September 17, 2008
Desert Hot Springs City Council, Sept. 16
Public comments at last night's Desert Hot Springs city council meeting:
Ted Mayrhofen rose to praise the progress made by the city, but wanted to point out that with school back in session, the expected troubles have returned to the skate park. He observed a fist fight between two young women there. He also wondered about the shocking hack job on the shrubberies in front of the Carl May Center. Go by and take a look. It does go beyond even the usual hack jobs committed by overzealous "gardeners" that we have seen elsewhere.
Dot Reed got up to point out the inconsistencies of code enforcement. Two years after being cited for a minor infraction herself, she reports that major violations within a block of her home are still going on and new ones have appeared. She said that priorities or different levels of violations should be established. She (or a member of the council) mentioned someone being cited for having a foosball table on the front porch and someone else being cited for having folding chairs. I don't even know what to search for in the city's code to try to figure out the reason behind those violations.
Ms. Reed went on to tell us that Kim Mason who had spoken at the previous city council meeting to protest that she could not afford to replace her wooden fence with a brick wall has left the city.
Further, Ms. Reed clarified for the benefit of some that where her invitation to this Sunday's champagne brunch says "Reservations a must!" it really does mean that reservations are required, although she is more than happy to accept a $25 donation from anyone, even if they are not coming to the brunch.
David Bell of Dave's Towing in Palm Springs got up to say he would like to enter into an agreement to be one of the tow services for the city. He said he had been in touch with city staff and the police, but he did not mention any problem with them. Later, Police Chief Williams conferred with Mr. Bell, so one might assume that things are now on their proper tracks.
Adam Sanchez got up to talk about the U-Turn program for youths at risk and about huge goings-on at Wardman Park this Saturday for kids (lots of sports followed by lunch). (On a related issue, AYSO registration is this weekend at Mission Springs park).
Horizon Medical Group
Then a series of people got up to speak in support of Horizon Medical Group. They were Father Pantell, Dr. Kyaw and his P.A. Raquel Medeiros, Angelo Avramides and Peter Coulos [as always, name corrections are invited - begged even]. I would like to suggest to those commenters that they should be aware that when they get up to comment, they are speaking to us in the audience, to the people at home watching on TV, as well as to the city council and staff. So while the city council may know the substance of what you are seeking, we don't unless you tell us. None of those commenters said specifically what it is they want from the city, except for the city to move forward on some proposal that the group has given to the city. For clarifying information on the subject, we must turn to this article by Dean Gray in the Desert Valley Star which says that the group seeking something like $2.3 million from "the city," although I'm pretty sure they would actually be seeking that money from the redevelopment authority. Father Pantell said that the press reports were erroneous. He must be referring to the Desert Valley Star story. At least that's the only story I'm aware of. Horizon Medical Group must have a story that would appeal to the citizenry of DHS, and I'd like to hear their whole side of things. Do I have to go buy a copy of their thousand-page proposal from the city to find out what they want?
None of the people who might represent Horizon Medical Group were present at the city council study session last week when the whole range of health service issues were discussed. I thought they weren't present at the table during that study session because the city council wanted to hear from all the other players (for a change), but I thought I'd see at least one representative in the audience to listen or even comment.
During their public comments at last night's city council meeting none offered any explanation for their absence from last week's study session.
Dr. Kyaw actually practices internal medicine in Desert Hot Springs. His standard office hours have been 9 AM to 6 PM on weekdays, but he will be extending those hours, staying open until 8 PM on weekdays, with Saturday hours "during season." Those are amazing hours for him and his P.A. to work. How do they fit in time for the rest of their lives?
Moving along, we came to a long, impressive presentation by the parks committee, chaired by Mayor Pro Tem Matas. There were some statistics and here are a couple that I think were already pretty obvious to any DHS resident, but may be news for those in the outside world: one-third of our population is under the age of 18 (and half of them ride their skateboards on my sidewalk), and 22.4% of the families in DHS have income below the federal poverty level.
Mayor Pro Tem Matas worked through the list of city parks, all of which need substantial rehabilitation, except for the new Tedesco Park. He talked about parks connecting Cabot's Pueblo to Joshua Tree National Monument. We will be sending a telegram to Mr. Matas to remind him that the monument was upgraded to a National Park about 15 years ago, although a few ancient "Monument" signs can still be found. Also, as long as we're pointing out things, Dean Gray spells his name with an "a" not an "e", and finally, "Skyborne" has an "e" on the end. That last one is a pretty common error.
They discussed new parks, like a walking path along the flood control wash that parallels Mission Springs and Santa Cruz. Councilmember Baker says this one is a 90% done deal and just needs some signatures. Dean Gray spoke of a new dog park and an amphitheater, citing the Redlands Bowl as an example of a successful public amphitheater. They discussed improving the grounds of Cabot's Pueblo to make them more parklike.
Michael O'Keefe said that visitors to the city want to see the San Andreas fault, so we should have a "fault park." A park with fault, but no blame, see. Some obvious spots suggest themselves along Mission Creek fault southeast from Two Bunch Palms Resort, but the area that the city will annex south to I-10 includes some dramatic terrain on the Banning fault as well. Maybe we need TWO fault parks. We will be the only city with both branches of the San Andreas fault under it. You could set up a laser in one park aimed at a target in the other park and by recording the track of the laser you could show people how much the fault is moving...or NOT moving, which is even scarier.
Mayor Pro Tem Matas also spoke of the practical requirements of getting the restrooms locked and unlocked every day and contracting with a janitorial service to keep them up.
Here's what some of the dollar figures would look like (very approximate, if I understood correctly): $50,000 for an architect, $362,000 for Wardman Park, $500,000 for Mission Springs Park, $100,000 for Coyote (Corsini) Park, $110,000 for the grounds of Cabot's Pueblo. All this money IS available. Later, during the RDA meeting, Vice President Matas made a shorter presentation on acquiring land to enlarge Wardman and Mission Springs parks. On the north side of Wardman Park there are two vacant lots. The city already owns one. Acquiring the other would allow the city to put in another ball field. Mission Springs Park is adjoined by large areas of vacant land. The city could acquire the land south and west to Palm Drive, allowing the park to be part of a gateway welcoming people into the city.
Art In Public Places
This item was on the agenda so that the city council could express their STRONG desire that the Planning Commission quit fiddling and forward to them the proposal for art in public places. Apparently no one from the planning commission was present at last night's city council meeting, so Councilmember Betts was reduced to questioning Attorney Duran to try to find out the cause for the delay. Attorney Duran, of course, was not about to offer political opinions on what the hell was going on, and could only report the facts that at the last meeting of the planning commission it was decided to fiddle with the proposal a bit, and that rather than do it in the meeting the commission sent it back to staff for changes. The city council approved unanimously a resolution encouraging the planning commission to deliver at their next meeting which is scheduled for October 14.
Skyborne Liens For Bonds
Skyborne offered the city an odd deal. Replace bonds for required public improvements with a lien! That's a fabulous idea...for Skyborne. They would get some money freed up, and the city would get zilch - not even a place for a dog to crap. What the hell were they thinking? This proposal was defeated unanimously. Councilmember Betts said he thought that staff should have rejected it outright, rather than bringing it to the council. When Councilmember Schmidt began to offer a counter-opinion. Mr. Betts displayed some rancor and tried to cut him off. Mr. Schmidt finished offering his opinion that he thought it was reasonable for the staff to be backed up by the council on this issue. Mayor Parks also offered that she thought it was not within the powers of the staff to reject the proposal outright.
The deal to retain Wackenhut to provide jail security services was approved unanimously.
All the bids on the project to build and repair sidewalk and pavement on the north side of Hacienda from Corsini School to Calle Amapola were over budget and the two lowest bids failed to meet federal government requirements, so all bids were rejected by a unanimous vote. The rise in the price of asphalt may be the reason they were all over budget. The city will rework the proposal and put it out for bid again. This will mean a delay of 2 to 3 months.
Councilmember Betts talked about how he and Mayor Parks were at the installation of the new post master for Desert Hot Springs. They talked with her about the landscaping at the post office. As you may have observed, they've already started working on that with a new crew of gardeners.
Mr. Betts also spoke of the shopping cart situation which will come up for council consideration at a future date. He's pushing for the automatic brakes to keep carts from leaving their parking lot areas. I've had limited experience with those carts and here are my two stories:
If the parking lot has a slope down to an exit, kids will let empty carts (or maybe they'll sit in them) roll down the slope toward the exit just to watch the fun when the wheels suddenly lock up and the cart flips over. Just a few of those and you've got a blocked driveway. Think of the K-Mart exit next to Starbucks.
Not long ago I was doing some business at a strip mall in Palm Desert, the one that has a Staples store and a 99¢ store. I was shopping at both, and I parked in front of Staples which is, I think, only one or two storefronts away from the 99¢ store. Got my shopping cart full of 99¢ bargains and I'm wheeling it back to my truck when WHAM, I get total wheel lockup halfway there. Turns out that the 99¢ store didn't wire the outer perimeter of the parking lot, but only around some vague territory sort of in front of their storefront. What if Vons, for example, didn't allow you to take your cart as far as the Big-O store, or over to your car parked in front of Mr. Matas's UPS Store; or what if you couldn't take your K-Mart cart down to the Starbucks? I tell ya, I was in a good mood that day at the 99¢ store, so I carried my bags by foot, making a couple of trips to get them into my truck. But if I was having a grouchy day I would see nothing wrong with simply tipping that cart on its side and dragging it to my truck and then abandoning it in a traffic lane in the parking lot. Cart-owning retailers will be motivated to keep their perimeter small to keep the installation expense down. If the city is going to write an ordinance, it needs to specify that the entire paved parking area of the whole shopping center must be a free-wheeling cart zone.
Mayor Pro Tem Matas reporting on his CVAG responsibilities said that they are in the process NOW of moving a gas pipeline that is near the Palm Drive/Gene Autry I-10 overpass, and that after the pipeline is resituated, real construction can begin.
Mayor Parks says there will be another meeting of the Downtown Specific Plan Committee tonight (Wednesday). I presume it is at 6 PM at the Carl May.
Councilmember Schmidt reporting on his CVAG environmental committee said that a vote there on including DHS within MSHCP will be coming up within a month. I suspect, that this will actually be the first in a series of votes by various bodies.
Mr. Schmidt attended a conference of the International Council of Shopping Centers in San Diego where he learned that Wal-Mart is planning to begin building small stores, competing in the convenience store market. My fear is that this means the industrious, entrepreneurial, capitalists who come from all corners of the globe to operate our convenience stores with amazing efficiency may gradually be replaced by the half-wits that are passed off as cashiers at Wal-Mart stores. God knows what will become of this great nation if we have to go to a Wal-Mart corner store to buy booze and cigarettes at midnight.
Councilmember Baker reporting on his assignment to the Animal Campus, that the euthanization rate there is about 50%, due mostly to animals being feral or diseased. He also said that the next study session of the city council would focus on code enforcement. The date for that meeting was to have been September 23, but that date conflicted with somebody's schedule, so it's being moved. Watch the city website for the date.
Both Mr. Baker and City Manager Daniels reported that the state budget passed yesterday (and vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger) would TAKE (not borrow) 7.7% of our redevelopment funds, or $711,000. Mr. Daniels pointed out that every dollar spent in redevelopment generates seven dollars in economic growth and tax proceeds and he thought that the operating budget of California did not produce such significant returns.
Further, City Manager Daniels reported that the repaving projects on 1st, 2nd and 3rd are very nearly done, and that after completion the city would come back with funds for landscaping and front yard improvements there. Code enforcement is moving to the police department and signage on some of the vehicles has already been repainted. The repairs to North Indian Canyon Drive came in under budget at about $88,000 and ahead of schedule.
Assistant City Manager Mendoza is resigning to pursue other career options.
The next regular city council meeting will be October 7 at 5 PM according to Mayor Parks, regardless of what was printed on last night's agenda.
The city council meeting was immediately followed by the RDA meeting. There was a proposal to renew the graffiti abatement contract with Crowson Management for $38,000. Crowson is the firm that fills in on weekends when the city's own graffiti abatement employee, Mario, is not on the clock. Opinions expressed by several members of the RDA board were that Mario does a superb job, while Crowson hires only color-blind employees who sometimes even ruin the good work done by Mario. The proposal was rejected unanimously. Crowson was the only firm that had bid on the proposal. Executive Director Daniels said that the staff would consider hiring a part-time city employee to assist Mario, or they might re-spec the proposal to make it more broad, including sand-blasting for example, which might make it a more attractive offer for other bidders.