October 31, 2009
Liz Cheney Has Her Standards
Ms. Cheney criticized President Obama for visiting Dover Air Force base with the White House press pool to honor returning deceased soldiers. She seems to think that having photographers along was unseemly. She thought it was better the way President Bush did it: just stay home and never visit Dover.
Finnish Behemoth On Its Way To Florida
The behemoth is the world's largest cruise ship, the Oasis Of The Seas. Twenty stories high with 2,700 cabins and capacity for 6,300 passengers and 2,100 crew, it's 40% larger than the 2nd largest cruise ship. It set sail from Turku, Finland yesterday and is expected in Port Everglades on November 20.
Here's the cruise ship's website where you can enjoy the Captain's video log. The captain introduces himself as Bill Wright, but I'm sure the passengers will call him simply Cap'n Bill. The maiden voyage with paying customers is expected to depart on December 1.
IRWMP Planning Meeting, October 29
I attended this meeting on Thursday, October 29, as much to further my California civics education as to actually get facts on the future of water management in Coachella Valley. This was a great opportunity to see how government is created in California.
The meeting was in the beautiful Rancho Mirage Public Library, where the furniture is still so new it smells like a brand new toy you've just unwrapped. The turnout was impressive. More governmental units were represented than you can name. Someone observed that it was the first time the valley's five water purveyors were together in one room without an attorney. In addition to all the water districts and all the cities, there were people there from the Vector Control District, a couple of Indian tribes, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Marian Ashley's office, the Desert Edge community, some corporations that had an interest in the plan, the Department of Water Resources (Sacramento), CVAG, and more. With so many unfamiliar faces and names quickly slurred off the tongue, I'm not going to be able to adequately identify every speaker. As far as I could tell, no one from the press was there.
I was glad to meet a few new faces who came up and said that they read Ron's Log every day to discover the One Genuine Revealed Truth. Those may not have been their exact words, but I know they meant it that way.
The staff of Mission Springs Water District was well represented. Marilyn McKay represented MSWD during the panel discussion. General Manager Arden Wallum and other staff were in the audience. As for the MSWD board of directors, well, that was a bit disappointing. Only Director John Brown showed up. I was sure President Nancy Wright would show up since she has been holding up the IRWMP as the sole example of how MSWD collaborates with others in the valley. But we all have a life to live, so I'm sure she's got a good excuse. Seated next to me during the meeting was Dick Cromwell. Jonathan Hoy was there for the city of Desert Hot Springs.
To oversimplify the background on IRWMPs, the state Department of Water Resources wants local agencies to form these plans based on watershed areas in order to coordinate and rationalize their funding requests. Here's some history on the Coachella Valley IRWMP:
Historically, regional water management activities in the Coachella Valley have been undertaken by DWA and CVWD without significant input and/or participation from other valley water purveyors. Recently, MSWD, the City of Indio and the City of Coachella have indicated a strong desire to participate in a meaningful manner and take on a significant role in the regional water management decision making process.
The first interest in producing an Integrated Regional Water Management Plan was expressed by MSWD as it would qualify the District for grant funding to help pay the cost of its septic-to-sewer conversion project. In 2003, MSWD worked for specific language in Proposition 50 that would allow MSWD to receive grant money, but in order to be eligible, MSWD needed to be involved in an IRWMP.
In 2004 and 2005 discussions between MSWD, DWA and CVWD were began regarding the feasibility and need for an IRWMP. Early progress was hampered by on-going litigation between agencies in the region, questions by CVWD and DWA regarding the need for an IRWMP at that time and the two agencies' current satisfaction with the Coachella Valley Water Management Plan adopted in September 2002. DWA and CVWD were also concerned with adding another level of government to the Valley's management efforts.
In 2006, the general managers of CVWD, DWA, and MSWD and representatives of the City of Indio and the City of Coachella began meeting bi-monthly to discuss regional water issues. These meetings, coupled with MSWD's continuing desire to take advantage of Proposition 50 and Proposition 84 funding opportunities, led to renewed interest in an IRWMP for the Coachella Valley. In 2007, MSWD began outreach discussions on Disadvantaged Communities' issues to determine levels of interest in IRWMP participation. As a result of these ongoing discussions, in January 2008, CVWD's Board of Directors approved a $10,000 study on IRWMP governance. The other agencies gave conditional approval. In February 2008, the City of Coachella, CVWD, DWA, IWA and MSWD held the first IRWMP meeting among the Valley's water purveyors.
That comes from the Coachella Valley Water Management Region report [PDF] on the MSWD website. Here are some basic maps to clarify where the stuff is that was discussed.
In September 2009 DWR accepted CVRWMG as a region. This meeting today is the kick-off of the public IRWMP process.
The Colorado River Funding Region. The DWR (Department of Water Resources) has $36 million in funding to hand out to this region. Obviously, a paltry sum for this big area. But there are other sources of money as well.
Our watershed, indicated by the red boundary line. This is the area for the CVRWMP, CVRWMG, IRWMP, and possibly other acronyms as well.
The five water districts within the Coachella Valley watershed. The Coachella Valley Water District extends far outside the IRWMP boundaries, down both sides of the Salton Sea. You will notice that the Colorado River Aqueduct is also nicely shown on this map.
What's an IRWMP? I assume you've already figured out it's integrated, regional and makes plans to manage water. Areas included in that are:
- Sustainable water uses,
- Reliable water supplies,
- Better water quality,
- Environmental stewardship,
- Efficient urban development,
- Protection of agriculture,
- A strong economy,
- Flood control, and
- Wastewater management.
The state requires an IRWMP to get input from "stakeholders." I gathered that it also specifies that Native American tribes and "disadvantaged communities" (which pretty much means "poor people") must be part of the process. The stakeholders listed at this meeting were
- 9 valley cities,
- 11 community councils,
- Riverside County,
- "DAC's" - in Social Security, where I used to work, this was an acronym for "disabled adult child," but here I think it means "disadvantaged communities,"
- Elected officials,
- Environmental & Resource agencies,
- Special interest groups,
- Sanitation and Flood Control districts,
- School districts,
- Groundwater pumpers (there was no one at this meeting who said they were a Desert Hot Springs hotelier), and
- Large irrigator.
With the five panel members representing the five water districts in the valley seated up front, we proceeded to "Three Questions" which were actually five questions to be answered by the attendees. The questions are to assist with the RFP process. The RFP is for a contractor who will do all the drudge work. Contractors will be pre-qualified and unsolicited RFPs will not be accepted.
First question, "Do the plans and processes in place for the IRWMP fit the needs of your organization."
First to respond from the audience was Les Ramirez, General Counsel for the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians. His concern was that the tribe should be placed somewhere else in the organizational chart. The tribes are not just stakeholders, nor are they just water purveyors (the tribes function as water districts on tribal land). He thought that the IRWMP should reflect the more complex relationship the tribes have to the valley, and that in doing so it would facilitate their participation and the participation of other Native American sovereigns. I'd hate to be in the position to compose a diplomatic reply to a tribal attorney on the fly, but a couple of the panelists did just that, expressing respect for the tribes and the strong desire that they participate in the process. The panelists also talked about the need to include disadvantaged communities in the process.
John Brown, as executive director of Family Services of the Desert, said it's not sufficient to merely invite disadvantaged communities to the discussion (at a meeting at 1 PM on a Thursday in Rancho Mirage, for instance), but to find out what barriers might prevent their participation and find ways to overcome those barriers from the very beginning of the process. He cited a Metropolitan Water District grant request that DWR sent back to square one because it insufficiently included disadvantaged communities in the process. He suggested making contact with agencies that are already in touch with disadvantaged communities and ask for their assistance on this issue.
Mr. Brown also said that the Mission Springs Water District is setting up an Emergency Water Assistance Fund to help people who can't pay their bills and he encouraged other water districts to do something similar.
The representative from Marian Ashley's office asked for a better explanation of what an IRWMP is. Marilyn McKay from the MSWD took that on by describing her favorite "dream IRWMP project." MSWD would increase the number of sewer connections, creating more wastewater, which gets treated (to tertiary level?) and then sold to CVWD downstream to apply to Desert Dunes golf course, so that they can stop pumping ground water. The dream then expands to include even more wastewater which is treated and then sold to DWA who can use it on the new development along Vista Chino. It would be a regional project that would "create" new water (in California terms). All the water flowing into septic tanks in DHS isn't doing anybody any good.
Somebody buy Marilyn McKay dinner, please! Or send her flowers.
Robert Perdue got up and among other comments suggested that the cities of the valley were "sovereign nations" on par with the tribal nations. Uh, hardly. Sovereign nations don't get their tax money and RDA funds seized by Sacramento. Big difference.
Question #2 was "What is the most effective way for CVRWMG to solicit input from your organization?" And "What can we do to facilitate your participation in the process?"
Mr. Ramirez from the Augustine Band spoke again, suggesting a joint powers agreement. California law does not allow tribes or the federal government to participate in joint powers agreements, but Sacramento waived that restriction when setting up the Salton Sea Authority to allow the Indian tribes to participate. So, they could waive it again for this IRWMP, if we wanted to go with a joint powers agreement. The representative from the Coachella Water Authority, Paul Toor, suggested that a joint powers agreement would slow things down. Other IRWMPs in the state are already getting funding, so we shouldn't delay.
John Brown said another IRWMP had used satellite conferencing at every one of their meetings and had set up outposts where people go and participate. Interpreters were provided (ASL and Spanish, one presumes). This was in order to get input from disadvantaged communities.
Question #3: "Is there anything additional that should be addressed in the draft RFP or Scope of Work? Do you have any suggestion for incorporation into the Scope?"
Mitch Nieman, Cathedral City RDA and a remarkably perceptive individual, asked that since the attendees had just gotten copies of the scope, could they have more time review it before making feedback. In a moment of jocularity, various voices throughout the room asked if he meant five minutes or two weeks. Oh, the good humor of civil servants...it never ceases. He meant, of course, something like two weeks, and the answer was (again, of course), yes. Here, you can review the draft scope yourself [PDF].
Dick Cromwell suggested a subcommittee solely to focus on the issue of tribal involvement. He said this issue has been coming up during the entire 40 years he has lived here.
The next meeting on the IRWMP will be on November 10. The entire process [to a final IRWMP] may take a year to complete. While there are other IRWMPs competing with us for a share of that $36 million, DWR is aware that eventually we will ask for some of it, so they will not simply give it all to whoever asks first. In addition to the $36 million, there is another fund of $100 million that is available for all of California. Beyond that, there will undoubtedly be more gravy in future years.
The most interesting part of the meeting (for me) was when someone volunteered to edit the Powerpoint presentation on the fly to add a page with website links and email addresses where people could get more info and provide feedback. Give that lady a bonus, or extra time off, or whatever perks they're handing out in California bureaucrat-dom these days. But as she typed the links on the new page, God (AKA "Microsoft") declared the links must be blue. The background was close to black, so the links simply disappeared from the projected image. She tried to change the color of the text directly, but even I knew that God would not let you do that. You would have to go find the Style for links somewhere and change that, and that's when I start thinking about retirement. I suggested she change the background color, but greater minds than mine stepped into the fray. Another lady came forward and showed that a right-click on the link produced a menu that included the choice to "Remove Hyperlink" (or something very much like that), and clicking this produced a perfect result on the one link she edited. Unfortunately, the first lady must not have been watching this demonstration of how friendly God's Office is, so she began fumbling again in trying to fix the remaining invisible links. Then, a third lady (why only women were volunteering, I don't know) came to the podium to repeat the lesson. From then on, everything went swimmingly. And all the while this was happening the panel and the attendees were still trying to discuss water issues.
There was a question about whether there would be a local preference for the consultant to be hired. The answer is that they will be looking for a consultant who is familiar with the Coachella Valley. Another answer quoted "Sunkist" (sic), saying "We don't want tuna with taste, we want tuna that tastes good." Puzzling over the image of good tasting orange-flavored tuna brought a round of laughter. But his point was that they would be looking for the best consultant, regardless of where his main office is located.
In answer to questions from Mr. Nieman, we were told the five water agencies will pay the consultant's costs. Marilyn McKay said the RFP will go out and after the first of the year a contract will be signed.
The representative from the Desert Recreation District asked if the recreation district had to be part of IRWMP in order to get funds from Prop 84 and Prop 1E money. The answer is Yes. They can go to other sources for funds as well, but the only path to Prop 84 & IE money is through the IRWMP.
In Praise Of Code Enforcement
If you have the good fortune to live in Area 8 in Desert Hot Springs, you know that this has been another Big Clean-Up Week. They came down my street on Tuesday and took away tons of stuff from the neighbors, but they pointedly skipped over a BIG pile of crap that's been sitting in front of a lot that appears to be vacant (well, it is a totally empty lot, but it's owned by the guy in the house next door to it) for about 6 weeks. On Friday it was still sitting there, so I phoned Desert Valley Disposal about it, and they sent another truck around to work on it. They took only some of the stuff. They took the old tires. But the property owner has created his own problem by simply dumping construction debris into an old hot tub. The thing is too massive for even a couple of DVD employees to pick up, and I don't think they are required to paw through a chaotic pile to try to pick out the things they can take.
Moments ago, however, I heard a lot clanking and yelling out on my street. I emerged to see one big DVD dump truck plus two more DVD trucks plus one code enforcement vehicle. The pile of crap was gone, all gone. They had moved on to another vacant lot on my street and were walking clear to the back of the lot to bring out a mattress, sheets of plywood and other junk I had never even noticed back there. Two code enforcement officers were assisting - well, maybe they were simply pointing at the stuff that needed to be taken while letting DVD do the heavy lifting, but it's not code enforcement's job to actually haul junk.
Now we've got one clean lot and one cleaner lot (the one with the big pile of crap still has a couple of illegal vehicles sitting in it). Code enforcement needs to buy dinner for their staff, or send flowers, or have Karl Baker serve them ice cream, or something.
Gore Vidal on Roman Polanski
The Atlantic has published an interview with Gore Vidal. Part of the interview discusses Roman Polanski. Here's that bit:
[Q:] In September, director Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland for leaving the U.S. in 1978 before being sentenced to prison for raping a 13-year-old girl at Jack Nicholson's house in Hollywood. During the time of the original incident, you were working in the industry, and you and Polanski had a common friend in theater critic and producer Kenneth Tynan. So what's your take on Polanski, this many years later?
[Gore Vidal:] I really don't give a fuck. Look, am I going to sit and weep every time a young hooker feels as though she's been taken advantage of?
[Q:] I've certainly never heard that take on the story before.
[Gore Vidal:] First, I was in the middle of all that. Back then, we all were. Everybody knew everybody else. There was a totally different story at the time that doesn't resemble anything that we're now being told.
[Q:] What do you mean?
[Gore Vidal:] The media can't get anything straight. Plus, there's usually an anti-Semitic and anti-fag thing going on with the press – lots of crazy things. The idea that this girl was in her communion dress, a little angel all in white, being raped by this awful Jew, Polacko – that's what people were calling him – well, the story is totally different now from what it was then.
I had planned on avoiding the subject of Roman Polanski and his arrest, but this is way, way over the line, plus the number of Hollywood celebrities lining up to support Polanski is shocking. I think they must have forgotten the original crime, or never knew what it was. Fortunately for justice, The Smoking Gun is hosting a copy of the grand jury testimony from 13-year old victim, Samantha Jane Gailey about what happened on March 10, 1977, when Polanski took the girl to Jack Nicholson's house for a photo shoot. Polanski gave her an undetermined amount of champagne and one-third of a Quaalude. After some photos she asked to be taken home, but Polanski (now naked) said he would take her home later and advised her to lie down on the bed. From there the Grand Jury testimony goes into full detail, no censorship at all, describing what transpired in adult words. Read it if you want.
Here's the 20-page transcript from August 1977 where Polanski pleaded guilty to the charge of "unlawful sexual intercourse." It takes 20 pages to do that, because the judge has to be able to confirm that Polanski is fully aware of what he is doing and the rights he is waiving by pleading guilty.
Now, the only possibly mitigating factor in the case today, I think, is that in 1997 (20 years after his conviction) Samantha Geimer (the victim) pleaded for leniency for Polanski.
We Do Not Have To Live Like Arachnids
Riverside is the nearest location for a Jason's Deli (for me), and judging from this ad I must eat there some day.
Free Liquor At The Party Of The Russes
Yes, it's true, late in the party at the Miracle Springs Resort, it became open bar, but that was compliments of the hotel, not either of the campaigns. When announced, there was no thirsty rush to the bar. Decorum was preserved, much to my disappointment.
The party was for both Russell Betts and Russ Martin, but other leaders showed up, including Jeff Bowman, Yvonne Parks, Terry Scheurer and Ted Mayrhofen. If Robert Bentley was there, I didn't see him.
Both Russes got up and spoke before we got our food. What were they thinking?! Don't we have any experienced politicos around who can advise these two that at a campaign party you let the party do the talking. The small "p" party, I mean.
Earlier yesterday I'd gotten an email from the Russell Betts campaign inviting me to the party, which was open to all voters. In the invitation were some campaign statements, including this one: "Our campaign volunteers are dropping our last minute 'mailing' on your front walk." Some of us considered those litter, especially since we've set up a very nice spot where non-postal items can be placed out of the wind. The statement goes on, "The post cards you are getting every day from Mayor Parks cost $5,000 each." Obviously, the ability to write English sentences declines as the campaign advances. If Mayor Parks was really paying $5,000 to $10,000 per vote (I'm sure I got two cards), I would prefer she simply give me the cash rather than the pretty post card. But maybe the sentence meant to say each mailing cost $5,000. My first response would be "And I care about this why?" I'm mildly curious about how much a billboard costs, but if a campaign has the money and thinks that's how they should spend it, then what do I care?
But let's do the math on that $5,000 figure. All the campaigners buy voter lists from the county. The only thing they cannot tell from that is how you voted. But they do know if you voted in previous elections, and they know if you vote by mail or vote like a real man, as I do, at the gritty polling place (actually the polling places in DHS have always been clean) with somebody else's pencil in my sweaty hand. At this late date in the campaign, mailings would be sent only to those who (1) are likely voters, and (2) vote at the polls. In Desert Hot Springs we're talking about roughly 1,000 people. You don't even need a calculator. $5,000 for 1,000 mailings is $5 each. Is that possible? Yes, it's possible, but I would think that with a little shopping around you could lower that cost.
And that must be what happened! In his speech at the party (or as much of it that could be heard over grumbling stomachs) Russell Betts said the cost of those mailers were "Three or four thousand." See how rapidly the price has dropped! This economy is producing some amazing things.
But at that point in the revelry, Mayor Parks stood up and kindly shared additional information with Mr. Betts saying something like "Oh no, Russell honey [I'm sure she said "honey"], they only cost about $900 each, including the postage." Mr. Betts noted this data, and I'm sure a member of the staff rushed out to correct campaign materials that were set to be distributed this weekend.
Glow necklaces were handed out. They were the multi-colored pastel ones. You know, you can get those in red, white and blue as well. I think I saw three tubes of necklaces, and the tubes of glow necklaces I buy contain 50 necklaces and cost about $25 each, so I was looking at about $75 worth of glow. At this point, the Yvonne Parks campaign has spent a flat zero on glow necklaces. They don't have that kind of money. It was fun to see everyone looking like they were warming up for Burning Man.
Russ Martin also got up to speak (yeah, TWO speeches before dinner) and explained that when the city council, including Scott Matas, votes in a way you don't like, then it is entirely Scott Matas's fault. If, however, the city council, including Scott Matas, votes the way you like, then Scott Matas can't take any credit for that at all. Later in the party Mr. Martin expressed his desire for Mayor Parks to support Russell Betts, and this drew the biggest cheer of the night, so it seems obvious that Mayor Parks is held in high esteem by all who were there.
Finally, there was dinner! Music, too, of course. Afterwards, Russell Betts sang "Mack The Knife." Yes, honest, he really sang it. Into a microphone without a karaoke screen.
My attention has been drawn to this YouTube video from the Russell Betts campaign which starts out by saying "Two issues define this election: police and taxes." It goes on to discuss only taxes, saying nothing about police...except that the parcel tax (referred to as "property tax" in the video) is mostly to support the police. Russell Betts goes on to recite again the biggest lie of this campaign, that Yvonne Parks wants homeowners to pay $240 while "developers" pay only $4, and that Mr. Betts stopped this outrage.
The parcel tax, like the utility tax, was written to sunset after 10 years, and that means 2010. Extending the tax (as well as changing the rates) would require a two-thirds vote of the people (not the city council). Earlier this year when both taxes were being discussed, the finance department (not the city council) floated a proposal to simply double the rate of the parcel tax.
Here's the city council meeting (March 4, 2009) where the decision on the parcel tax was made. You can see that everyone who got up to comment favored the parcel tax (except maybe Hank Hohenstein), and that some favored the simple doubling and some wanted a different formula. C.M. Rick Daniels said that based on a survey, it was his opinion that the parcel tax was unlikely to be approved by two-thirds of the voters. It was the consensus of the city council that the parcel tax should be delayed. No vote was taken on the parcel tax.
You will notice that the facts do not include Mr. Betts stopping the parcel tax proposal. There was no dramatic filibuster or anything like that. It was the entire council that did it. (Not sure if we thank or blame Scott Matas for the whole thing).
The tables included in my report on that meeting show what the proposed parcel tax rates would have been. The rate for single family residential property would have been $241.74 per year. There is no "developer" rate. The closest figure to the four dollar number that the Betts campaign has been citing is the $4.72/acre for "industrial vacant." Usually when our town talks about developers we think of residential or retail developments. Vacant commercial land would have been taxed at the rate of $233.32/acre. Vacant residential land would have been taxed at $17.15 per unit (if less than 1 acre) or $17.15/acre (if more than 1 acre). Most of the residential developments that cause any concern are larger than 1 acre, so $17.15/acre is what we are talking about.
Where does the parcel tax really stand today? Russell Betts has no proposal. Nor does Yvonne Parks. It's the responsibility of the finance department to come up with something. At a recent city meeting I cornered Jason Simpson and gave him my feared third-degree (this is from memory, no notes, no recording):
Ron's Log: What's the status of the parcel tax?
Finance Director Simpson: We have had a lot of work on our plate with the budget and everything. We will begin to really concentrate on working up a parcel tax proposal in November.
Ron's Log: You'll bring it before the council in November?
Mr. Simpson: No, staff will start working on it in November. It will come before the council early in 2010.
Ron's Log: Can you promise any miracles?
Mr. Simpson: [laughing] No.
October 30, 2009
Above Desert Hot Springs and the Mission Creek fault
Photo by cocoi_m. An extradordinarily clear photo of the Mission Creek fault (part of the San Andreas fault) as it comes into Desert Hot Springs from the southeast. The major street at the left of the photo is Hacienda. The surface features of the fault are obvious as it runs from there past Two Bunch Palms resort and on towards Desert Crest.
October 29, 2009
Another Piece Of The Falling Sun
CITY OF DESERT HOT SPRINGS POLICE DEPARTMENT
INCIDENT: Wanted Person from Operation Falling Sun Arrested in DHS
DATE OF INCIDENT: Thursday, October 29, 2009, 1:15 PM
LOCATION OF ARREST: 13323 West Dr.
SUSPECT: Lopez, Christian Gilardo; AKA "Beaver", Male Hispanic, 5-22-1986, 5-11, 180 lbs.; address: 13323 West Dr., DHS
CHARGES: Warrant of Arrest Charging Sales of Controlled Substances
—Bail is set at $1 million
DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT:
Earlier today patrol officers received a tip that Christian Lopez was back staying at his mother's house on West Dr. Officers acting on the tip drove to the house, found Lopez inside and arrested him without incident.
Lopez, one of the targets of Operation Falling Sun, fled the State prior to being arrested. He had not been seen in the area since—until today. He will be transported and booked into Riverside County Jail.
Any information regarding this press release should be directed to Desert Hot Springs Police Sergeant Dan Bressler at 760.329.6411 x315.
Dispatch Tel: 760.329.2904
Meg Whitman Lying?!
(Am I going to start every post today with a double question/exclamation mark?!)
George Skelton says gubernatorial candidate Whitman is lying. She makes two claims in radio ads that he disputes.
First, she says "in the last 10 years, state spending has gone up 80%." Actually, it has risen by only 27% and when Mr. Skelton adjusts it for inflation and population growth the figures say that spending has decreased by 16.6%. The Whitman campaign responds that they really meant the 9 years from 1999 to 2008. Adjusted spending growth over that time period was actually 16.7%.
Second, she says Sacramento's "only solution is to raise taxes and spend more money." That seems unlikely on the surface of it, to me. Taxing and spending have been made the most difficult tasks for the legislature, since they require a two-thirds vote to pass. Mr. Skelton says the recent $12.5 billion tax increase was the first increase passed by the legislature since 1991. Under Schwarzenegger, Mr. Skelton says, the average annual growth in general fund spending has been only 1.3%.
Trona Has A High School?!
The high school has a football field?!
The L.A. Times says it is so. The football field is dirt. Of course that's not soft, loamy, Iowa-field-of-dreams dirt. It's desert dirt. The satellite view below is centered on the high school and its football field.
[Groundskeeper Mark Goins] starts by spraying the field with 4,000 gallons of water from an old tanker truck with rusty seams. He lets the field dry to the consistency of a beach at low tide and plows it loose with a pair of iron bars chained to the back of a Ford pickup. Then he flattens the rubble with a clanging steel roller, circling the field like a Zamboni resurfacing a hockey rink.
"It's like a recipe. If it's 110 degrees, it can get hard on you real fast. . . . If you have puddles, it'll stick to the roller," said Goins, 49, who played football at Trona High before becoming its maintenance man. "You can mess it up pretty easily."
Finally, Goins stripes the gridiron with anhydrous sodium sulfate, which is used to make detergents. Opposing coaches hate the stuff because it stings players' eyes, but the cost can't be beat: It comes free courtesy of Searles Valley Minerals, the mining operation that has determined Trona's fate for a century.
"The Pit is to Trona what Fenway Park is to Boston, a tradition not to be messed with." But I bet the parking is a lot easier.
The article does not provide statistics to tell us how many visiting players leave Trona uninjured.
New Apple Mouse
The Apple "Magic Mouse." Bluetooth. $69. After all these years of being teased for one-button mouses, Apple responds by getting rid of the button. The Magic Mouse is buttonless, but no, neural implants are not required. They've simply taken all/some/very similar gestures that you could use on their buttonless trackpads and transferred them to the mouse. Nice calm-voice video on the linked site above gives you some demos.
If you wait for version 2, it will probably replace the top surface with a display screen, include a camera and MP3 player, and will buy electronic books for you in every country with good copyright laws. It will be $10 cheaper. Unless you buy it with the Roomba option. That will cost extra, of course, but imagine how clean your work area will be!
October 28, 2009
Saline Valley Photos
DHS City Council Special Meeting, October 27
The audio recording of this special meeting of the Desert Hot Springs City Council is here, if you want to download it or just listen to it.
Local Hire Strategy for NRP
This was on the agenda in response to the city council's request at the last regular council meeting. Representing the Rancho Housing Alliance was Jeff Hayes. Rancho Housing Alliance will be doing the first six home rehabs in the Neighborhood Renewal Program. He had a handout summarizing the whole deal. Here it is:
Rancho Housing Alliance, Inc
Single Family Housing Rehab Program
Desert Hot Springs Model
This model is designed for a smaller scope of projects such as the NRP to attract small to medium sized businesses that operate in Desert Hot Springs and support local residents and businesses. As this basic model is implemented and evaluated by all parties involved it can be then be applied in a variety of applications with minor changes within the City's programs or projects.
Local Hire Strategy-
- Use of Local Suppliers to purchase materials- establish accounts & relationships with businesses to purchase minor and bulk items (roofing, paint, landscaping, hardware)
- Use of Local Contractor/Vendors
- Prioritize those utilizing local DHS residents on staff
- Provide lists of identified tradesmen interested in employment to all participating contractors
- Assist contractors with application of prevailing wage rates in bid estimates.
- Meetings with interested contractors/vendors to explain program, scope of upcoming projects, basic requirements, priorities in local hiring and secure feedback.
- Reporting on:
- Jobs sustained and created
- Average wage rates,
- Value of improvements
- Value of funds spent locally
Week of Nov 1st - Receive initial 4 properties Nov. 5th - Meeting with local contractors & vendors Nov 9th-20th - Site Inspections and review scope of work with owners Nov 20-Dec. 4th - Submit scope of work with bids for approval Dec 15th - Secure approvals, award contracts and initiate work Mid February 2010 - Completion of six homes
Scope of Program
- RHA will serve as the coordinator of the program on behalf of the City.
- RHA staff will independently assess each property and review the scope of work with the homeowner. This eliminates any conflict of interest with a contractor creating a bid for work they will complete.
- RHA insulates City as all contracts will be between the homeowner and contractor with RHA serving as the liaison.
- RHA supports homeowner to ensure satisfaction with the work and any follow service required. Ensure all payments are made and mechanic liens removed.
- Ensure all contractors have current licensing and insurances.
Background on Rancho Housing Alliance, Inc. (RHA).
RHA is a non profit public benefit corporation with an IRS 501 (c) (3) designation, dedicated to affordable housing in Eastern Riverside County.
RHA offers an experienced program for single family housing rehabilitation, operating in Riverside County, Cities of Palm Desert & Coachella and the Torres Martinez Reservation. RHA has a California B Contractor's License operating with all necessary insurances including a professional liability insurance to address any liability from our consulting services.
Rancho Housing will select the contractors to do the work. Rancho Housing will buy materials for the contractors locally, because there's no way to require a contractor to buy locally. One of Mr. Hayes' main points was that with only 6 houses in the program right now, we don't have much means to encourage a contractor to hire locally. Also, a contractor may already have sufficient staff to handle this small load without having to hire anyone new. As the program grows, the potential to hire from within Desert Hot Springs improves, but we cannot force a contractor to hire particular people.
Rancho Housing will also assist small contractors who may not usually pay prevailing wage rates to calculate their bids, since prevailing wage rates are required by the NRP. Also, if any liability issues arise, they would fall on the contractor and Rancho Housing, not the city. Rancho Housing will oversee the whole process with each renovation, assuring that the work is done right and that all the paperwork is wrapped up correctly.
Planning Commissioner Catherine Romero got up to comment. She expressed her support for paying the prevailing wage. She said there is no specific mandate for how many local employees should be employed, and there should be a specific mandate. She also had questions about weatherization retrofits under the NRP.
City Manager Daniels said the weatherization component of NRP would include more efficient air conditioners, double-glazed windows, ceiling fans, and blow-in insulation. Part of the goals of NRP is to reduce living costs.
Ms. Romero said that there are more extensive weatherization programs available through the county if people need more substantial work.
Mayor Pro Tem Baker said he also wanted to see a specific mandate for local employment. Mr. Baker also had questions about who local people should go to in order to get hired. Do they contact Rancho Housing or the city or who?
C.M. Daniels said they have talked to Workforce Development and one of the possibilities is that they will open an office in DHS to handle the task of getting people in and screening them. Mayor Pro Tem Baker again suggested a Craigslist ad, but Mr. Hayes explained that while such an ad would undoubtedly generate hundreds of interested responses, but then they would have to be screened and there might only a handful of qualified skilled workers in the bunch.
Mr. Hayes said these first six homes should be considered the test, the shakedown cruise, during which bugs will be worked out. As the program grows, it will go better as a result.
Councilmember Pye said we don't really know what the job market out there is until we begin this program. After that dose of reality, the city can tweak the program appropriately. She also said that the number of jobs created and sustained should be tracked, not just jobs created.
Yolanda Rustad got up for a last comment. She said using the internet to reach out may miss a lot of people in DHS. Also, she said that state redevelopment code does require a mandatory percentage of people to be hired from within the redevelopment zone.
Code Enforcement Overview
Jack Leonard, a vice president at JAS, our contract code enforcement provider, innocently thought he was going to narrate a simple Powerpoint presentation to the city council. He was derailed at item 1 on the first slide. The council already had a printed version of the presentation, and it was easy enough to skim through, so they already had their questions set to go. Most of them we've heard before, and they were all fielded by Chief Williams. Mr. Leonard and Mark Berg (who oversees our code enforcement) were left standing nearly useless at the podium since no member of the council suggested they just take a seat.
I'm going to jump ahead for a moment to tell you that even those code enforcement hardnoses, Karl Baker and Jan Pye had good words to say. Mr. Baker said "You are doing a good job. There's marked improvement." Ms. Pye pointed out that all the stats & information the city council had been demanding will be extractable from the new electronic database of code enforcement activities that is now being built. She said the council should just give them the time to make that database. Mr. Baker admitted to not having read the backup documentation that explained that.
Here are some of the issues brought up during discussion:
They are putting together a manual for code enforcement staff. Yes, they have not had a manual heretofore. The manual should be completed within about 30 days.
Health and safety issues have a higher priority over nuisances, but when someone reports a "nuisance" (trash can in front of the house or a visible RV, for example) code enforcement will respond to that complaint. The council in the future may need to review the codes and change or eliminate some of the nuisance ones.
Have code enforcement officers given misinformation in the past? If so, is that being researched?
Councilmember Betts wanted to see stats broken down by, say, single family homes vs. residential developments, or for commercial small stores vs. shopping centers.
In the July-September quarter code enforcement cited foreclosed homes with $329,000 in fines and received only $5,000. This is because the fines are liened and we will get payment only when the properties sell. But we have recently (in October) received two payments for $16,000 and $17,000. Code enforcement is getting a lot of phone calls from real estate investors who have begun buying foreclosed homes and are discovering these liens. I thought you were supposed to do that kind of research before you bought a property.
Numbers for the July-September quarter: cases open: 633; cases closed: 399; courtesy notices (a door hanger that asks for a violation to be remedied, no penalty): 44; notices of violation (getting serious now): 285; administrative citations (somebody is being a bastard and we are going to asses a fine!): 263; administrative fines collected: $57,746.08; shopping carts retrieved: 180; tires removed: 775.
Everyone is in compliance with the shopping cart ordinance now...except for Vons. They have been assessed a $500 fine (our maximum). How frequently can we assess that? It would be a terrible thing if our middle school students swept through the Vons parking lot one afternoon and moved all their carts over to, say, K-Mart. Terrible.
Code enforcement has demolished two homes; one on 1st and one on 2nd. Also outside the meeting I asked Mark Berg about the house at 66338 1st Street. A deal to buy the house for $25,000 was on the city council's consent calendar at the May 19 meeting, but it was removed from the agenda without explanation. When I went past the house last week, the plywood had been removed from its windows and doors and it was looking far uglier and more dangerous than before. Mr. Berg said that RDA is moving on it again, and the plan is to buy and demolish it.
As it appeared in May 2009.
What it looks like today.
As already noted, Paradise Springs and the Village at Mission Lakes have been cleaned up. That soil glue has been applied at the Village to keep dust down. The vacant lot that the county has put the green fence around on Palm Drive has been cleaned up. A weird little house on 5th Street has had its front yard cleaned up. It certainly looks a lot better and has a for sale sign in the window now. It was a house I had looked at myself when I was shopping for a house in DHS several years ago. It's got a spacious common room that combines the kitchen and living room, but behind that are impossibly small bedrooms. A double bed in one of those rooms would leave you enough space to shuffle in and out of the room, but you couldn't have any more furniture in there. Even so, two or three families have lived in it over the last five years.
The vacant lot behind the Pizza Hut has been cleaned up and, as reported before, the police have a standing "no trespassing" order on the site, so if they see anyone there they can arrest them with no additional folderol. And a retention basin at Mission Springs Park has been cleaned up, eliminating places to hide or sleep in the shade.
A notice of violation (no fine yet) has been issued to Sunset Springs for failure to maintain landscaping.
Perennially unsatisfied Mayor Pro Tem Baker wanted to know when the house at 12th and West will be demolished. This is the house that he worked to have boarded up. Since the boarding up, the city has learned that the two owners are deceased. Some people will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid maintaining their property. The city will move to buy and demolish the place.
Finally, Steven Cicorelli got up to say that earlier this year he had a code enforcement complaint. It took him two weeks to find out where to report it and then it took a month to actually talk to someone. Chief Williams finally answered his questions. He never got any feedback on the complaint. OTOH, he was satisfied with the progress in code enforcement that he had seen in tonight's presentation.
The Maddy Act
Interim City Clerk Pat Hammers had discovered that Desert Hot Springs was not in compliance with the Maddy Act. The Maddy Act is concerned with encouraging citizen participation in boards, commissions and committees. The act requires the city annually to prepare a list of all the city's commissions and committees. That list must include
(a) A list of all appointive terms which will expire during the next calendar year, with the name of the incumbent appointee, the date of appointment, the date the term expires, and the necessary qualifications for the position.
(b) A list of all boards, commissions, and committees whose members serve at the pleasure of the legislative body, and the necessary qualifications for each position.
When a vacancy occurs, public notice must be given not more than 20 days before and not more than 20 days after the vacancy occurs. Final appointment to fill the vacancy cannot be made until 10 days after the notice has been posted.
Ms. Hammers suggested that in order to comply, the city code needs to be revised so that Commissioner appointments will be made not in December of election years, but in January of the next year (i.e., one month later).
This Hockey Rink Needs A High-Res Security Camera
The Idaho Junior Steelheads, a junior hockey team (age 17 to 20) held a "strip shootout" at a recent practice. The team has been banned from the rink for four days. One player who actually got naked has been banned "until next week."
15 Years Together
Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the first web banner ad. The first advertisers were MCI, Volvo, Club Med, 1-800-Collect, Zima and AT&T. Some of those advertisers didn't even have websites yet, so they had to be created. Clicking a Volvo ad simply led you to a questionnaire. One of the original banner ads had a 78% click-through rate.
More On The Olson/Boies Case
That is, the federal case to overturn Prop 8. The N.Y. Times has just done an article on the October 14 hearing. (We really must get some fresh ponies for the post office.) They bring up the fact that in addition to Judge Walker's delicious questioning that we already read about, he got into the procreation issue as well.
In the courtroom, Mr. [Charles J.] Cooper's arguments seemed to fall of their own weight. The government should be allowed to favor opposite-sex marriages, Mr. Cooper said, in order "to channel naturally procreative sexual activity between men and women into stable, enduring unions."
Judge Walker appeared puzzled. "The last marriage that I performed," the judge said, "involved a groom who was 95, and the bride was 83. I did not demand that they prove that they intended to engage in procreative activity. Now, was I missing something?"
Mr. Cooper said no.
"And I might say it was a very happy relationship," Judge Walker said.
"I rejoice to hear that," Mr. Cooper responded, returning to his theme that only procreation matters.
Judge Walker has "hinted" that he may allow the trail itself to be televised.
Magdaleno's Arraignment Delayed Due To H1N1 Fears
The arraignment of the accused killer of Tony Chen has been delayed for two days because Magdaleno may have "possibly" come into contact with someone "suspected" of having "a virus." The jail has him and other inmates under quarantine. Defense lawyers are insisting that the constitutional requirement of arraignment within 48 hours must be respected, whatever it takes. The article says other courts have allowed inmates to wear masks and gloves so they could appear in court. I think any outfit they could put on him that would make him feel foolish would be acceptable. A pink paper gown with a full hood, maybe.