of all the blame throwing and finger pointing. (I did do some checking on my own, and after asking for a General Ledger Report and looking it over, It looked to me like donations to the July 4th EVENT did NOT get booked into the July 4th ACCOUNT. But were booked into an account called Special Events. Near as I can tell it was just an honest mistake. But one that did not help calm the blamethrowing of the time. But I digress…)

A group of people banded together to, at least try, to see that the tradition of the July 4th Celebration wasn’t lost forever. Some people quit after the first year. Others kept on, year after year: rounding up donations and doing what needed to be done to meet the goal of Celebrating our Nation’s Independence Day with the Biggest and Best celebration possible.

In 2011, a new City Manager was hired. He thought it would be a Grand Idea to for the City to Revive the long dormant Sweet Potato Festival.

And stick it straight into the same week as the July 4th Celebration of 2012.

Which had some people I talked to scratching their heads about the timing. What were we celebrating that week? Our Nations Independence or Sweet Potatoes?

Later, there was the whole flap about the City “losing money” on the Sweet Potato Festival and the July 4th Committee having “money left over” after paying expenses.

Certain members of the City Council seemed to feel that the July 4th Committee should fork over their “excess” to cover the City’s “losses”.

Which, had some of us scratching our heads when we first heard about it. They way we understood it, the July 4th Committee was not organized as a fundraiser for the Sweet Potato Festival. It was organized to Plan and Organize an Event the City was no longer Planning and Organizing.

And any money “left over” after expenses would be rolled over to the following year.

As far as the Sweet Potato Festival was concerned, my understanding of the goal, from listening to the City Manager , was to at least break even: if there was any money “left over” after expenses, that would go towards funding other City Events.

Then in 2014, (as reported in the Merced Sun Star) Members of the Livingston Fourth of July Committee appealed to the City Council during its regular meeting  …..asking for help to pay off $5,441.14 of unpaid bills from the nonprofit’s annual fireworks show and festival.”

I can distinctly remember the “then” City Manager saying that management would take a look at the expenses involved to see which ones the City could “justify” paying on behalf of the July 4th Committee. (After all, it was a “City” event of sorts: with free admission to all)

So my guess is the “prior” City Manager, Jose Ramirez, approved the check for payment that Mayor Espinoza decided to “hold up”.

But IF YOU WANT THE CITY’S FULL SUPPORT, (and money for the Fireworks Show) how about joining the Recreation Commission? That was the suggestion made to members of the July 4th Committee, by Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza at the January 20th, 2015 City Council Meeting. According to the Mayor, this would solve two problems at the same time:

  • Getting enough members on the Recreation Committee to actually HAVE meetings on a Regular Basis – and –

  • Helping out with fundraising etc. for the 4th of July Celebration

The Logic going something like this: The Recreation Commission is already an Established Commission of the City. One of the tasks of the Recreation Commission is to promote activities That Benefit The Community. The July 4th Celebration is an Activity That Benefits The Community.  The are not enough members on the Recreation Commission. Therefore:

  • IF enough members of the July 4th Committee joined the Recreation Commission in order t0 make it a Functioning Commission,

  • THEN they could get “support” from the City

The response from some of the members of the July 4th Committee was that they are already very busy with activities that benefit the community, and really just don’t have the time to take on the additional responsibility: especially if the only reason to do so was to get “the support” from the City for an event that benefits the City As A Whole.

This is the way I see what has been happing so far.

  1. The City can issue up to 5 Fireworks Booth Permits. The City Council rewrote the Fireworks Ordinance so it could have the ability to grant a Fireworks Boots to up to two (2) Non Profit Organizations of its choice – making it possible to “Council Pick” Livingston Youth Football  and one other Non-Profit organization. That would put “everybody else” into a lottery for the remaining 3 booth permits.

  2. “Someone” got his nose out of joint when the July 4th Committee wouldn’t fork over their “profits” to bail out the Sweet Potato Festival’s “losses” one year and decided “since you wouldn’t donate your profit to the City, don’t bother asking the City to help you.

  3. And we won’t choose you for “Council Pick” for a Fireworks Booth Either. We’ll “choose” Livingston Youth Football, but you get thrown into the raffle like the other applicants.

  4. To Bad, So Sad, if you don’t get a Fireworks Booth

  5. Too Bad, So Sad if you “lose money” on putting on the July 4th Celebration.

  6. BUT “we” want a Recreation Commission that has meetings. So if you join the Recreation Commission, we will be willing to spiff you some “help” that way.

  7. BUT..Members of the July 4th Committee “reject” the offer to “obtain help” by joining the Recreation Commission.

  8. HOWEVER..The City Manager, recognizing the July 4th Event as a City Wide Event, as one of his last official acts before leaving at the end of January, 2015, authorizes the payment for the Radio Advertising. (It had to be either Jose or Odie: who else could be the “management” who could approve that check?)

  9. AND That check is “held up” by the Mayor at the very next Council Meeting

At this point, I will let you draw whatever conclusions you wish. I can say that “The Saga Continues”. The next chapter will continue when we meet again to look at What Happened in March, 2015.

More on the February Happenings in Livingston can be found by going to the links below:

For the February Police Department Update, click on the following link – LPD Update 2_3_2015

For relevant Sun Star Articles, see below.

Livingston manager’s last day brings some employees to tears BY RAMONA GIWARGIS, The Merced Sun Star – 02/01/2015 – Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra said Friday was a “sad day” for Livingston. It will be hard to replace Ramirez, he said, but the city will hire a recruitment organization to interview prospective candidates. While the City Council makes the final hiring decision, Samra said this method will “keep the process fair” and discourage favoritism.

Livingston police chief’s contract renewed for 3 years BY RAMONA GIWARGIS – The Merced Sun Star – 02/04/2015 –  Livingston Police Chief Ruben Chavez will continue working for the city another three years, the City Council determined unanimously this week

Chinese exchange students make friends in Livingston – BY THADDEUS MILLER – The Merced Sun Star – 02/08/2015 – About 50 students from China spent a couple of days here last week, visiting with others their age, sharing music and practicing their English. – The visit was the first edition of an exchange program, or “sisterhood,” that Livingston Middle School hopes to continue with Beijing Runfeng School, according to principals from both schools.

Livingston council talks fireworks stands and midyear budget – BY RAMONA GIWARGIS – The Merced Sun Star – 02/18/2015 – The battle over fireworks booths in Livingston has begun. – The city is accepting applications from nonprofits interested in selling safe-and-sane fireworks in July, officials announced at a City Council meeting Tuesday. Although the application period just opened, two groups – the Fourth of July Committee and Livingston Youth Football – were already appealing to the council Tuesday to choose them.

Livingston planning commissioner resigns over conflict of interest worry – BY RAMONA GIWARGIS – 02/22/2015 – The Merced Sun Star – The chairman of Livingston’s Planning Commission voluntarily resigned after elected officials threatened to have him removed because of a potential conflict of interest.

Livingston police arrest seven known gang members – SUN-STAR STAFF – 02/25/2015 – Seven known gang members have been arrested in Livingston since Saturday, according to police. – Three of those arrests came Tuesday when Livingston police and Merced County probation officers searched a home in the 1500 block of Seventh Street, finding a loaded 12-gauge shotgun hidden in a wall with other weapons, and more than five grams of methamphetamine, police Chief Ruben Chavez said.