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.