So You Think You Can Govern in 2016

A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation. James Freeman Clarke

Historically, Livingston City Council elections have been rather sedate. Over the past 15 years or so, however, the campaigns have become filthy and juvenile. – Mike McGuire – Editor of the Livingston Chronicle from 1984-1996

One of the more challenging things about being a city councilman is learning change takes time. You can’t achieve everything you want overnight. You won’t win every battle. Small victories and steps lead to success. Learn to be patient. – Alex McCabe – Council member: June 2015 to present.

Air gaps are used in places where silicon chips are manufactured because arsenic and other poisonous chemicals are used, Boyce said.  "(With arsenic) one part per billion could kill you," he said. "You use an air gap because the threat is so significant." – Randy Boyce: Foster Farms General Council – Thursday Jul 13th, 2006Foster Farms in Livingston Threatened with Water Shut-off by City; Judge to Decide – Original Article by Merced Sun Star – Reposted by Indybay.org (Emphasis, mine)

The city’s arsenic levels exceeded the state’s maximum contaminant level of 0.010 parts per million numerous times in 2009, 2012 and 2013, according to the court documents. The latest levels were recorded as 0.013 parts per million April 9 and 0.011 parts per million April 30.  – MAY 15, 2014 – Nonprofit sues Livingston over drinking water –By Ramona Giwargis

"Belief can be manipulated. Knowledge is dangerous" Paul "Muad’Dib" Atreides of the Dune Series

Livingston CA – First Published 10/29/2016.
Postscript date: 01/28/2017

Here we go again, just a few short days away from another General Election.

Time for another chapter in the twisty saga of our own City Council and the goings on at City Hall: which includes the never ending discussion about What’s-In-Our-Water and Will-It-Eventually-Hurt-You.

What I have learned over the years is that the answer to those questions often depends upon which council member/or lawyer is talking, and what political or financial outcome s/he is seeking at the moment. Case in point: whether or not 1 Part-Per-Billion of Arsenic can kill you.

Livingston has wells that produce water with Arsenic levels that exceed 0.013 Parts Per Million. If you convert 0.o13 Parts Per Million into Parts Per Billion, you get 13 Parts per Billion.

The State/Federal Maximum Contaminant Level for Arsenic is 10 Parts Per Billion. However, depending on who you talk to, or what the litigation is about, the Arsenic levels in Livingston’s water may or may not be an issue or may or may not make you sick.

Anyway….back to my main point.

Every couple of years I take advantage of The Story Teller’s License as I sit at my laptop and write. What results is not an All Inclusive History of Everything That Happened over the Last Few Years. It’s just my general Kvetch about the way I see “Politics” playing out every couple of years or so in Livingston.

With a few references to the consequences thereof….

If you look over in the Right Hand Margin of this Blog, you will find plenty of links to loads of information about the continuing discussion about How-Much-Arsenic-Can-Hurt-You, and others such as:

  • The Recall, and Water Rates,

  • The Utility Rates Stakeholders Committee and the boatloads of money Restudying Livingston’s Water Quality Issues for the umpteenth time.

  • Notices of Violation from the State about the Old Industrial Waste Water Treatment Plant,

  • Arsenic Levels in the Drinking Water

  • The Water Rate Increase that was finally passed

  • How the City is asking the State for money to help fix several Problems with the Water Delivery System because these Items will not be paid for by Water Rates.

  • The impact of the Drought

  • The relationship between Foster Farms and The City

  • Multiple lawsuits against the City

  • And so on

When I wrote the first “So You Think You Can Govern”, I’d been somewhat of a local political junkie for a couple of years prior to the 2008 Elections and I was concerned about the number of candidates whose faces I hadn’t recalled having seen at City Council meetings (or Planning Commission meetings, or Citizens Advisory Committee meetings when they still had them).

At the time, it was already clear to me that there were sitting Council Members who did not bother to read the material in their Agenda Packets, did not understand the significance of the long term effect of what they were voting on, were incapable of stringing together a coherent sentence, and/or were just “there” for reasons of their own.

I was also concerned that some of the people seeking to replace them didn’t have a clue as to what they would be getting themselves into. Livingston was going through several changes; had been on the “back end” of at least one very expensive lawsuit; was already enmeshed in a long, drawn out expensive mess of a General Plan Update and had already been through at least one Water Rate Study.

The General Election of 2008 came and went.And although there was a Council Meeting or two where everyone seemed to be willing to hold hands and sing Kumbya, it didn’t take to terribly long thereafter before the Political Cat Fighting began.

Well, the Recall Election of 2010 came and went: Theresa Land (Recall Candidate) displaced Martha Natares as Council Person and Council Person Rodrigo Espinoza, (Recall Candidate), displaced Daniel Varela as Mayor. Warren Urnberg, (Recall Supporter), was appointed as Temporary Council Member until the results of the General Election 0f November 2010 were tabulated.

Gurpal Samra, (Recall Proponent), won that “temporarily filled” Council Seat during the General Election in November of 2010 and Rodrigo Espinoza also kept his seat as Mayor.

And, as before, there were people on the council who clearly didn’t bother to read the material in their Agenda Packets, didn’t really seem to know the difference between a “Commission” and a “Department”; were even more openly hostile towards City Staff,  didn’t seem to know what an Auditor was for; didn’t understand the significance of the long term effect of what they were voting on, were incapable of speaking in coherent sentences; and/or were just “there” for God Only Knows what reason of their own.

Budget Variance - 2013-2014 Proposed Budget

And, as you can see from the graph above, Livingston’s financial situation started going to Hell in a Hand Basket. Rapidly.

The Elections of 2012 came and went. Mayor Pro Temp Margarita Aguilar had decided not to run again for office. Council Person Frank Vierra, also decided against running for another term on the Council.

During the Campaign of 2012, it became clear that relationships between some of the once Staunch Allies Of The Recall had begun to fray. Council Person Teresa Land, who had campaigned heavily for the Recall and Recall Committee backed candidates, found that she no longer had the support of those she had helped gain office.

Mayor Espinoza, instead, joined forces with Arturo Sacairos.  As Reported in the Merced Sun StarBefore the election, Espinoza released fliers endorsing himself and several other local candidates, including contenders for the Livingston council, city clerk, city treasurer, county supervisor, assembly and congress. Everyone he endorsed won.…….Espinoza put out the flier jointly with Sicairos, who said the flier might’ve helped him win, since a lot of Livingston voters look for guidance around election time”

{Before we go further, let’s take a brief Side Trip to map out a few familial relationships while we are here.

  • The City Clerk, Tony Silva is City Council Member Arturo Sacairos’, Father-in-law.

  • The City Treasurer, Maria Riberio, is the City Clerk’s Sister}

So three “newcomers” took their places as City Council Members, with Rodrigo Espinoza as Mayor and Gurpal Samra as Mayor Pro Temp. {and with 3 members of the same family holding the positions of City Clerk, City Treasurer, and City Councilperson}

And there were still those on the council who clearly didn’t bother to read the material in their Agenda Packets, didn’t really seem to know the difference between a “Commission” and a “Department”, didn’t understand the significance of the long term effect of what they were voting on, were incapable of speaking in coherent sentences; and/or were just “there” for God Only Knows what reason of their own.

And although most of that crop of newly Elected Officials didn’t “beat up” on City Staff quite as much as Previous Council Members did, it seemed mainly because there was fewer “City Staff” to browbeat or blame for the City’s ills. Most of those who had openly suffered the Wrath-of-Council-Members-Past were either replaced, retired, fired, or otherwise laid off due to a “reorganization” dictated by an ever shrinking budget.

Then came General Election of 2014 and it became clear that relationships between the core of the Recall Coalition had fractured even further. Mario Mendoza: Treasurer of the Recall Committee, (and brother to Council Person David Mendoza) tried to unseat Mayor Pro Temp Gurpal Samra. As usual, Things got “just a tad” ugly in the process. (Adanan Bath also took out papers to run against Gurpal, but pulled out of the race and ended up being appointed to the Planning Commission)

After the election, the City Council consisted of the following:

  • Rodrigo Espinoza (Mayor),

  • Gurpal Samra (Mayor Pro-Temp),

  • David Mendoza (Brother of Mario Mendoza)

  • Arturo Saciaros,

  • Jim Soria. 

2014 – 2016 did not lack for it’s share of political/financial turmoil and Water Quality Issues:

  • There was the flap about Favoritism and how Fireworks Booth Permits should be distributed.

  • Due to circumstances beyond his control, Council Member David Mendoza had to resign and was eventually replaced by Alex McCabe.

  • The City Manager bailed by January 2015, and was was eventually “replaced” by a New City Manager who only managed to last a couple of months.

  • Same with Livingston’s Public Works Directors. They seemed to come and go even more quickly than the City Managers did.

  • And although “adjustment” to water rates, was eventually adopted, many necessary repairs and upgrades to the Water Delivery System were expected to be paid for through State/Federal Grants and loans.

  • Well #16, a well designed initially to be a “back up well”, eventually was pressed into “full time” service while Well #14 was removed from service (Temporarily?) due to high TCP levels.

In the past, the “official” City Council mantra about Water Quality was, “We’re aware. Everything is fine. It may be “brown” sometimes but it’s Nothing to Worry about here. If anyone says different, they’re just making trouble”

More recently it has become “Nothing really new here. No surprises, really. We’re just in the same troubles as everyone else, because of the Drought.”

But, It’s been One emergency well repair after another. Even Foster Farms has recognized that it was in it’s best interest to help out the City with a repair or two in order to keep the water flowing. It is also worthy of note that the first well upgraded with a TCP Filtration System was a well used primarily to help deliver water to Foster Farms.

Remember that Settlement the City Received from Dow Chemical Company, from the lawsuit started back in 2005 over elevated levels of TCP in Livingston’s water? That has been dipped into several times over the years for “water related” projects. (Not all of them TCP related) There is still a boatload of work to be done to upgrade and repair our Water Delivery System. A recent Staff Report indicates that if things go as indicated on the State/Federal level, ALL of our well will be Out Of Compliance with the new TCP-1,2,3 Maximum Contaminant level slated to go into effect early next year.

So.. here we are, only a few short days away from another General Election. This time, for the office of Mayor and THREE council seats. Mario Mendoza is giving it another try. So is Adanan Bath. Alex McCabe and Arturo Sacairos are both trying to hang on to their seats for another term. As usual there are the “political newbies” to add to the Mix: Wapinder Kang – Livingston Police Officer; Jason Roth – Service Advisor; Juan Aguilar, Jr. – Firefighter/Social Worker. (If I have linked to the Wrong Facebook pages – please let me know!)

Jim Soria is on the Ballot for Mayor. (Mayor Espinoza has Moved On to The Board of Supervisors) There is also a Write in Candidate for Mayor: Rosalinda Ruiz

Once again we have Candidates for Office who have hardly ever shown up for City Council meetings since the last election.

And we are still looking for a new City Manager……

And we are still looking for a new Public Works Director…..

And there is still Litigation in progress: on more than one front. When the new Maximum Contaminant Level for TCP finally goes into affect, I would not be surprised if there was even more litigation in Livingston’s future.

And we have still not yet fixed that mess of a General Plan Update that has already cost the taxpayers of the Livingston hundreds of thousands of dollars in Court Fees, Attorney’s fees, Consultant’s Fees, and wasted Staff Time. Although it seems to have been set aside for the moment.

The Council Meeting which would have taken place on November 1st has been canceled. Looks to me like EVERYTHING is being placed on hold until after the the Elections.

"Dirty Politics" seems to have become the Norm, not the Exception in Livingston. If you have lived here long enough, you know what I mean. Although this time around, there doesn’t seem to be quite as much heartburn about Political Signs this year as in years past.

I’ve heard about a few sign’s being stolen, but no general uproar over the signs on City Property/Right of ways, and similar locations.  In years past, that had been a BIG deal with certain candidates.

I guess it just depends on whose running.

Or whose not…..

I said it before, and I’ll say it again now, the Ethical and Effective Council Member of the 21stCentury will need to be more than just a person who sits behind a dais and votes “yes or no”. S/he must be able to comprehend, analyze and distinguish between a multitude of competing interests, knowing that all decisions made will have implications for the future.

S/he must recognize that the issues facing Livingston won’t just impact those living within “the City”. There are those outside the City Limits and Sphere of Influence that are as important to the cultural and economic health of Livingston as those who live “inside”.

An ethical and effective Council Person must be fully aware of present needs, and yet have an eye for the future consequences of any and all actions taken, votes cast, and directions given to City Staff in the present. S/he must understand both the “the Time Value of Money” and the “Money Value of Time”: spending both taxpayers dollars, and City Staff time wisely and well.

I have included a partial list of terms any competent council person should be aware of, understand, and able to use in a complete,coherent sentence.

For anyone who REALLY wants to be knowledgeable about how City Government works, I would strongly suggest s/he get out a dictionary, do an Internet Search, or talk to someone at City Hall about any of these terms/concepts s/he may never have heard of before. Granted, it’s only an abbreviated list: an “Introduction to 21st Century City Government 101” so to speak, but at least it would give you an idea of the kinds of stuff you would need to know so you don’t end up sounding like a damn-fool every time you open your mouth .

POSTSCRIPT TO THE ELECTIONS OF 2016 (January 2017) After all the votes were counted, Jim Soria won the Mayor’s seat by a significant margin. As for the Council seats: that’s where things got a little more “complicated”. Results for the race for Council were as follows:
2016 Council Election Results

Which meant

  • That Juan Aguilar Jr. was elected for a four year term

  • That Wapinder Kang was elected for a four year term, and

  • That Arturo Sacairos was elected for a two year term.

  • Alex McCabe was in 4th place

  • Mario Mendoza placed 5th

  • And so on down the line

However, it was discovered that Wapinder Kang could not be sworn in as Councilmember and keep his job with the Livingston Police Department. According to Government Code 53227.  (a) An employee of a local agency may not be sworn into office as an elected or appointed member of the legislative body of that local agency unless he or she resigns as an employee.  If the employee does not resign, the employment shall automatically terminate upon his or her being sworn into office.

Council Member-Elect Kang chose to remain as a Livingston Police Officer: opening up a vacancy on the Council. On January 17, 2017, the Council appointed Alex McCabe fill the Vacancy.

Because the seat became “vacant” during the first half of what would have been a 4 year, State Law will only allow Mr. McCabe to hold office until an individual is elected to complete the term at the next general municipal election (November 6, 2018).

Which will mean, next time around, there will be 4 seats on the Council up for grabs.

  • Mayor – Currently held by Jim Soria

  • 3 Council Members – Currently held by Gurpal Samra, Alex McCabe and Arturo Sacairos

PRIMARY DRINKING WATER STANDARDS address health concerns. (Things in the water that can make you sick or kill you if you drank enough of it over time)

SECONDARY DRINKING WATER STANDARDS – (things that make the water look and smell yucky, but might not necessarily make you sick or kill you)established to address issues of aesthetics (discoloration), not health concerns. In California secondary MCLs (Maximum Contaminant Levels) are enforceable.

UNREGULATED CONTAMINANTS – Chemicals and stuff which do not yet have a Maximum Contaminant Level. (emphasis on “yet”) There is ongoing testing So the The Environmental Protection Agency can decide whether or not these contaminants occur often enough and at high enough levels to warrant further attention and/or regulation. (In other words, the Government is still debating the science about how much of that stuff will make you sick or kill you over time.)

ARSENIC – : a semi-metal element in the periodic table. It is odorless and tasteless. It enters drinking water supplies from natural deposits in the earth or from agricultural and industrial practices.

CHROMIUM – 3 An Essential Trace Mineral, not to be confused with it’s deadlier cousin: Chromium – 6.

CHROMIUM – 6:  Chromium-6, or hexavalent chromium, is a naturally occurring metal. It is also used in several industrial processes. Chromium-6 has been known to cause cancer in humans when inhaled. In scientific studies in laboratory animals, chromium-6 has also been linked to cancer when ingested (Think “Erin Brokovich”)

MANGANESE: Manganese is a pinkish-gray, chemically active element. it is one out of three toxic essential trace elements, which means that it is not only necessary for humans to survive, but it is also toxic when too high concentrations are present in a human body. When people do not live up to the recommended daily allowances their health will decrease. But when the uptake is too high health problems will also occur. (Not getting enough? You get sick. Getting “too much”? You get sick)

TCP – 1,2,3:  TCP-containing fumigants were used extensively by farmers in the production of a large variety of crops from the 1950s through the mid-1980s. In California, these fumigants (known by the trade names D-D and Telone) were among the most widely used pesticides in the history of the State, second only to sulfur…. In 1999, 1,2,3-TCP was added to the list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer (Livingston sued Dow Chemical and netted about $9.5 million dollars to put towards removing the TCP from our Drinking Water )

mg/L: Milligrams per liter or Parts Per Million.

ug/L: Micrograms per liter or Parts Per Billion, (ppb).

Parts per Billion, (ppb) – Imagine 13 drops of ink in one of the largest tanker trucks used to haul gasoline. That would be 13 Parts Per Billion of ink.

MCL: Maximum Contaminant Level – The highest level of a toxic substance allowed in Drinking Water. The Health & Safety Code §116365(a) requires California Department of Public Health to establish a contaminant’s MCL at a level as close to its PUBLIC HEALTH GOAL (PHG) as is technologically and economically feasible, placing primary emphasis on the protection of public health

  • If a toxic substance is higher than the Maximum Contaminant Level using a 4 QUARTER AVERAGE, a water purveyor has to figure out a way of reducing that number down to below the MCL, and/or come up with another source of water to deliver to it’s customers.

  • The Maximum Contaminant Level for Arsenic currently stands at 10 Parts Per Billion

  • We have at least 2 wells that are over the limit of 10 Parts Per Billion and others that are really close to going over that limit.

4 QUARTER AVERAGE: As is this example.

  • If quarterly testing for arsenic at Well A produced the following results in Parts Per Billion: 8.5, 9.9 , 10, 11

  • The 4 Quarter Average would be 9.85 Parts Per Billion.

RANGE: The Lowest and the Highest. Using the Above as our example,

  • The Range would be 8.5 – 11 Parts Per Billion

NOTIFICATION LEVEL – The level at which the State of California says the public needs to be notified about a contaminant in the Drinking Water

.
  • The Notification Level for TCP – 1,2,3 is 0.005 ug/L( 0.005 Parts per Billion)

  • I’m not to crazy about decimals. So to “get rid” of the decimal, we move the decimal 3 places to the right and get 5 Parts per Trillion.

  • According to the Report by Kennedy Jenks, a significant number of Livingston’s wells produce water with TCP ABOVE the Notification Level.

Parts per Trillion (ppt):– Imagine 5 drops of detergent in enough dishwater to fill a string of railroad tank cars ten miles long. That would be 5 Parts Per Trillion of detergent.

RESPONSE LEVEL – The level of contamination at which the State of California says a well “should” be removed from service because of a potential threat to Public Health.

PUBLIC HEALTH GOAL –  Concentrations of drinking water contaminants that pose no significant health risk if consumed for a lifetime, based on current risk assessment principles, practices, and methods.(Translation: levels low enough that you should die of old age before any of that stuff would make you really sick or kill you)

1,2,3, TCP

Industrial

A-1 Zoning

Industrial Wastewater

AB 1234

Infrastructure

Allowed Use

Joint Use

Assessed Property Values

LAFCO

Audit

Light Industrial

Audit Report

Litigation

Bank Owned Properties

Long-Term Debt Obligations

Benefit Assessment District

Low Density Residential

Breach of Contract

MAGPI

Brown Act

Master Plan

Budget

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL)

California Public Records Act

MCAG

Capital Improvements

Medium Density Residential

Capital Projects Fund

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

Cash Pool

Mitigated Negative Declaration

Centralized Water Treatment

Mixed Use

CEQA

Modified Accrual Method of Accounting

Citizens Advisory Committee

Municipal Code

Citizens Service Committee

Notice of Action

City Limits

Notice of Violation

City Manager Form of Government

Notice of Preparation (NOP)

Closed Session

Notification Level

Code

Nuisance Abatement

Code Enforcement Officer

Obligation Payment Schedule

COLA

Open Meetings Law

Commercial

Open Session

Commission

Open Space Reserve

Common Sense

Operating Deficit

Community

Operation and Maintenance

Community Commercial

Ordinance

Community Development Block Grant

Percolation ponds

Community Facilities District

Permitted Use

Community Service

Planning Commission

Community Values

Prevailing Union Wage Law

Community Vision

Primary Drinking Water Standards

Confidentiality

Proposition 218 Hearing

Conflict of Interest

Public Comments

Consent Calendar

Public Document Request

Constituent

Qualified Audit Opinion

Contract

Quorum

Cooperation

Recusal

Department

Redevelopment Area

Development Impact Fees

Reflective Listening

Detection Level

Regional Sewage Treatment Facility

Domestic Wastewater

Response to the Grand Jury

Easements

Restricted Fund

Education Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF)

Retainer

Enterprise Zone

Revenue

Environmentally Superior Alternative

Revenue Sharing

Errors and Omissions

right-of-way

Excused Absence

Secondary Drinking Water Standards

Expenditure

Serial Meeting

Fiduciary Funds

Shared Use

Fiduciary Responsibility

Site Design Review

Fiscal Impact

Special Planning Area

Fiscal Year

Special Revenue Fund

Fixed Assets

Sphere of Influence

Form 700

Strike expense

Fund

Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency

Fund Balance

Tax Sharing Agreement

General Fund

The Illegal 42′ Sewer Pipe

General Plan

 

Generally Accepted Accounting Principals (GAAP)

Union

Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB)

Unqualified Audit Opinion

Government Code

Unrestricted Fund

Grand Jury Report

Urban Reserve

Grievance

Warrant Register

Hearing

Wellhead Treatment

Heritage Tree Ordinance

Work in Lieu

High Density Residential

Workers Compensation

Highway Commercial

One last thing. Please Mr./Ms. Council People of the future: when you do speak, please finish your first sentence before beginning a totally different one. Trying to follow some of the rambling trains of thought I hear regularly at Council Meetings gives me a headache.

Thank You.

A Lingering Lawsuit, Another Canceled Contract, A Couple Marijuana Plants, and a Draft Tax Measure

It’s a shame the way we’ve been going through City Managers: Warren Urnberg – excerpted from Public Comments – 01/05/16 City Council Meeting

“I don’t think our Community needs it.” Councilmember Jim Soria – 01/05/16 Council Meeting. Excerpted from Medical Marijuana Ordinance Discussion

I’d like to approve what we have here (and) make adjustments – Councilmember Alex McCabe – 01/05/16 Council Meeting. Excerpted from Medical Marijuana Ordinance Discussion

“How do we take care of people with legitimate needs?” Mayor ProTemp Gurpal Samra – 01/05/16 Council Meeting. Excerpted from Medical Marijuana Ordinance Discussion

“…The California Transportation Commission…has removed the Livingston Widening Northbound and also the Livingston Widening Southbound from your projects list. You now have no Regional Projects” – Mike Valata – Mayor of Los Banos. Excerpted from Public Comment – 03/01/16 City Council Meeting

Perry is charged with assaulting Dwight Larks, a 39-year-old real estate agent living in Livingston at the time, during a supervised handover of Lark’s child as part of a custody arrangement with the child’s mother….According to a civil lawsuit filed by Larks, he and the child’s mother had a disagreement over the details of the exchange. Excerpted from Judge dismisses one of three charges against Livingston police officer – Merced Sun Star – 03/10/16

Livingston, CA 04/18/2016

So…there was a disagreement over the details of a Custody Exchange. That’s putting it mildly. More on that a little later. But first.

MAYOR RODRIGO ESPINOZA has decided to try to displace John Pedrozo as District 1 County Supervisor. As of the date of this posting, I’ve seen several large Pedrozo campaign signs around town. But, only a couple so far for Espinoza. And although John Pedrozo has gone on the record as agreeing that Public Safety is of the uttermost importance in Merced County, I’m not so sure Mr. Espinoza’s stated opinion of the Sherriff’s Department would be earning him any “favorability points” with law enforcement.

THE MERCED COUNTY ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENTS (MCAT) is floating the ides of a 1/2 cent SALES TAX  ballot measure to be placed on the November Ballot: with the proceeds used for “transportation” related projects. Some members of local government are concerned that most of the proceeds from such a measure would not stay in the Local Jurisdiction in which they were raised. There is also the concern that the draft, as currently written, does not include a guaranteed list of local projects.

EX: The following two items were provided to me by the Mayor of Los Banos

  • Draft 1/2 Cent Transportation Sales Tax Measure Expenditure Plan  – This includes language that was eliminated from the current draft being pitched to local leaders and the public. According to the mayor, the language in black is the MCAG approved language. The red language includes the modifications Los Banos proposed (and was denied by the MCAG Board) to protect the Westside/Eastside share.  Please pay close attention to page 12, “Amendments To The Expenditure Plan”, this section allows MCAG to change the funding allocations. Note the red language under that section. It would have protected the original amounts for the Westside/Eastside by stating that it would have to go back to the voters for any changes. This 30 year tax measure will be on the November 2016 ballot and needs a 66 2/3 voter approval rate for it to pass.

  • Deletion of Livingston HWY 99 Widening Projects

THE LAST STOP? OR JUST A REST STOP? Those of you have been following the goings on in Livingston have already noticed there seems to be a problem attracting and KEEPING qualified staff in certain positions. For some reason, some people just don’t stick around for very long: they’re gone before the ink has barely dried on their contracts.

The latest to “pass through” Livingston on the way to Other Things was Gabriel Gonzalez:  who entered into an interim short-term professional services agreement with the Acting City Manager on January 19, 2016: For an amount not to exceed $10,000. According to the February 02, 2016 Staff Report, this was necessary because:

Due to recent transition in management position(s), there is a significant need for temporary administrative support in public works, finance/accounting and in general City management functions until such positions are addressed. This temporary support is much needed to fulfill the upcoming deadlines and priorities.

At the February 02, 2016 City Council Meeting, an Amendment to that agreement was approved by Council which converted the agreement into a

temporary (6 months to 1 year) administrative support in the following areas: oversight of public works; general administrative support to interim city manager. General functions will include assistance with general operations, annual budget, contract and policy review, organizational and functional analysis…..with option to extend another six (6) months, at the City Manager/Interim City Manager’s discretion

compensation under the amended agreement shall be at an hourly rate of $80 and the total contract amount shall not exceed $135,000.

Mr. Gonzales was hired by the City of Gilroy as their City Manager barely over a month later.

And another one gone after a short stop in Livingston…..

While he was here, Mr. Gonzalez advised the City Council that they should consider creating a new position at City Hall: just for the sole purpose of keeping up with State Storm Water Regulations.

Click on the following link to see Mr. Gonzalez’s Municipal Separate storm Sewer System (MS4) INFORMATIONAL update–And Proposed Administrative Position.

MARIJUANA ORDINANCE adopted.

In December of Last Year, the Planning Commission discussed a Proposed Ordinance which would do the following:

  • allow cultivation of up to six plants of marijuana.

  • ban indoor cultivation.

  • eliminate the size requirement for a detached structure and to allow green houses. 

  • Prohibit gas products, including without limitation, C02, butane, propane and natural gas or generators within the structure."

  • delete a setback requirement.

  • to allow deliveries

AT THE CITY COUNCIL MEETING on January 5, 2016.

  • The city attorney “announced that current State legislation has a deadline of March 1, 2016, for cities to establish a land use policy for cannabis activities. If cities do not meet this deadline, they will defer to the State’s regulations and policies”

  • “Merced County Fire Marshall Morgan noted that there are some safety concerns with the code… The Fire Department recommends that indoor grows in detached structures require an electrical permit and maintain minimum set-backs of either 10 or 15-feet (to prevent fires from spreading from one structure to the other).”

  • Merced County Sheriff’s Department representative Ray Framstad gave a PowerPoint presentation on cannabis activities (mainly large grows) and discussed some of the challenges that it posses on law enforcement (such as electrical fires, vandalisms, burglaries, shootings, etc).

COUNCIL MEMBER’S OPINIONS ranged from Council Member Jim Soria: who favored a complete ban to Council Member Alex McCabe: who made a motion banning all commercial cannabis activities, but giving residents (with proper medical approval) the right to grow six cannabis plants outdoors. Mr. McCabe’s motion failed for lack of support.

A second Motion was made by Mayor Pro-Temp Gurpal Samra: which would ban all commercial activities but allow Qualified Patients and Primary Caregivers to grow a maximum of two plants. This motion passed 3-2. Council Members Soria and McCabe both voted “no” but for different reasons.

Community Development Block Grant ApplicationTHERE WAS A PUBLIC HEARING – at City Hall on March 29, 2016 and lasted from about 11am to nearly 1pm. The purpose of the Hearing/meeting was to Brainstorm Ideas for the next Community Development Block Grant Application.

The Initial list of projects to be recommended include the following:

  • Planning Activity Projects–

    • Policy Updates to the General Plan that would facilitate Walkable Communities.

    • A Wastewater percolation study.

    • Water Studies

  • Public Improvement Activities

    • Finish the Pipeline Replacement Project

    • Refurbish/Repair the City’s Water Storage Tank

    • Construction of a Dewatering Facility at the Domestic WasteWater Treatment Plant

  • Public Facility Projects Fire Station –

    • Living Quarters and possible expansion of the facility

  • Public Service Part Time

    • Code Enforcement Officer: Focusing on Health and Safety issues such as Weed Abatement, Watering Restrictions, and Zoning and Building Issues.

ALSO ON THE AGENDA FOR JANUARY – MARCH, 2016

January 05, 2016

Approval of Minutes of Meeting Held on January 5, 2016. (Amended)

1 Resolution Approving Site Plan / Design Review 2015-3 to Construct a Building Containing an Office, Dressing Room, and an Apartment at the Guru Nanak Sikh Mission, 884 “B” Street, Livingston, CA.

2 Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Livingston Amending Title 5, Chapters 2, 3, 5 and 7 of the Livingston Municipal Code Prohibiting Commercial Marijuana ( Cannabis) Activities, Regulating Delivery of Medical Marijuana, and Regulating the Cultivation of Medical Marijuana Including Establishing Exemptions for Cultivation by Qualified Patients and Primary Caregivers.

3 Approval of Warrant Register Dated December 10, 2015

4 Approval of Warrant Register Dated December 23, 2015.

5 City Council to Provide Direction for Appointment to the Planning Commission.

JANUARY 19, 2016

(Approval of Minutes of Meeting Held on January 19, 2016.)

1 Waive the Second Reading and Adopt Ordinance No. 626 of the City Council of the City of Livingston Amending Title 5, Chapters 2, 3, 5 and 7 of the Livingston Municipal Code Prohibiting Commercial Marijuana (Cannabis) Activities and Regulating the Cultivation of Medical Marijuana Including Establishing an Exemption for Cultivation by Qualified Patients and Primary Caregivers.

2 Resolution of the City Council of the City of Livingston Authorizing Delegation of Authority to the Interim City Manager Regarding Industrial Disability Retirement Applications.

5 Approval of Warrant Register dated January 13, 2016.

6 Appointment of City Representative to the Merced County Mosquito Abatement District Board of Trustees.

7 Resolution Appointing Odilon Ortiz as Interim City Manager and Approving a Fourth Amendment to the Employment Agreement between the City of Livingston and Odilon Ortiz.

8 Downtown Beautification Project/Street Improvements.

FEBRUARY 02, 2016

2 Resolution Rescinding Resolution No. 2015-10 and Authorizing the City Manager to Execute Documents, Approve Claims for Reimbursement and Represent the City as Required by the State Water Resources Control Board as Part of the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) Application.

3 Approval of Warrant Register Dated January 27, 2016.

4 Resolution of the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Livingston Approving the Recognized Obligation Payment Schedule (ROPS 16-17 A & B) Pursuant to Health and Safety Code Section 34177 for the Period of July 2016 through June 30, 2017

5 Resolution Approving a First Amendment to the Professional Services Agreement with Gabriel A. Gonzalez and Authorizing the Interim City Manager to Execute Amendment.

FEBRUARY 16, 2016

6 Approval of Warrant Register Dated February 11, 2016.

Municipal Separate storm Sewer System (MS4) INFORMATIONAL update–And Proposed Administrative Position

7 Resolution Approving a Rental Agreement for Sludge Dewatering Equipment.

8 Resolution Approving Emergency Purchase of New Police Facility HVAC Unit.

9 Resolution of the City Council of the City of Livingston Approving the Recommended 2015-16 City of Livingston Mid-Year Budget Revisions.

10 City Council to Provide Staff Direction on Creation of a New Corporate Seal (Logo).

FEBRUARY 23, 2016 JOINT MEETING BETWEEN THE CITY COUNCIL AND PLANNING COMMISSION SPECIAL MEETING

MARCH 01, 2016

1 Introduce and Waive the First Reading of Ordinance No.___, of the City Council of the City of Livingston, Amending Title 5, Chapters 3, 6 and 7 of the Livingston Municipal Code Relating to Housing.

2 Approval of Warrant Register Dated February 24, 2016.

3 Request to Join an Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court Supporting the President’s Executive Action on Immigration (Texas v. United States).

4 City Council to Provide Direction for Appointment to the Planning Commission.

The MARCH 15, 2016 Council Meeting was canceled at the last minute because too many Council Members were “ill”. Had the meeting gone forward as originally scheduled, these are some of the topics that would have been discussed.

1 Presentation – Representatives of the Modesto Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby, Kathy Conroto, Bill Anelli, Jerry Jackman, Jody Strait, Richard Anderson and David Rivada will give a slide show they presented at the February 2nd Modesto City Council meeting at which the Council voted for a Resolution endorsing a federal revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend legislation. This fee increases the cost of fossil fuels, but then returns those fees to American households as a dividend, and therefore, favors a national shift to non-greenhouse gas emitting renewable energy sources.

3 Presentation: Marjorie Kirn, Executive Director of the Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG) on the proposed Transportation Expenditure Plan which outlines a flexible approach to spending more than $450 million of new revenue to address the region’s transportation needs over three decades. Half of the funding will go directly to our local governments for local transpiration needs. The remaining funds will be used for funding for projects of regional benefit, as well as transit.

The following two items were not included in the Council’s Agenda Packets. They were sent to me by the Mayor of Los Banos and are included here for those of you who are interested in more information on the subject)

4 Waive the Second Reading and Adopt Ordinance No. 627, of the City Council of the City of Livingston, Amending Title 5, Chapters 3, 6 and 7 of the Livingston Municipal Code Relating to Housing.

7 Approval of Warrant Register Dated March 11, 2016.

8 Resolution Approving a Professional Services Agreement between the City of Livingston and Patti Dossetti, Dossetti Consulting.

10 City Council to Consider Adoption of a Resolution Making an Appointment to Fill the Vacancy on the Planning Commission.

11 Council Direction to Consider Supporting the Regional Efforts via a Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding within the Merced Groundwater Sub-Basin to Comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

12 Resolution Declaring that One Council Office Subject to Election at the November 2016 General Election Shall Only Serve a Two Year Term in Order to Evenly Stagger City Council Seats Subject to Election in the Future (California Government Code Section 34906).

IT’S NEARLY 4 YEARS AND COUNTING since a dispute over a Custody Exchange began a chain of events resulting in Felony Charges against a Police Officer and a Lawsuit against the City.

According to the Complaint for Damages and Demand for Jury trial filed on behalf of Dwight Larks, on or about May 21, 2012, the mother of Lark’s child, and two members of the Livingston Police Department showed up at Mr. Larks residence and

“permitted (the) mother to unlawfully enter and trespass upon the residence of Plaintiff and she removed (the child) from the custody of the Plaintive in a manner not authorized by any Order of the Court” Case No CVM014537, P.5 – lines 3-5

The Complaint For Damages also states that, the actions of the the officers involved resulted in Mr. Larks sustaining

“among other injuries, laceration of his head, concussion, injury to his left shoulder, left wrist, neck and right leg, and has suffered pain in all those areas…..P7 – lines 13-15

The Claim for Damages also states that, on the day of the incident, Mr. Larks had turned on the recorder of his cell phone and that the terms of a prior court order included the following:

“a court order requires that all custody exchanges take place at a neutral, public location, specifically identified in bold print as: Livingston Police Department” Governmental Claim of Dwight L. Larks, P.3

The Complaint for Damages and Demand for Jury Trial was filed with the Merced County Superior Court on March 19, 2013. (Yes, I do have a copy.)

According to reports in the Sun Star, Mr. Larks was initially cited for resisting arrest and violating a court order. But, no case against him was ever filed “for lack of evidence”. However, the felony case against one of the Officers involved in that 2012 Custody Exchange continues.

I’m betting the Civil Case against the City will also continue to drag on in some kind of “legal limbo” until well after the legal wrangling over the Felony Case is settled.

A New Council Member, A New City Manager, A Contract Public Works Director Gone, A Case of Umbrella Envy and A Missed Water Reduction Goal.

LIVINGSTON CA, 08/19/2015

This town has been so wonderful to me. Like many others, I went through an economic hardship in 2010 and had to start over. Livingston is one of those places where the American Dream is still alive and allows any person who’s willing to work for it, to achieve what they want to achieve. – Alex McCabe -  June 09, 2015 City Council Meeting

I’m gonna go ahead and comment on the Umbrellas. The Umbrellas, again, I said it at a Council Meeting, the past City Manager is the one that, right before he left, he spent the money and bought the umbrellas without telling the council. So he put them on the front on the corner. and the ones over there. So, without telling us, he bought them and we have them now. Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza 06/09/2015 Special City Council Meeting

You know, I don’t know what they are doing. They’re not doing their job. – Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza06/16/2015 City Council Meeting

Given the … action of the court to Vacate any finding of guilt, for the misdemeanor charge, changing the plea to Not Guilty, and dismissing the claim and ordering it to be expunged, we, ah, are confident that Mr. Duque is qualified for the position and will be an excellent City manager. Thank You. – – Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza – Report out of Closed Session – 08/04/2015 City Council Meeting.

It seems a few people are upset about a few Umbrellas in the Downtown Commercial District. More on that a little later. But first…

At the 06/09/2015 City Council Meeting, ALEX McCABE WAS SELECTED to serve out of the rest of David Mendoza’s term on the City Council. During the Interview that evening, candidates for the position were asked questions such as:

  • What have you accomplished?

  • Why do you want to be on the Council?

  • What are your 5 top Priorities?

  • What do you think the Council is doing wrong? 

  • How do you feel about Growth?

  • How do you feel about the Street Fair?

  • What is your position on Staffing Levels: especially Public Safety?

Since you can read a Transcription of the Interviews by CLICKING HERE, I am not going to them all on this page. For those of you who might be interested, here is  Mr. McCabe’s answer to the question about his 5 TOP GOALS/PRIORITIES:

    • 1) Water Quality. Working with the Council and what ever jurisdictions and groups to make sure we reach our Goals on Water Quality.

    • 2) Focus on continuing to educate the public. We’re going to continue to see backlash as our rate increases over time. I’d like to be there to make sure that we are properly educating the public when it comes to our water issues.

    • 3) Do what I can to improve the overall economic or business systems here in Livingston. We have a lot of outdated codes that we can (do) that would make us more appealing to Local Businesses. Right now we’re always fighting for the businesses and people can choose Turlock, they can choose Atwater, they can choose Delhi, or they can choose Livingston. I don’t want us loosing on economic dollars because we have some antiquated codes that are preventing us from moving on or streamlining our process for business. In general, we are a very business friendly place. But we do have some things that limit us that we should address in the future.

    • 4) Continuing to bring all the cultures and groups in the community together. Right now, we have the 4th of July and … the Kite Festival are great examples of where we can see all of the cultures in our community coming together as one. And I’d like to do whatever I can to spur that, or to encourage that participation from all the groups in Livingston.

    • 5) Focus on my experience when it comes to producing budgets, when it comes to making the hard decisions; when dealing with the Unions and Union Negotiations. My district is Teamsters and I have experience when it comes to Union Negotiations and budgets: and just making those hard decisions. All of you up there know there’s going to be hard decisions to make over the next few years as we see ourselves continue to come out of this Economic crisis..and you’re not going to please everyone, be everyone’s fan. And I’m OK with that. I’ve had to experience that and go through that already.

    A NEW CITY MANAGER WAS CHOSEN by the City Council at the 07/21/2015 City Council meeting. But it didn’t take long before questions were raised about his background after The Merced Sun Star reported “he (had) filed for bankruptcy and was charged with a felony about a decade ago.”

    A subsequent article in the Sun Star reported that “the city decided to ask Duque to complete a “live scan,” a digital fingerprinting process that the Livingston Police Department uses for city employees.” 

    At the 08/04/2015 City Council Meeting, Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza made the following announcement:

    Closed Session Announcements. I have, I have, ah, something from the Council to read. At the last City council meeting, we appointed Eddie Duque as City Manager with a starting date of September 30th.

    Subsequent to us appointing Mr. Duque, it was brought up to our attention that he had a misdemeanor conviction in 2002 and he had filed for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in 2004. This information was not in the background check done by the recruitment firm we hired to help us with the City manager recruitment.

    This was all reported in the Merced Sun Star articles. Unfortunately, often times reporters decide not to include all the facts.

    What the news articles did not include was that Mr. Duque went back to court in 2007 to address the misdemeanor conviction. In 2007, the Los Angeles County Superior Court ordered that the finding of the guilt in the 2000 action be set aside and vacated and the plea of Not Guilty be entered.

    The court dismissed the complaint. The court further granted the Petition for Expungement.

    We are doing our Due Diligence and have ordered a Live Scan Background Check to be done by the Police Department. We are currently waiting for results.

    Given the 2000 {should be 2007? TGS} action of the court to Vacate any finding of guilt, for the misdemeanor charge, changing the plea to Not Guilty, and dismissing the claim and ordering it to be expunged, we, ah, are confident that Mr. Duque is qualified for the position and will be an excellent City manager. Thank You."

    LIVINGSTON MISSED WATER REDUCTION GOALS for the Month of June. As Reported in The Merced Sun Star Livingston fell well below its target of 32  percent, the board’s numbers showed. The city has conserved 3 percent…Gurpal Samra, Livingston’s mayor pro tem, said the numbers are skewed, because Foster Farms is the city’s biggest water user. He said the poultry producer uses at least of 65 percent of the city’s total.

    The Goal was 32%. The actual “savings” was 3%.

    Because Foster Farms uses at least 65% of the water produced by Livingston’s wells.

    I’ve asked the Council, more than once, “How are we supposed to meet State Water Reduction Goals when Foster Farms uses most of the water?” and “What will happen if we don’t meet those goals?” The answer I have gotten include vague references to how Industry will have to do it’s part and that Foster Farms is aware of the problem and working on the problem.

    At the 08/19/2015 City Council Meeting, we were told there had been a meeting with the Water Board and that Livingston has applied for a wavier.

    And that the City is continuing to work with Foster Farms. But, no real details on what that means.

    UmbrellasTHE CASE OF “UMBRELLA ENVY?” Before we jump into the Topic At Hand, I want to first point out the little “technical detail” that this discussion took place at a Special City Council Meeting and that “Discussion about City Owned Umbrellas” was not on the Meeting Agenda for that evening. Most of the time, If you want to talk about something that is not listed on the Special Meeting Agenda, you are told to hold your comment until a Regular Meeting.

    HOWEVER……. those of us who have been following the Council over the years, have seen that particular “rule” bent, depending upon who was doing the “commenting”.  

    Umbrellas IIDuring “Citizens Comments”at the June 09, 2015 Special Council Meeting , Planning Commissioner, (and Candidate-for-the-Vacant-Spot-on the Council), Warren Urnberg said he had a question about The Umbrellas.

    After some discussion by the Mayor Pro Tem and the City Attorney and Mayor Espinoza about how they were NOT going to talk about The Umbrella Situation (it being a Special City Council Meeting) Mayor Espinoza decided he was going to talk about it anyway.

    And off the discussion went: about stolen umbrellas and stenciled umbrellas, and stapled umbrellas; which umbrellas were in a “good” place, and which umbrellas were in a “bad place”, (and whose fault that was); and who actually paid for the umbrellas.

    IF YOU CLICK HERE, you can read a Transcrition of the whole thing for yourself.

    My Take…from reading what was said, and between the lines thereof, is this:

    • Before the City Manager left, Wells Fargo donated enough money to buy some Umbrellas and tables, so the Community could have some shaded places to sit in the Down Town

    • According to the Mayor, the money was spent without notifying anyone on the Council.

    • Some of the Umbrellas were put in the City Owned Temporary Park Area where the Court Theater used to be

    Some of the Umbrellas were put on the City Owned lot across the street from Klairs

    • Which is only a few paces from the City Hall Chambers

    • And is also on the same lot a Taco Truck is located (which is renting space from the City)

    • Because the umbrellas are on the same lot as the Taco Truck, some merchants believe the City spent City money buying umbrellas for the Taco Truck and complained to the Mayor about it, because they want umbrellas too

    • Which is the Former City Manager’s fault – Blame him.

    The City Council Approach to Employee Motivation

    AFTER FOUR RECRUITMENT TRIES, and four failures to find a “suitable” person for the Permanent Position of Public Works Director for the City of Livingston, the City Contracted  with Mountain View Environmental Services. Terms of the Contract were for 6 months to 1 year: 4 days a week.

    However, the ink was barely dry on the contract before it was canceled on July 17, 2015. 

    The “New Guy” had only been on the job a few days, and barely finished his first Report in Open Session before the Mayor and Pro-Temp launched into a series of complaints about broken sprinklers and “employee negligence”, at the June 16, 2015 City Council Meeting.

    IF YOU SIFT THROUGH EVERYTHING THAT WAS SAID that night, and throw out all the repetition, the “Complaints” By the Mayor and Pro-Temp could be succinctly distilled into the following:

    • A) All the Parks (and City Hall) look bad because sprinklers don’t work.

    • B) Sprinklers aren’t fixed because employees don’t notice.

    • C) A & B happens every Summer

    • D) It’s all because of Employee Neglect.

    The Response by the Contracted Public Works Director (Who has only been on the job 16 days, more or less) is:

    • A) You’re right. I noticed that too and we’re already getting sprinklers fixed.

    • B) I’ve discussed it with my people, made a few changes, and will continue to work on that over the next week or so.

    • C) It won’t this time

    • D) I already have some plans. We’ll work the plans and I will monitor the results.

    However, Mr. Johnson’s contract was canceled on the 17th of July: only a few “work days” later.

    MY TAKE ON THIS

    Communications Experts will tell you that only a small % of any message is actually contained in the words themselves: most of the “real” message is in the body language and the tone of voice used by the Speaker.

    If you go to the City Website and actually listen to what was being said, and how it was said, you will likely come up with the same conclusion I did: That was not just a simple list of grievances about brown grass: it was a very public “fanny whipping” of Public Works employees. The kind that contains the very real threat of someone (or more than one someone) getting fired.

    The amount of time between the “Council Rant about Brown Grass” and the Cancelation of the contract, doesn’t seem to give enough time to ensure that, not only are all the sprinklers getting fixed: but the grass is getting greener, and Public Works Employees are getting everything else “done” that is on their “to do list”.

    I can’t help but wonder if there is something else at play here. After all, the last Public Works Director in Livingston “disappeared”: after months of telling Council about how repairs and upgrades to the City’s Water Delivery System would not come cheap.

    This one lasted only a few days. Recruitment #5, has been put “on hold”: at least until the New City Manager takes over in Late September.

    In addition, at the 08/19/2015 City Council Meeting, it was confirmed that a “minor adjustment” in Part Time Employees had taken place.

    You can probably guess what that means.

    FOR MORE ON ISSUES AFFECTING LIVINGSTON

    State fell far short of water-saving target; Merced’s use fell 15 percent – By Fenit Nirappil – 05/05/2015 – The Associated Press – Californians conserved little water in March and local officials were not aggressive in cracking down on waste, state regulators reported Tuesday as they considered tough measures to force savings amid a continuing drought.—The State Water Resources Control Board received the update as it considers sweeping mandatory emergency regulations to protect water supplies in the parched state.—Brown has argued that the voluntary targets in place since early 2014 have been insufficient and that Californians need a jolt to take conservation seriously.

    Livingston councilman resigns – 05/06/2015 – By Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – The Livingston City Council accepted the resignation of one of its members Tuesday and set into motion an effort to appoint his replacement before July.—Councilman David Mendoza officially submitted his resignation by email on April 30, interim City Manager Odi Ortiz said during the council meeting this week.—The council directed city staffers to advertise for a replacement during the next 30 days with the intention of doing interviews and picking a replacement by June 29. The replacement would serve out the rest of Mendoza’s term, which ends next year.

    Livingston looks to reduce water use, step up enforcement – 05/08/2015 – By Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – The water restrictions in Livingston will tighten on Monday after a vote by the City Council this week to enact an “urgency” ordinance.—The council unanimously approved the new restrictions and the implementation date with two separate votes of 4-0. Councilman David Mendoza resigned on April 30, so the council has an open seat.—Unlike a typical ordinance, which takes two readings and a 30-day period to become law, an urgency ordinance becomes law immediately.—Under the new rules, residents will now be able to water only two days a week rather than three. The city had no time-of-day restrictions on sprinkling of outdoor plants and grass, but the new ordinance prohibits outdoor watering between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.—The water board on Tuesday began considering new regulations to enhance savings. Modesto, Merced, Oakdale, Ripon and Atwater face the biggest reduction of 36 percent. Riverbank, Turlock and Livingston face 32 percent reductions and Ceres is looking at a 28 percent cut.

    Ex-police officer from Merced County charged with assault – 05/29/2015 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – A former Livingston police sergeant has been accused of felony assault by a public officer for an incident in 2012, when he allegedly shoved a handcuffed man’s face into the ground, the Merced Sun-Star has learned…

    Foster Farms launches organic, antiobiotic-free chicken lines – 06/01/2015 – By John Holland – The Modesto Bee – Foster Farms on Monday announced its first lines of organic and antibiotic-free chicken.–The company said it is now the West’s largest producer of organic chicken, made without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides on feed, and the antibiotic-free version, which avoids the use of drugs that might become resistant to diseases affecting humans.

    Livingston council appoints new member – 06/10/2015 -  Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – The Livingston City Council appointed a new member to the board Tuesday, filling the position left empty in late April by a councilman who resigned. – With a 3-0 vote, the council appointed Alex McCabe, 33, to fill the seat vacated by former Councilman David Mendoza, who resigned after he moved out of the city.

    New Livingston city manager acknowledges domestic violence conviction, bankruptcy – 07/21/2015 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – The Livingston City Council unanimously hired its next city manager Tuesday. A Sun-Star review of public records shows he filed for bankruptcy and was charged with a felony about a decade ago. – It remains unclear exactly what the council members knew about Eddie Duque’s past or what process was used to vet the 20 applications they reviewed for the position.

    Livingston expects first budget surplus in four years – 07/22/2015 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – The Livingston City Council on Tuesday adopted its 2015-16 budget, which reflects its first surplus in four years. – With general fund revenues of $5.18 million and expenditures of $4.86 million, the city projects a surplus of about $320,000. The council approved the budget with a 4-0 vote as Councilman Jim Soria was absent.

    A look at Livingston’s city manager recruitment – 07/23/2015 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – A background check on the new Livingston city manager did not report a criminal charge or bankruptcy filing from a decade ago, city officials said Thursday, opening up questions about the vetting process for a highly paid public employee. – The recruitment process conducted during the past several months was completed by Los Gatos-based William Avery & Associates Inc. The city agreed to pay the firm $16,400, and to cover expenses up to $6,000, according to a copy of the contract.

    Merced County cities miss targets as state water use falls in June – 07/30/2015 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – Livingston fell well below its target of 32 percent, the board’s numbers showed. The city has conserved 3 percent…Gurpal Samra, Livingston’s mayor pro tem, said the numbers are skewed, because Foster Farms is the city’s biggest water user. He said the poultry producer uses at least of 65 percent of the city’s total.

    Honor Flight to get $10,000 donation from Livingston 4th of July group -  08/04/2015 – The Merced Sun Star – The Livingston 4th of July Committee planned to donate $10,000 to the Central Valley Honor Flight during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, a month after having one of its most successful events. – Julio Valadez, committee chairman, said this year’s 4th of July three-day event gathered almost 60,000 people, about 20,000 more than usual. This year’s success, he said, was due in big part to the venue change.

    Merced County officer charged with assault on paid leave – 08/13/2015 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – A Livingston police officer, who has been accused of felony assault by a public officer for an incident in 2012, is on paid administrative leave, the Merced Sun-Star has learned.

    “Broken” Wells, State Mandates, A Contract Public Works Director, A Council Member Resigns, And a Brief Summary of APRIL, 2015

    If the city loses one of its existing wells, Samra said, it would have to implement severe conservation efforts, such as restricting residents from watering their lawns or asking Foster Farms to alter its production   Ramona Giwargis – Merced Sun Star, September 16, 2013 – Livingston gets water project grant amid struggle to pass balanced budget

    On April 3, 2015, Well #14 experienced a sudden and unexpected failure…. At the time that Well #14 failed, Well Nos. 9 and No. 11B were still out of service due to the large quantities of sand they produce. – Excerpted from the Staff Report: Resolution Approving a Memorandum of Understanding with Foster Farms to Repair the Submersible Pump at Well #14 and Making Findings Explaining Why Public Bidding is Not Required for this Project.

    With new measurements showing the state’s mountain snowpack at a record low, officials said California’s drought is entering uncharted territory and certain to extend into a fourth straight year. As a result, Brown issued sweeping new directives to reduce water consumption by state residents, including a mandatory 25 percent cut in urban water use – California governor issues mandatory water cuts as snowpack hits record low – The Merced Sun Star – April 01, 2015

    The issue that we have is that because of the 4th of July Festival, all the streets around the Livingston Pentecost Club’s buildings are completely blocked. We don’t have much access to and from the buildings and its causing us a lot of problems. Eldini DeJesus – President – Portuguese Pentecost Association – May 05, 2015 City Council Meeting. appx 8:20 minutes into the meeting.

    TIMELINE OF SIGNIFICANT EVENTS OF APRIL

    • April 01, 2015: Well #9 & 11B still not operational pending the installation of Sand Separators.

    • April 03: Motor on Well #14 Fails – now 3 wells are offline at the same time.

    • April 07, 2015: Regular City Council Meeting Canceled for lac of Agenda Items.

    • April 14, 2015: Special City Council Meeting – Memorandum of Understanding with Foster Farms for repairs to Well #14.

    • April 14, Planning Commission Meeting

    • April 21, 2015: Regular City Council Meeting.

      • City considers installation of Solar Farm at the Old Industrial WasteWater Treatment Plant.

      • Council approves contract for a Contract Public Works Director

      • Council discusses, but does not adopt an Emergency Drought Declaration

      • Council approves purchase of Body Worn Camera System for the Police Department.

    • April 30, 2015: Council Member David Mendoza submits resignation from the Council 

    LIVINGSTON, CA 06/12/2015

    Livingston 4th of July 2015THE 4TH OF JULY FESTIVAL WILL BE MOVING to the MAX FOSTER SPORTS COMPLEX this year. According to Julio Valedez, the move would place the event entirely on City Property: with more space for Event Activities and Parking. Everyone would be welcome to bring lawn chairs and Umbrella Shades: just like a day out at the beach. There are also plans for a Shuttle to run between Memorial Park and the Sports Complex: for those who cannot or would rather not drive over.

    The move will certainly make some members of the Portuguese Pentecost Association very happy.  At the May 5th City Council Meeting, Association President Eldini DeJesus, accompanied by some committee members and directors went before the City Council: stating that Street Closures on behalf of the July 4th Celebration interfered with the Portuguese Pentecost Celebration and Parade.

    Moving the July 4th Celebration across town should resolve any conflicts between the two events.

    THE REGULAR MEETING for April 07, 2015 was canceled due to lack of agenda items. However, just one week later, at an April 14, 2015 Special City Council Meeting, the Council approved a Resolution Approving a Memorandum of Understanding with Foster Farms to Repair the Submersible Pump at Well #14 and Making Findings Explaining Why Public Bidding is Not Required for this Project.

    Well-Locations-with-Local-Landmarks6

    According to the Staff Report,

    On April 3, 2015, Well #14 experienced a sudden and unexpected failure….  At the time that Well #14 failed, Well Nos. 9 and No. 1lB were still out of service due to the large quantities of sand they produce.

    Foster Farms received the City purchased filters to remove sand from Well Nos. 9 and 11B on March 20, 2015, and they were making arrangements to install them when Well #14 failed. Foster Farms installed the filters on Well Nos. 9 and 1 lB on April 4th and those two wells are now back in operation….Foster Farms wants to restore the water system’s redundancy as soon as possible to avoid any disruptions to their production.

    Foster Farms would like to purchase and install a new submersible pump at Well #14. Foster Farms is the largest water user in the City and benefits from having a reliable supply. Thus, Foster Farms is not asking to be reimbursed for these repairs.

    During the meeting, the City Engineer stated that it was Foster Farms who had approached the City about doing the repairs, and that Foster Farms had already had to shut down because of a well being down.

    Mayor Pro Temp Samra said that this was was Health and Safety Issue. Mayor Espinoza stated a lot of wells in the area were going down because of the drought.

    April 14, 2014

    PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING

    On the Agenda

    • Appointing a new Chair and Vice Chair

    • Substituting Rosenberg’s Rules of Order for Robert’s Rules of Order

    Because Commissioners Mendoza and Castellanos were absent, the Commission decided to postpone the appointment of a permanent Chair and Vice Chair.

    It was reported by the Contract Planner that he was working with Carlos Vierra. Mr. Vierra is interested in moving his  Boxing Studio, currently located at 444 Main Street to a new building to be built at the corner of 2nd & B St.

    APRIL 21, 2015

    REGULAR CITY COUNCIL MEETING

    CLOSED SESSION Items included

    • 1 case of Potential Litigation [(Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(2)]

    • Another Conference with Labor Negotiator regarding All Represented and Non-Represented City Employees

    Regular Meeting

    AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS

    Ceremonial:

    1. Color Guard by Livingston Police Explorer Post 518.

    Invocation by Police Chaplain Mike Outten.

    Introduction and Affirmation of Oath of Office and Re-pinning of Badges for Police Officer Taylor Kollmann and Reserve Police Officer Enrique Villalobos by Police Chief Ruben Chavez.

    2. Presentation by Dennis Mueller (VP/CTO) of American Solar Utility on the following: – Livingston City Energy Assessment status. – Solar project Aggregate Net-Metering options with both PG&E and MID. – Solar project Land Options. – Solar project Power Purchase Agreement – Options between ASU and Livingston. – Energy Efficiency technologies (lighting, etc.) with near and long-term options. – Next steps and schedule.

    In late December, 2014, the City Council gave the approval to do an Energy Audit and to look for possible places to build a Solar Farm.

    During the Presentation, one of the Suggestions was to locate the Solar Farm at the old Industrial WasteWater Treatment Plant site which is being decommissioned by Foster Farms: as the Permitting Process would be easier.

    But there’s a slight hitch…even though Foster Farms brought it’s own Industrial Waste Water Treatment Plant online in December 2010, it may be a while yet before the site of the Old Plant is completely decommissioned and ready for other uses. According to a Clean Up and Abatement Order issued by the Californial Water Board on July 21, 2012 for the Old Industrial Wastewater Treatment Facility: Foster Farms was instructed to

    Pond Remediation Schedule

    According to the Schedule Above, the last of the ponds will not be cleaned up until of the end of 2017. However, Mr. Mueller indicated that he ought to be able to negotiate with Foster Farms and help the process move along just a little bit faster.

    There was also a discussion about whether the City should enter into a Power Purchase Agreement, or buy the System outright: with the City Attorney stating he had experience negotiating Power Purchase Agreements and could evaluate all the City’s Options.

    PUBLIC HEARINGS

    3. Resolution Adopting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Self-Evaluation and Transition Plan. 

    According to the Staff Report, an ADA Self-Evaluation was a requirement of Caltrans. If this Self-Evaluation and Transition Plan was not done, the City “would not be able to request funding authorization on any transportation projects funded by the Federal Highways Administration.

    Deficiencies turned up by this Evaluation would be addressed as funds become available. Although the City does not currently have enough money to correct everything listed in the Engineer’s Report, there may some money coming for these projects at a later date.

    CONSENT CALENDAR

    4. City Council Authorize the Purchase and Installation of Memorial Marker for the Late City of Livingston Planning Commissioner Michael Anthony Silva.

    This item was pulled from the Consent Calendar for a separate discussion. During the discussion, Warren Urnberg, (a current planning commissioner) suggested that instead of a plaque dedicated to just one person, the council commission a plaque that could accommodate the names of those who have served the City over the years: particularly those who have already passed away.

    Mayor Espinoza replied that the Council had taken some heat for naming a street after Karina Lau, and he thought Mr. Silva was deserving of a Memorial Plaque.

    5. City Council Authorization for the Purchase of One New Police Vehicle. 

    A 2014 Ford Explorer Police Vehicle. Funds to come from:

    • 20% Abandoned Vehicle Abatement Program

    • 40% Seizure Funds

    • 40% Community Development Fund

    6. Approval of Warrant Register Dated April 2, 2015.

    7. Approval of Warrant Register Dated April 16, 2015.

    CONSENT CALENDAR – CITY COUNCIL/SUCCESSOR AGENCY

    8. Adoption of Two Resolutions Approving a Four (4) Year Loan Repayment Agreement Between the City of Livingston and the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency. 

    Once upon a time, The General Fund loaned a whole bunch of money to the Livingston Redevelopment Agency with the intent that it would be paid back over time.

    When the State decided to get rid of Redevelopment Agencies, the Livingston Redevelopment Agency still owed the General Fund $700,000. But, eventually, the State said “nope” to the Redevelopment Agency’s transfer of $700,000 to the General Fund and demanded the money be transferred from the General Fund to the Successor Agency.

    The City ended up going to court about it: claiming there had been a valid loan between the General Fund and the Redevelopment Agency. But the Court ruled that Livingston did not have enough valid documentation to prove it really was a loan.

    BUT, because of the City’s financial situation, if it had to cough up $700,000 all in one lump sum, it would put the City in the position of not having enough cash on hand to respond to any emergency that might crop up.

    DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

    9. City Council Direction on Appointment of Parks and Recreation Commission Members. 

    There were no new letters of interest submitted since the last time the Council took up this issue in March. Mayor Pro Temp Samra stated the council was doing everything it could to get people to serve on the Commission. Mayor Espinoza suggested the duties of the Parks and Recreation Commission be assigned to the Planning Commission.

    10. Resolution Establishing Designated Level I Reserve Police Officers. Which would extend “police officer authority” 24/7 allow these Reserve Officers to carry a Concealed Weapon without having to go through the process of obtaining a Concealed Carry Weapons Permit.

    11. Resolution Approving a One (1) Year Professional Services Agreement with Mountain Valley Environmental Services and Authorizing the Interim City Manager to Execute Agreement.

    It has been nearly a year and a half since the City had a Public Works Director. Although the City went out with 4 recruitment tries, According to the Acting City Manager, Odilion Ortiz, Livingston’s location and the salary being offered has made it a challenge to fill the position: candidates that have been interviewed were interested in making a little more than Livingston was offering.

    Per this contract, the City will now have a Contract Public Works Director for 4 days a week for up to 25 hours per week.

    12. Resolution Proclaiming a Local Drought Emergency and Implementing Mandatory Water Use Restrictions and Rescinding Resolution 2014-1.

    The City Attorney recommended continuing this item until the next meeting to allow staff time to finish drafting an Ordinance.

    I asked a question about the State’s Mandate of a 25% reduction in water usage: How could the City as a whole reduce water usage by 25%, when over 60% of Livingston’s Water goes to just one user.

    The reply was that Industry will have to do it’s part. There had been some recent contact with Foster Farms and they are working on the problem.

    13. City Council Authorization for the Purchase and Implementation of a Body Worn Camera System and Replacement of In-Car Video System. 

    Mayor Pro Temp Samra stated that it was a good idea. Mayor Espinoza commented that, with the cameras, citizens know they are being recorded and that there had been calls that someone was harassing them.

    14. Resolution Approving a Deed Restriction for Parcels Designated with Assessor Parcel Numbers 022-050-027, 022-050-008, and 022-050-006 (collectively known as the Joseph Gallo Park) Pursuant to the Requirements of the Roberti-Z’berg-Harris Nonurbanized Area Need-Basis Grant Program for the Joseph Gallo Park Improvements Project. 

    Simply put, this is a promise by the City that it will continue to use the Park as a Park and not sell the Grant Funded Improvements to anyone else for at least 16 years or so

    Joseph Gallo Park Grant 

    ADJOURNMENT

    In my next post, we will continue with brief Summary of What Happened In May, such as:
     

    You might also be interested in the following articles from the Merced Sun Star: Let me know if the links don’t work

    More water restrictions likely in Merced County communities  – BY ROB PARSONS – 04/03/2015 – The Merced Sun Star – Further water restrictions are already in the works for Merced County residents ahead of the order earlier this week from Gov. Jerry Brown to cut back water use in cities and counties by 25 percent.

    Drought expands across large section of nation’s crop region – THE ASSOCIATED PRESS – 04/06/2015 – The Merced Sun  – DES MOINES, IOWA —Drought conditions are expanding across a large section of the U.S., from California to the Great Plains. –The National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska says the area covered by moderate drought or worse expanded by nearly five percentage points to 36.8 percent during March. –The drought monitor shows dry conditions broadened in the Midwest with 22 percent of the U.S. corn production area and 18 percent of the soybean area in some degree of drought. That’s up sharply from early March when just 6 percent of the corn growing area and 5 percent of the soybean region were in drought conditions. –Dryness worsened during March in Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. –Two-thirds of California is in extreme to exceptional drought.

    Livingston Kite Festival Photo Gallary – The Merced Sun Star

    High-flying fun in Livingston – 04/17/2015 – The Merced Sun Star – Livingston’s fourth annual Kite Festival was another big hit with families, with more than 5,000 kite enthusiasts and their supporters coming from as far away as Sacramento and the Bay Area, according to event organizers….  The family-friendly, free event was hosted by the Knights of Columbus at Livingston Middle School. The Kite Festival kicked off the Week of the Young Child, a nationwide observance meant to bring attention to the development of children and the needs of their families that ends today.

    Livingston council considers new water rules, approves police body cameras – 04/22/2015 – By Ramona Giwargis – The Merced Sun Star –Livingston has trimmed its water consumption by 18 percent compared to 2013, but city leaders are considering scaling back even further.—The City Council on Tuesday considered a resolution that would reduce outdoor watering from three days per week to two, ban washing cars and prohibit irrigating outdoors within 48 hours of a storm.—It would also restrict excessive water runoff onto the pavement or sidewalks and require property owners to fix water leaks.—The council did not pass the resolution Tuesday, instead voting 3-0 to bring it back with a few changes. Councilmen Arturo Sicairos and David Mendoza were absent Tuesday.

    A Game of Chicken – USDA REPEATEDLY BLINKED WHEN FACING SALMONELLA OUTBREAKS INVOLVING FOSTER FARMS – Story by LYNNE TERRY  – Oregonlive.com – 05/01/2015 – Over the course of a decade, hundreds of people from Eugene to Baker City to Portland and Seattle were struck by bouts of food poisoning so severe they fled to their doctors or emergency rooms for treatment. – They had no idea what made them sick. But federal regulators did. – Oregon and Washington public health officials repeatedly told the U.S. Department of Agriculture they had linked salmonella outbreaks in 2004, 2009 and 2012 to Foster Farms chicken.

    Mendoza expected to resign from Livingston City Council – By Rob Parsons– 05/04/2015 – David Mendoza is expected to resign Tuesday from the Livingston City Council, according to the council’s agenda posted Monday….(Council Member) Samra … said he would be willing to consider the possibility of allowing Mendoza to step away from the council temporarily with the idea that he would return at a later date….Mendoza was elected to the council in 2012, along with Councilmen Jim Soria and Arturo Sicairos. 

    You can find even more Livingston History if you CLICK HERE

    •  

    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.

    Trash Cans and Smoke Shops; Resignations and Recruitments; Speed Bumps and Sand in the Water: A Brief Summary of January, 2015

    Livingston, California 2/21/2015

    The thought was if you’re going through it for recyclables, a penalty of $25 is going to mean a lot to that person. It’s going to be quite a bit of money. City Attorney, City of Livingston, January 06, 2015 City Council Meeting: appx. 32:27,

    This is kinda dumb. We will have police doing garbage duty. City Council Member David Mendoza, January o6, City Council Meeting. appx. 37:40

    Passing this ordinance does not automatically allow a Smoke Shop to come in. There still has to be a CUP. City Attorney, City of Livingston, City Council Meeting, January 06, 2015 City Council Meeting: appx. 54:47 

    A Conditional Use permit can be appealed to the Council and we can dictate some of the items there. Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza, January 06, City Council Meeting. appx. 1:08:07

    The following contains a brief summary of a few things that happened in the City of Livingston during the month of January, 2015, Council Agendas for the month of January, and a few links to relevant Sun Star Articles.

    Livingston’s police officers and their supervisors started the new year with a 5 percent pay cut; the Resignation of City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez became final; the City Council called for the Resignation of the Planning Commission’s Chairman, appointed Odilion Ortiz as Interim City Manager, adopted an Ordinance prohibiting trash scavenging and imposing fines, adopted an Ordinance regulating Smoke Shops and Smoking Lounges, discussed speed bumps, approved emergency repairs to Wells 9 and 11, approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Public Works and Parks Employees Unit, and talked about how hard it seems to be to recruit members for the Recreation Comission.

    The RESIGNATION OF CITY MANAGER Jose Antonio Ramirez became final at the end of January. During the January 06th and 20th City Council meeting, he presented a List of Items the City Council would need to address some time in the future:

    • Amending the Watering Ordinance

    • The Repairs needed to be done to the City’s Water Storage Tank

    • Planning Fees Increases

    • Well Deconstruction Fees. The City will have to start issuing Well Deconstruction Permits.

    • Master Plans for Sewer, Water, and Storm Drains need to be updated

    • The 4th of July Committee would like to come under the umbrella of the City

    • Sunvalley Estates and Well #17  improvements

    • Devante Villas project: haven’t heard from them in a while. But sure they will be coming back

    • Kera (?) Fernandez Reimbursement issue: Staff is working with legal council on this issue

    • AB1600 Draft: Final draft is ready. Staff is working with legal council to move foreword with the adoption.

    • Tree Grant: the city still has trees to plant

    • Winton Parkway Development: Mr. Javier Galvan is very interested in moving that project forward with his partners. He mentioned he had a letter from the City from some years ago promising funding for the Winton Parkway street.

    • New WCIII Proposed Fees Schedule as part of the Building Services Department

    • Pipeline from Well #14 to Well #8 currently being designed and going out to bid in early spring.

    • Well #17 CBDG Grant Project.

    • Well #13 Project Design complete and going out to bid in February. (California Department of Public Health Grant)

    • Well #15 Project should either be a grant or a 0% loan

    • Groundwater Levels have dropped and monitoring needs to continue. 35 to 40 foot drop last year. Levels have risen about a foot this year.

    • Self Monitoring for ADA Requirements. As the City has been replacing curbs, gutters, and sidewalks, issues are being addressed.

    • Community Facility District Formation in the Winton Parkway area. Once the Gallo Subdivision takes place, make sure that goes forward. 

    • National Endowment for the Arts Grant has been applied for, in conjunction with the Merced Arts Council: Start a Mural Project in the Down Town, beginning with the City Owned Building next to the Council Chambers.

    • Tax Sharing Agreement with the County has yet to be finalized.

    • Cal Trans Campbell Project Properties: They are trying to come up with the cost of those odd shaped properties so they can tell the City what they want for them.

    • Health Insurance: There had only been 1 response to the Request for Proposals. Council might want to extend the request period.

    The City Council Members called for the RESIGNATION OF PLANNING COMMISION Chair Luis Flores on the grounds that his position as Livingston Unified School Board Member was “incompatible” with membership in the Planning Commission. (I must admit, I’m scratching my head a bit on this one. It’s OK to be a member of the Real Estate Profession and be on the Planning Commission. But it’s not OK to be on the School Board and be on the Planning Commission.)

    An ANTI-TRASH SCAVENGING ORDINANCE was adopted. The possible fines for those caught digging through other people’s trash would be as follows. First offense: warning. Second offense: $25. Third offense: $50. When asked who would be responsible for issuing Warnings and Citations, the reply was it would be the responsibility of the Police Department to issue citations . (After responding to a phone call from a resident complaining about scavengers)

    An ORDINANCE was adopted which allowed SMOKE SHOPS in the Industrial Areas of town; and also in the Downtown Commercial Area with a Conditional Use Permit. During the Council’s discussion, the City Attorney stated that passing this ordinance does not automatically allow a Smokeshop to come in – there would still need to be a CUP and Mayor Espinoza made the point that any CUP granted could be appealed to the City Council. (I’m having a serious case of deja vu here)

    Ruby and Emerald streetsWhether or not SPEEDBUMPS were needed in parts of the City was discussed. The Mayor stated he had been getting complaints about speeding vehicles by residents by Ruby and Emerald Streets. Discussion included:

    • What triggers the need for a speed bump

    • What impact would speed bumps have on emergency vehicles.

    • What kinds of speed bumps should be considered.

    • How much do they cost?

    • And perhaps there should be a Speed Survey before going ahead and installing speed bumps.

    The City of Livingston and the AFSCME Public Works and Parks Employees Unit, came to a tentative agreement to a one (l) year Memorandum of Understanding, covering the period July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015 consisting of one (l) furlough per month, freezing 20 hours of vacation cash­ outs effective July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015 and $75 per month towards medical insurance premiums.

    For more details about topics discussed during the January, 2015 City Council Meetings, see below.

    JANUARY 06, 2015

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    CITY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING AGENDA

    JANUARY 6, 2015

    CLOSED SESSION: 6:00 P.M.

    OPEN SESSION: 7:00 P.M.

    Notice is hereby given that the City Council will hold a Regular Meeting on January 6, 2015, at the City Council Chambers, 1416 C Street, Livingston, California. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should contact the Deputy City Clerk at least 24 hours prior to this meeting at (209) 394-8041, Ext. 121. Any writings or documents pertaining to an Open Session item provided to a majority of the members of the legislative body less than 72 hours prior to the meeting shall be made available for public inspection at Livingston City Hall, 1416 C Street. The Open Session will begin at 7:00 p.m. The Closed Session will be held in accordance with state law prior to the Open Session beginning at 6:00 p.m. The Closed Session will be held at the City Council Chambers located at 1416 C Street. The agenda shall be as follows:

    Closed Session

    1. Call to Order.

    2. Roll Call.

    CLOSED SESSION

    A “Closed” or “Executive” Session of the City Council or the Livingston Redevelopment Agency may be held in accordance with state law which may include, but is not limited to, the following types of items: personnel matters, labor negotiations, security matters, providing instructions to real property negotiators, conference with legal counsel regarding pending litigation. The Closed Session will be held in the City Council Chambers located at 1416 C Street, Livingston, California. Any public comment on Closed Session items will be taken before the Closed Session. Any required announcements or discussion of Closed Session items or actions following the Closed Session will be made in the City Council Chambers, 1416 C Street, Livingston, California.

    1. Public Employee Appointment

    (Government Code Section 54957)

    Title: Interim City Manager

    2. Public Employee Appointment

    (Government Code Section 54957)

    Title: City Manager

    City Manager Recruitment

    3. Conference with Real Property Negotiator

    (Government Code Section 54956.8)

    Property: APN: 024-011-016, Olive Avenue

    APN: 023-100-049, Burgundy Drive

    Negotiating Party: City Manager

    4. Conference with Labor Negotiator

    (Government Code Section 54957.6)

    Labor Negotiator: City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez

    Employee Organizations: All Represented City Employees

    Regular Meeting

    CALL TO ORDER Next Resolution Number: 2015-1

    Next Ordinance Number: 621

    Pledge of Allegiance.

    Roll Call.

    Changes to the Agenda.

    ANNOUNCEMENTS AND REPORTS

    Supervisor John Pedrozo Announcements and Reports.

    City Staff Announcements and Reports.

    City Manager Announcements and Reports.

    City Council Members’ Announcements and Reports.

    Mayor’s Announcements and Reports.

    PUBLIC HEARINGS

    1. Introduce and Waive the First Reading of an Ordinance Amending the City’s Municipal Code by Adding Chapter 8-8 Prohibiting Unauthorized Entry into Waste Containers.

    2. Introduce and Waive the First Reading of Ordinance No.___ of the City Council of the City of Livingston Amending Livingston Municipal Code (LMC) Title 5, Zoning Regulations: Sections 5-2-3, 5-2-4, 5-3-15, Tables 3 and 4, and the Addition of Section 5-5-13 under Specific Use Regulations.

    CITIZEN COMMENTS

    This section of the agenda allows members of the public to address the City Council on any item NOT otherwise on the agenda. Members of the public, when recognized by the Mayor, should come forward to the lectern, and identify themselves. Comments are normally limited to three (3) minutes. In accordance with State Open Meeting Laws, no action will be taken by the City Council this evening. For items which are on the agenda this evening members of the public will be provided an opportunity to address the City Council as each item is brought up for discussion.

    CONSENT CALENDAR

    Items on the Consent Calendar are considered routine or non-controversial and will be enacted by one vote, unless separate action is requested by the City Manager or City Council Member. There will be no separate discussion of these items unless members of the City Council or City Manager request that specific items be removed.

    3. Approval of Minutes of Meeting Held on November 13, 2014.

    4. Approval of Minutes of Meeting Held on December 2, 2014.

    5. Approval of Warrant Register Dated December 30, 2014.

    DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

    6. Discussion – Installation of Speed Bumps Throughout the City and Related Costs.

    ADJOURNMENT

    JANUARY 20, 2015

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    CITY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING AGENDA

    JANUARY 20, 2015

    CLOSED SESSION: 5:45 P.M.

    OPEN SESSION: 7:00 P.M.

    Notice is hereby given that the City Council will hold a Regular Meeting on January 20, 2015, at the City Council Chambers, 1416 C Street, Livingston, California. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should contact the Deputy City Clerk at least 24 hours prior to this meeting at (209) 394-8041, Ext. 121. Any writings or documents pertaining to an Open Session item provided to a majority of the members of the legislative body less than 72 hours prior to the meeting shall be made available for public inspection at Livingston City Hall, 1416 C Street. The Open Session will begin at 7:00 p.m. The Closed Session will be held in accordance with state law prior to the Open Session beginning at 5:45 p.m. The Closed Session will be held at the City Council Chambers located at 1416 C Street. The agenda shall be as follows:

    Closed Session

    1. Call to Order.

    2. Roll Call.

    CLOSED SESSION

    A “Closed” or “Executive” Session of the City Council or the Livingston Redevelopment Agency may be held in accordance with state law which may include, but is not limited to, the following types of items: personnel matters, labor negotiations, security matters, providing instructions to real property negotiators, conference with legal counsel regarding pending litigation. The Closed Session will be held in the City Council Chambers located at 1416 C Street, Livingston, California. Any public comment on Closed Session items will be taken before the Closed Session. Any required announcements or discussion of Closed Session items or actions following the Closed Session will be made in the City Council Chambers, 1416 C Street, Livingston, California.

    3. Public Employee Appointment

    (Government Code Section 54957)

    Title: Interim City Manager

    4. Public Employee Appointment

    (Government Code Section 54957)

    Title: City Manager

    City Manager Recruitment

    5. Conference with Labor Negotiator

    (Government Code Section 54957.6)

    Labor Negotiator: City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez

    Employee Organizations: All Unrepresented City Employees

    6. Conference with Labor Negotiator

    (Government Code Section 54957.6)

    Labor Negotiators: City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez and City Attorney Jose M. Sanchez

    Employee Organizations: All Represented City Employees

    7. Conference with Legal Counsel – Potential Litigation

    (Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(2))

    Number of Cases: 1

    Regular Meeting

    CALL TO ORDER Next Resolution Number: 2015-1

    Next Ordinance Number: 623

    Pledge of Allegiance.

    Roll Call.

    Changes to the Agenda.

    AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS

    1. Introduction and Swearing-in of new Police Dispatcher Veronica Bates by Chief Ruben Chavez and City Clerk Tony Silva.

    2. Presentation of a plaque by Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza to out-going City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez in recognition and appreciation for his service, dedication and accomplishments to the City of Livingston.

    ANNOUNCEMENTS AND REPORTS

    Supervisor John Pedrozo Announcements and Reports.

    City Staff Announcements and Reports.

    City Manager Announcements and Reports.

    City Council Members’ Announcements and Reports.

    Mayor’s Announcements and Reports.

    CITIZEN COMMENTS

    This section of the agenda allows members of the public to address the City Council on any item NOT otherwise on the agenda. Members of the public, when recognized by the Mayor, should come forward to the lectern, and identify themselves. Comments are normally limited to three (3) minutes. In accordance with State Open Meeting Laws, no action will be taken by the City Council this evening. For items which are on the agenda this evening members of the public will be provided an opportunity to address the City Council as each item is brought up for discussion.

    CONSENT CALENDAR

    Items on the Consent Calendar are considered routine or non-controversial and will be enacted by one vote, unless separate action is requested by the City Manager or City Council Member. There will be no separate discussion of these items unless members of the City Council or City Manager request that specific items be removed.

    3. Waive the Second Reading and Adopt Ordinance No. 621, Amending the City’s Municipal Code by Adding Chapter 8-8 Prohibiting Unauthorized Entry into Waste Containers.

    4. Waive the Second Reading and Adopt Ordinance No. 622, of the City Council of the City of Livingston Amending Livingston Municipal Code (LMC) Title 5, Zoning Regulations: Sections 5-2-3, 5-2-4, 5-3-15, Tables 3 and 4, and the Addition of Section 5-5-13 under Specific Use Regulations.

    5. Resolution Approving a One (1) Year Memorandum of Understanding Between the City of Livingston and the AFSCME Public Works and Parks Employees Unit.

    6. Approval of Warrant Register Dated January 15, 2015.

    DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

    7. City Council Direction on Appointment of Parks and Recreation Commission Members.

    8. City Council Accept and Authorize Sweeper Truck Repairs Quote from Ry-Den Truck Center, Inc.

    9. Approve a Supply Capacity of 2,000 gpm for Well No. 17.

    10. Approve a Purchase of Sand Filtration Equipment for Wells No. 9 and 11B.

    11. Discussion and Possible Action – Potential Incompatibility of Offices by Planning Commissioner Serving as Both a City Planning Commissioner and a Livingston Union School District Board Member.

    ADJOURNMENT

    And for even more of January’s goings on in the City of Livingston, you can go to the following Sun Star Articles.

    Livingston considers banning trash scavengers – People rummaging through trash every night is a rude awakening to some residents, and now Livingston city leaders are now considering a law to ban people from digging through trash for recyclables and other materials.

    Livingston council OKs trash scavenger ban and smoke shops – Despite one council member calling it “dumb” and “ridiculous,” an ordinance that penalizes people for rummaging through other people’s trash is one step closer to becoming law

    New AutoZone opens in Livingston, fuels city’s future growth plans – The city’s motto may be “The Last Stop,” but city leaders are pushing to make Livingston the first stop for business growth, starting with a new AutoZone store that opened its doors this week

    Livingston planning commissioner might be removed; officials cite conflict of interest The Livingston City Council on Tuesday discussed ousting a planning commissioner because of a potential conflict of interest with his elected seat on the city’s school board

    Sikh bonfire festival in Livingston marks end of winter

    Bird flu found at Foster Farms turkey ranch in California – THE ASSOCIATED PRESS – 01/25/2015 – The Merced Sun Star – Hundreds of turkeys at a Central California ranch are being killed to prevent the spread of a type of avian flu that is not a threat to people but can decimate poultry flocks

    Arsenic, TCP and Salmonella; Lawsuits and Politics; A Look Back at 2014 and A City Council Agenda

    LIVINGSTON CALIFORNIA – 2/01/2015

    A Livingston public works employees union recently questioned the mayor’s friendly relationship with Mendoza, in addition to accusing Mendoza of harassment.– Espinoza, however, said his friendship with Mendoza had nothing to do with him getting invited to China. “We’ve been friends, and we talk once in a while, but that didn’t play a part,” the mayor said. from Livingston council questioned over China trip – Ramona – Merced Sun Star – 12/03/2014

    “There is an urgent need to have Well 16 back on-line in the near future to meet the City’s water demands that will likely increase in the Spring and Summer.” From STAFF REPORT -  Resolution Approving an Agreement with Shannon Pump for Sampling and Repairs to Well 16, Making Findings Supporting that Award of Such Agreement is Exempt from Competitive Bidding Requirements and Authorizing the City Manager to Execute the Agreement. MEETING DATE: February 18, 2014

    Approximately 18,267 sq. ft of land is needed to locate the treatment facilities at the existing Well No. 8. The adjacent property (APN 024-020-023 and 029) is owned by Foster Farms.  From  STAFF REPORT  AGENDA ITEM: Resolution Authorizing the Purchase of Land Needed for the Installation of Water Treatment Facilities at the City Water Supply Well No. 8, Approval of the Appraisal Report Prepared by The Thomas Wilkins Company, and Authorizing the City Manager to Execute the Agreement with Foster Farms for the Purchase of the Land.  MEETING DATE: May 21, 2013

    One of the city’s largest water wells previously plagued by a major contaminant now runs with a new filtration system, city officials announced this week…….The upgraded well, located on Livingston Cressey Road, near the Foster Farms plant, was chosen because water drawn from it contains high levels of TCP contamination, said Livingston Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra…. The well pumps 1,200 gallons of water per minute to the city, with the majority used by Foster Farms. Livingston water well receives $2.3 million filter system – Ramona Giwargis – The Merced Sun Star – 12/30/2014

    Without Livingston, there is no Foster Farms, and without Foster Farms, there is no Livingston. Those were the words of Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra as he explained the company’s impact on the city. Samra joined Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza and Councilman Arturo Sicairos in presenting Foster Farms CEO Ron Foster with a commemorative key to the city Tuesday night. From Livingston city officials present Foster Farms with key to city – Ramona Giwargis – Modesto Bee -07/16/2014

    This is not an all inclusive discussion of everything that happened in Livingston during 2014. It is only a brief look at what I consider some of the more significant historical and political happenings in the City of Livingston.

    preparing-to-take-down-the-marqueeCOURT THEATER IS DEMOLISHED – Another sad chapter in Livingston’s History has ended with the destruction of the Court Theater.  In 2001, the City had purchased the Court Theater with the high hopes of restoring the Theater and transforming it into a Cultural Arts Center . In 2005, the City received a Community Development Block Grant: which it used to complete Architectural Drawings in 2008.

    But between trouble getting enough additional financing, accusations in 2010 that Police and Fire Department budgets were cut to finance the project, and the deterioration of the relationship between City Council Members, the Court Theater Committee in 2011, it became pretty clear the Court Theater Project was doomed.

    The City was able to salvage some of the Grant Money it had received by getting permission from the State to use these funds for improvements at Gallo Park.

    The City also made attempts to save the Theater’s Marquee, Ticket Booth, and Sign.

    WITHOUT LIVINGSTON, THERE IS NO FOSTER FARMS, AND WITHOUT FOSTER, THERE IS NO LIVINGSTON – In a previous post, I talked about the Symbiotic and Sometimes Dysfunctional Relationship between Foster Farms and the City of Livingston. Since Foster Farms is the largest consumer of water in Livingston: using at up to 66% of the water produced from Livingston’s wells, it can’t help but have a large influence on the size and condition of Livingston’s Water Delivery System.

    Most of you remember that 2013 ended with Foster Farms coming under intense scrutiny due to an outbreak of antibiotic resistant Salmonella. This continued into 2014 as Livingston braced for fallout from an idled Foster Farms .  Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro reacted to the closing of the plant due to roaches as “long overdue.”: pushing for action against the company. Three days after federal inspectors shut it down Foster Farms got the OK to reopen plant only to shut it down again a day after reopening in order to expand safety procedures.

    As the number sickened by salmonella outbreak rose to 430, according to government reports Foster Farms reopened the plant after a 10-day closure. And while Salmonella cases continued to grow, Foster Farms noted progress with it’s safety and prevention efforts

    By April salmonella cases linked to Foster Farms, were reported to have grown to 524 people in 25 states and Puerto Rico.

    May 2014 brought a couple of interesting developments. In Virginia, Foster Farms, in conjunction with Marketing & Planning Specialists LP, filed a federal lawsuit claiming the EPA improperly applied the Clean Water Act on land they wish to develop. In California, Foster Farms blamed and sued its exterminator for cockroaches.

    The Months of June saw Foster Farms celebrating its 75th anniversary.  Meanwhile, in Congress, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill called the Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act: which would require the USDA to recall meat, poultry and egg products contaminated by pathogens that cause serious illnesses or death and that are also resistant to two or more classes of antibiotics commonly used to treat human illnesses

    In July, Foster Farms received the Key To The City of Livingston from Livingston’s Officials;  issued its first voluntary chicken recall since 2013 salmonella outbreak ; updated the recall to include additional "use or freeze by" and "best by" dates; and sued its insurance companies for recall reimbursement in ‘cockroach infestation’ “arguing that the forced closure of a plant earlier this year by the government and subsequent destruction of chicken amounted to a recall”.

    By July 31, The Center for Disease Control said the salmonella outbreak appeared to be over. In September Foster Farms recalled chicken from Louisiana due to possible contamination by Listeria.

    In October Ron Foster announced he would step down as Foster Farms President and CEO.

    In November, a billboard scrutinizing Foster Farms was set up: an indication that Foster Farms still has a ways to go before things settle down to “business as usual.”

    WITHOUT LIVINGSTON’S WATER, WHAT WOULD BECOME OF FOSTER FARMS?

    Impact on Foster Farms

    Without the “low cost” water coming from Livingston’s wells, there would be no Foster Farms as we know it today. I’ve already mentioned the Symbiotic and Sometimes Dysfunctional Relationship between Foster Farms and the City of Livingston and how Foster Farms is the largest consumer of Livingston’s water.

    In 2014, The City of Livingston purchased land from Foster Farms, in order to have enough room to install a TCP Filtration system on a well that sends most of it’s water to Foster Farms. 

    I have also noted that, in the long run, Foster Farms would need to address an issue much larger than cockroaches and salmonella: that of having enough water that meets State and Federal Drinking Water Standards.

    It is no secret, to those who have been paying attention, that Livingston’s Water Delivery system has been degrading over time. Arsenic levels have been rising and Foster Farms had to shut down at least 1 shift in February 2013 due to problems with water quality

    In December, 2013, California River Watch served the City of Livingston with a 60-Day Notice of Violations and Intent to File Suit alleging various violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. This was followed up with a Complaint against the City in the United States District Court, Eastern District of California, Case No. 1:14-CV-00437-AWI-MJS. In June 12, 2014, this was followed by a 90-Day Notice of Violations and Intent to File Suit alleging various violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. 

    A Settlement Agreement and Release was signed in September 2014. Some of the agreed upon actions to be taken by the City include:

    • Well 13Install and operate wellhead treatment for Arsenic at Well No. 13 no later than June 1, 2016.

    • Continue monitoring for Arsenic at Well No. 13 consistent with federal Safe Drinking Water Act and California Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.

    • Well 8-9(b) Install and operate wellhead treatment for 1,2,3 Trichloropropane (“TCP”) at Well No. 8 no later than January 1, 2015.

    • Within six (6) months after the Effective Date of the Agreement, post on its website information regarding the City’s efforts to address TCP in drinking water.

    • on a semi-annual basis, provide inserts in its utility bills that provide information on efforts to address TCP.

    • update its website and the utility bill inserts, as needed, to reflect current
      information.

    In January, Governor Brown had declared a drought emergency, and urged residents to reduce water consumption by 20 percent

    Shortly thereafter, the Livingston City Council voted to ban outside watering on certain days of the week. “City leaders said the plan has been in the works the past few years, but was given a new sense of urgency after the governor declared a drought on Friday.”

    Well 16In February, the Livingston council approved an urgent contract for repairs at Well #16 

    In April, the City Council voted to begin the Proposition 218 Process for Water rate increase. Notices about Livingston rate increases went out the following Friday .  Meetings were held at which the new Rate Structure was discussed

    In June the Livingston council approved utility rate increases and also approved a contract for emergency repairs to a damaged main pipe at the wastewater treatment plant . It should be noted that the Water Rate Increases adopted by the City of Livingston assume that Grants and Low/No Interest Loans from the State Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund will fund the majority of Repairs/Upgrades to Livingston’s Wells and Water Delivery System over the next 5 years: any loans to be paid back over the next 20 to 30 years.

    In September, the City received a Notice of Violation from the Water Board regarding the Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant for not meeting certain testing and reporting requirements.

    Well 8-9Well 11 - 15In November, there was discussion about wells #11 and #9 having been taken offline because of sand causing problems with Foster Farms: overwhelming their filters.

    By the end of December, the TCP Filtration System on Well #8 was up and running; and the City Council approved the purchase of Arsenic Filtration equipment to be eventually installed on Well #13. As I mentioned earlier, installing filtration on both of these wells was covered in the Settlement Agreement between the City of Livingston and California River Watch.

    BUDGETS,  CONCESSIONS, AND DEFICITS

    Although the 2013/2014 Fiscal Year began back in JULY 2013, the Budget for that year wasn’t adopted until March 2014. This budget included salary reductions and other concessions from employees

    The 2014/2015 Fiscal Year was barely over in June before the Budget for the Next Year Fiscal year was predicted to be $146,000 in the hole. Employees were again asked for a 7 percent pay cut: which was rejected.

    In JULY a Memorandum of Understanding and a Side Letter Concessions Agreement between the City of Livingston and the City of Livingston Management and Confidential Employees Association was adopted. Terms included:

    • One furlough day per month

    • 1% pay decrease effective July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015

    • $100 per month medical contribution per member

    • freezing 40 hours of vacation cash outs.

    In August, the City Council adopted a budget which included a deficit of $44,000. The Council also considered the topic of planning fee increases. The leader of the Public Works Employees union expressed frustration over the way labor negotiations were being handled

    A Resolution Approving a Successor Memorandum of Understanding Between the City of Livingston and the Livingston Police Officers’ Association (LPOA) OE3 Unit for the Period of January 1, 2015 through June 30, 2015 was approved in December of 2014.

    A Memorandum of Understanding for the AFSCME Public Works and Parks Employees Unit for the period July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015 was not approved until January 2015 and included one (l) furlough per month, freezing 20 hours of vacation cash­ outs effective July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015 and contributions of $75 per month towards medical insurance premiums.

    MAYOR’S TERMS, “POLITICS”, FIREWORKS, AND “FAVORITISM”

    IN JANUARY, the Livingston City Council approved a ballot measure which would EXTEND THE MAYOR’S TERM of office from two years to four: in order to maintain “institutional knowledge” on the council according to Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra, who had placed this item on the Agenda.

    A previous ballot measure in 2006, Measure C, had asked Livingston voters if they wanted their mayors to have a two year or a four-year term. By about 66 of the vote, the term for mayor was limited to two-years. In 2006, voters said “no” to a 4-year term for mayor. Voters said “no” again in 2014. Voters said “no” again in 2014

    IN JANUARY, The Council also discussed changing the way Fireworks Booth Permits were distributed by the city. Directions given to Staff was to include language in an Ordinance that would allow the City Council the ability to award the “COUNCIL’S CHOICE” to the Livingston Youth Football Organization for (2) CONSECUTIVE YEARS.  According to Youth Football Coach and City Council member Jim Soria, he had placed the Item on the January 21, City Council Agenda. According to Council Member Soria, the recent death of Mike Coronado created a Special Circumstance which justified giving Youth Football priority other non-profit organizations.

    There was another discussion of the proposed Ordinance on February 18, and March 04: along with a fair share of criticism, replete with allegations of favoritism.

    The actual Issuance of Permits to Sell Safe and Sane Fireworks took place on April 15th. Although Mayor Pro-Tem Samra made a motion to put all applications in a lottery,  Council Member Jim Soria’s “push to award a fireworks stand to a nonprofit for which he volunteers proved successful” by a 2-1 vote.

    Allegations of “favoritism” was not limited out to just the handing out of Fireworks Booth Permits.  One of Livingston’s unions alleged acts  sexual harassment were committed by the City’s Public Works Supervisor.   “the union began receiving numerous complaints about his leadership, leading to a vote of no confidence signed by 11 employees in May” in addition to (allegations that) “Mendoza has an inappropriate relationship with Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza, allowing the mayor to have preferential treatment on projects related to his property.”

    And although Mayor Espinoza claimed favoritism was not a factor when he picked who would travel with him to China , it couldn’t prevent questions from being raised. Public Works Supervisor Ruben Mendoza also went on the trip: in addition to Council Member Jim Soria, and City Manager Jose Ramirez. According to the Mayor Espinoza “I got invited through a friend and former mayor of Lathrop,” and was asked to invite 10 other people.

    2014 WAS AN ELECTION YEAR with two seats “up for grabs” on the City Council, and also had it’s fair share of controversy.  A photograph circulated by Mayor Pro-Temp Gurpal Samra elicited claims of “dirty politics” and slander by by his opponent: Planning Commissioner Mario Mendoza. 

    THE CITY MANAGER ANNOUNCED HIS INTENTION TO RESIGN during a Special City Council Meeting in DECEMBER. According to the City Attorney, the Report out of Closed Session, as stated by the City Attorney, was as follows:

    Tonight in Closed Session, the City Manager informed the City Council that he is resigning from his employment with the City.  Mr. Ramirez has elected to resign to pursue personal and professional opportunities outside of the region.

    The City Council on a vote of 4-0-1 (Council Member Mendoza was not present) has accepted the City Manager’s resignation and has agreed to waive the 60 days’ notice provision in the City Manager’s contract. 

    The City Manager’s last day of employment with the City will be January 31st

    Mr. Ramirez has expressed his willingness to continue to assist the City with current projects and to assist in the City’s transition to a new City Manager.  The City will be working with Mr. Ramirez to accomplish this

    And now, on to the

    CITY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING AGENDA

    FEBRUARY 3, 2015

    CLOSED SESSION: 6:00 P.M.

    OPEN SESSION: 7:00 P.M.

    Notice is hereby given that the City Council will hold a Regular Meeting on February 3, 2015, at the City Council Chambers, 1416 C Street, Livingston, California. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should contact the Deputy City Clerk at least 24 hours prior to this meeting at (209) 394-8041, Ext. 121. Any writings or documents pertaining to an Open Session item provided to a majority of the members of the legislative body less than 72 hours prior to the meeting shall be made available for public inspection at Livingston City Hall, 1416 C Street. The Open Session will begin at 7:00 p.m. The Closed Session will be held in accordance with state law prior to the Open Session beginning at 6:00 p.m. The Closed Session will be held at the City Council Chambers located at 1416 C Street. The agenda shall be as follows:

    Closed Session

    1. Call to Order.

    2. Roll Call.

    CLOSED SESSION

    A “Closed” or “Executive” Session of the City Council or the Livingston Redevelopment Agency may be held in accordance with state law which may include, but is not limited to, the following types of items: personnel matters, labor negotiations, security matters, providing instructions to real property negotiators, conference with legal counsel regarding pending litigation. The Closed Session will be held in the City Council Chambers located at 1416 C Street, Livingston, California. Any public comment on Closed Session items will be taken before the Closed Session. Any required announcements or discussion of Closed Session items or actions following the Closed Session will be made in the City Council Chambers, 1416 C Street, Livingston, California.

    3. Conference with Legal Counsel – Potential Litigation

    ((Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(2))

    Number of Cases: 2

    4. Public Employee Appointment

    (Government Code Section 54957)

    Title: City Manager

    City Manager Recruitment

    5. Conference with Labor Negotiator(Government Code Section 54957.6)

    Labor Negotiator: Interim City Manager Odi Ortiz Employee Organizations: All Represented City Employees

    Regular Meeting

    CALL TO ORDER Next Resolution Number: 2015-3

    Next Ordinance Number: 623

    Pledge of Allegiance.

    Roll Call.

    Changes to the Agenda.

    AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS

    1. Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza – Presentation of Key to the City plaques to members of Grupo Musical Los Kinos for their continuous contributions to the Livingston community.

    ANNOUNCEMENTS AND REPORTS

    Supervisor John Pedrozo Announcements and Reports.

    City Staff Announcements and Reports.

    City Manager Announcements and Reports.

    City Council Members’ Announcements and Reports.

    Mayor’s Announcements and Reports.

    CITIZEN COMMENTS

    This section of the agenda allows members of the public to address the City Council on any item NOT otherwise on the agenda. Members of the public, when recognized by the Mayor, should come forward to the lectern, and identify themselves. Comments are normally limited to three (3) minutes. In accordance with State Open Meeting Laws, no action will be taken by the City Council this evening. For items which are on the agenda this evening members of the public will be provided an opportunity to address the City Council as each item is brought up for discussion.

    CONSENT CALENDAR

    Items on the Consent Calendar are considered routine or non-controversial and will be enacted by one vote, unless separate action is requested by the City Manager or City Council Member. There will be no separate discussion of these items unless members of the City Council or City Manager request that specific items be removed.

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

    3. Approval of Minutes of Meeting Held on December 16, 2014.

    4. Approval of Warrant Register Dated January 29, 2015.

    DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

    5. Resolution Appointing Odilon Ortiz as Interim City Manager and Approving a Second Amendment to the Employment Agreement between the City of Livingston and Odilon Ortiz.

    6. Resolution Approving the First Amendment and Restatement to Agreement for Employment between the City of Livingston and Ruben Chavez for the Position of Police Chief.

    7. Vacancies and Appointments to the Livingston Planning Commission.

    8. Council Accept and Authorize Temporary Outsourcing of City’s Street Sweeping Services with Gilton Solid Waste.

    9. Discussion Regarding Changes to the DTC Zone.

    10. Discussion Item: Consideration of Changing the City Logo Slogan from “The Last Stop” to “Sweet Potato Capital of the World.”

    11. Discussion Item: Twelve Acres of Industrial Land at the Max Foster Sports Complex.

    ADJOURNMENT