April 30, 2012
Dan Savage On Biblical Slavery
April 29, 2012
Chase Bank ATM Skimmers Nabbed
Press Release: Theft of Credit Card Information via Skimming Device
Agency: Rancho Mirage Police
Station Area: Palm Desert
Incident Date: April 29, 2012 Time: 2:30 pm
Incident Location: Chase Bank, 36100 block of Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage
On April 29, 2012, investigators from the Rancho Mirage Police Department responded to the Chase Bank at the corner of Bob Hope Drive and Gerald Ford Drive regarding a skimming device being used on the bank's ATM machine. Investigators initiated surveillance. At about 2:20 pm, two male adults, who had been seen at the bank numerous times throughout the day, were observed as they returned to the bank and removed a device from the ATM.
Investigators immediately detained the suspects as they entered their vehicle. Investigators located items consistent with a skimming scheme whereby the credit card/ ATM card account information could be stolen by the suspects. Investigators are working with Chase Bank to identify all of the users who used the ATM during the time the device was in place, and no customers' information appears to be compromised.
The suspects, Timothy Vaughn, 43 years old from Cerritos, and Jonathan Aguilar, 32 years old from Hesperia were arrested at the scene and booked into the jail in Indio for burglary, theft of credit information, conspiracy, and identity-theft related charges.
This investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact Investigator Freeman at (760) 836-1600 or (760) 836-3215 or Crime Stoppers at (760) 341-STOP.
Anti-fogging, Glare-free, Self-cleaning Glass
Taking cues from nature, we use tapered conical nanotextures to fabricate the multifunctional surfaces; the slender conical features result in large topographic roughness whilst the axial gradient in the effective refractive index minimizes reflection through adiabatic index-matching between air and the substrate. Precise geometric control of the conical shape and slenderness of the features as well as periodicity at the nanoscale are all keys to optimizing the multi-functionality of the textured surface, but at the same time these demands pose the toughest fabrication challenges. Here we report a systematic approach to concurrent design of optimal structures in the fluidic and optical domains, and a fabrication procedure that achieves the desired aspect ratios and periodicities with few defects, and large pattern area. Our fabricated nanostructures demonstrate structural superhydrophilicity or, in combination with a suitable chemical coating, robust superhydrophobicity. Enhanced polarization-independent optical transmission exceeding 98% has also been achieved over a broad range of bandwidth and incident angles. These nanotextured surfaces are also robustly anti-fogging or self-cleaning offering potential benefits for applications such as photovoltaic solar cells.
Why an MIT paper uses British English is not explained.
White House Correspondents Dinner
Video by C-Span. They've broken it up to give you choices: the President Obama part, the Jimmy Kimmel part, or the whole shebang.
Iowa State: "Burning Man Studio"
This Iowa State class camped next to ours in 2010. The instructor is an assistant professor of architecture and in 2010 the course was entitled "Shifting Sands: Transient Architectures in the Desert." There are two sections to the course:
- The first section is between May 16 and July 8, where the students are to develop and produce their projects for the playa. The studio is held in the Armory building [in Ames, Iowa] where the students have 24 hour access to work on their art and store their supplies.
- The second section is between August 29 and September 5, when the students take a trip to the Burning Man Festival.
English major Jason Parry clearly describes the essence of Burning Man as only an English major could: "It's community-oriented. Everybody works and helps out, participating in washing dishes and doing choirs." After doing some choirs, it's time to rest and leave the chores for another day.
The syllabus says "What it means to be in a community, to participate in it will be redefined; expected to work with intensity and dedication, experiment, make magical things, teach, and help each other." (And BURN things!)
"The course starts out with the students learning about the history of Burning Man by purchasing books and viewing films." Well, I guess that's how you know it's a college credit course.
DHS City Council Meeting - March 20
On The Subject Of Invocations
Mayor Parks announced that instead of the usual invocation, she would have Bruce Montgomery come up to speak. Pastor Montgomery:
Our city attorney, Ruben Duran, has circulated to the council and staff... and, therefore, you'll see why I'm also reading this:The establishment clauses of the United States and California Constitutions mandate that government remain secular and avoid affiliation with religious beliefs or institutions in order to avoid discrimination among citizens on the basis of their religious beliefs. Pursuant to the mandate under both constitutions, government is prohibited from endorsing prayer that either directly, or implied, advances one religious belief or faith over another.
Then he references the 1999 City of Burbank case.The California Court of Appeals holding made it clear that invocations in city council meetings must not be "sectarian prayer," e.g., the invocations may not make references to any particular religious faith or belief. Although the Court of Appeals did not leave cities with specific examples of invocations, it did set forth two general standards. First, explicit invocations of a particular religious belief or faith by reference, such as "Our Father in heaven" or "Jesus Christ," will violate the establishment clause.
I'm skipping a few sentences.To comply with the court's holding, I recommend the city advise all persons conducting invocations as part of the city-sponsored meetings avoid references to a particular religious belief or faith. Also, such person should be instructed that even a minimal number of references to a particular belief would violate the establishment clause and could potentially subject the city to a lawsuit.
Thank you for that very clear statement. And then, therefore, the leadership of the Desert Hot Springs Christian Ministerial Fellowship met and addressed the Mayor this, which I'm going to read:Dear Mayor Parks, City Council and staff; in light of the recent communication regarding invocations at city council meetings, the Christian Ministers Fellowship of Desert Hot Springs, with regret, will no longer be officially participating. Of course, other pastors, individual pastors, may choose to be involved. In good conscience, we, the Christian Ministerial Fellowship, are reluctant to be in any way responsible for any litigation resulting from potential legal challenges.
Ultimately, the communication I referenced above states references such as "Our Father in heaven" or "Jesus Christ" will violate the establishment clause. Considering that this is being offered as legal counsel and since St. Paul instructed "obey the governing authorities," (invoke Romans 1 following) [Romans 13:1-7] we respectfully decline and regretfully decline to participate as representing the Christian Ministerial Fellowship of Desert Hot Springs. We remain in prayer for our beloved Desert Hot Springs.
Mayor Parks said that was unfortunate because "we have always had a great invocation by the ministerial association."
The "establishment clause" in the U.S. Constitution is in the 1st amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."
In the California Constitution it's in Article 1, Section 4: "The Legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."
Here is the Court of Appeals' decision in Rubin v. City of Burbank which was decided in 2002 (based on an incident in 1999). Allow me to summarize...
Burbank city council has started each meeting with an invocation since 1953. The invocation was usually given by a member of the Burbank Ministerial Association which is described as "a nondenominational organization of clergy and representatives of other organizations, such as the YMCA." The association was not entirely Christian, but there were "no Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu or Bahai members in the group."
The ability for cities (and other government bodies) to even have invocations was affirmed in the U.S. Supreme Court decision Marsh v. Chambers in 1983. In that case the Nebraska legislature had been sued by a legislator who objected to opening each session with a prayer by a clergyman who was paid by public funds. The Supreme Court ruled...
The use of prayer is embedded in the nation's history and tradition. That the practice of the Nebraska legislature is consistent with the framers' intent is proven by their use of chaplains. Additionally, the Supreme Court and Congress have traditionally begun their sessions with prayers. Individual states do not have to abide by more stringent First Amendment limits than the federal government. The "Establishment Clause does not always bar a state from regulating conduct simply because it harmonizes with religious concerns." Because of the principles upon which the nation has developed, religion has become part of the fabric of society. The offering of the prayer is a "tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country." The public payment of the chaplain is historically allowable because it was done by the Continental Congress years earlier. The pervasiveness of involving prayer with governmental activity without adverse effect has shown that there is no real threat from continuing the practice.
As the courts have penciled in the specific outlines of the rights and powers in the Constitution, they have not drawn hard, ruler-straight lines. The boundaries zig and zag a bit sometimes. Those who seek perfect consistency in the Constitution and court rulings will just wear themselves out with frustration.
The Nebraska legislature's chaplain was a Presbyterian who had been giving the invocation for 16 years. Some of his earlier prayers were specifically Christian, but he "removed all references to Christ after a 1980 complaint from a Jewish legislator." So the Marsh v. Chambers decision involved prayer that did NOT cite Jesus Christ by name.
In Burbank the ministerial association had a sign-up sheet for those who wanted to give an invocation at a city council meeting. They gave the list to the city clerk who would put the name of whoever volunteered on the agenda. Neither the city clerk nor city council had any input into the content of the invocation.
Then on the fateful night of November 23, 1999, Irv Rubin came to the city council meeting to comment on a plan to expand the Burbank Airport. He heard an invocation given by minister of the LDS Church that concluded with "We are grateful heavenly Father for all that thou has poured out on us and we express our gratitude and our love in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."
Mr. Rubin along with his co-plaintiff Roberto Alejandro Gandara, sued because it was a religious prayer that invoked the name of "Jesus Christ." They won in court.
The court permanently enjoined the city from "knowingly and intentionally allowing sectarian prayer at City Council meetings." The city was ordered to "advise anyone conducting a prayer as part of the City Council meeting that sectarian prayers are not permitted."
The City of Burbank appealed, citing Marsh v. Chambers and saying that "regulation of the content of prayer is impermissible viewpoint discrimination."
In Allegheny County v. Greater Pittsburgh ACLU (1989) the Supreme Court had ruled "[w]hatever else the Establishment Clause may mean ..., it certainly means at the very least that government may not demonstrate a preference for one particular sect or creed (including a preference for Christianity over other religions). 'The clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.'"
The appeals court ruled that the reference to "Jesus Christ" in the Burbank invocation violated the establishment clause. The city had argued that only about 20% of the invocations cited Jesus Christ by name, therefore invocations were not being used to advance or disparage any particular faith. The city also argued that ordering it to advise volunteers that sectarian prayer is not permitted would put the city in the position of censoring speech.
The appeals court ruled that the city was correct that it must abstain from regulating speech "when the specific motivating ideology or the opinion or perspective of the speaker is the rationale for the restriction." "But this does not create carte blanche for the speaker."
The decision cites Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe (2000) which ruled that prayer before football games at a public school, authorized by government policy, on government property, at government sponsored events were not "private speech."
For the same reason, the invocation at Burbank city council was not private speech.
The appeals court wrote "We can think of no more compelling interest than safeguarding the establishment clause of the First Amendment to support the restriction ordered here."
Government can run afoul of that prohibition in two principal ways. One is excessive entanglement with religious institutions, which may interfere with the independence of the institutions, give the institutions access to government or governmental powers not fully shared by nonadherents of the religion, and foster the creation of political constituencies defined along religions lines.... The second and more direct infringement is government endorsement or disapproval of religion. Endorsement sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community. Disapproval sends the opposite message.
The interest in protecting and safeguarding the fundamental constitutional right to maintain a separation between church and state and to demand neutrality when the interests of religion and government intersect is increasingly more important as our nation becomes more pluralistic. In ordering that the city not permit sectarian prayer at city council meetings and requiring the city to advise those who participate in conducting prayer at city council meetings of this limitation, the trial court drew the regulation as narrowly as possible. The only restriction being imposed on the prayer is that it not be sectarian, that is, that the invocation not be used to advance one faith or belief over another.
The appeals court affirmed the lower court decision. The City of Burbank requested to appeal to the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court rejected the request.
Mayor Parks read this statement:
Chairman Richard Milanovich left us to join his ancestors on March 11, 2012. Chairman Milanovich grew up in Palm Springs. He joined the Agua Caliente Tribal Council in 1978 and became Chairman in 1984. Chairman Milanovich was a kind, humble, good-natured and big hearted leader who will be remembered for his lifetime of service to his tribe and to the betterment of his entire community. Desert Hot Springs has been a recipient of his generosity. He is survived by his wife Melissa and six children. He will be dearly missed by all. His services are open to the public to be held tomorrow, Wednesday, March 21, at the Palm Springs Convention Center beginning at 10 AM, ending at 12 with a reception following at the Palm Springs Convention Center. I would like to ask you all now may we have a moment of silence in honor or Chairman Richard Milanovich.
When the mayor called for an approval of the agenda, Attorney Duran said that representatives of the Miracle Springs Resort and DHS Spa had requested their two items on the agenda be moved to the beginning of the agenda, because they expected the items to be continued to another meeting, and they'd like to be able to skip out on this one ASAP.
Mayor Pro Tem Pye moved to approve the agenda with those two items moved to the top. Approved 5-0.
Youth Of the Year
Mayor Parks presented a proclamation to Isaiah Suave, the Boys & Girls Club of America's "Youth Of The Year." His selection was based on his academics, his volunteering, his accomplishments at school, mentoring younger children.
Erin Begley, manager of the Senior Center, said they have had the first meeting of the Senior Center Advisor Council. Their purpose is to represent the needs of local residents and serve in an advisory capacity to the Board of Directors of Family Service Association and staff. It's intended to foster a sense of ownership by community members. There are 10 members. 3 are senior citizens, 3 are volunteers at the center, 2 are community members at large, and 2 are city officials. They are seeking more members to represent business, health, service clubs and faith-based organizations. Contact Erin Begley at the Senior Center, Monday through Friday, 8 to 2, or call her at 760-329-6411 ext. 213. Their next meeting will be in June. They will focus on program development, fund development and public relations.
In February the Senior Center did a client satisfaction survey. They got 52 surveys. Overall the Senior Center averages 4.7 out of a possible score of 5.
Lorraine Sallas said she is part of a very progressive group called "Occupy Coachella Valley." She says the 1% of the population that is "ultra-wealthy" is infringing on people's rights. She said "With the current economic crisis the top 1% pay also their fair share of taxes." [She may have misspoken herself there.] The Citizens United decision allows corporations to give unlimited campaign contributions. She said that they ask those who made the problem help pay for the problem. One issue is that 99% of foreclosures are fraudulent according to the Aequitas independent study. [You can get the San Francisco Foreclosure Report here (21-page PDF).] The study looked at 382 residential foreclosures from January 2009 through October 2011. They found irregularities in 99% and the appearance of violations of law in 84%. Here's a news story about the study.] She asked the city council to put a resolution on the next agenda which would state the city council's opposition to illegal and wrongful evictions. They also want the city council to urge local courts and law enforcement agencies to suspend eviction procedures.
[They only want to stop evictions? I would think they would want to stop foreclosures. If the lenders can foreclose, but not evict, you just get a sort of extralegal squatting which isn't good for the lender or the former owner.]
Louis Stewart said they had provided a copy of the Aequitas report to the city council for review. He said that report concluded that "in 84% there were one or more clear violations of the law." He said that an as yet unreleased report from HUD [gonna be hard for me to verify that one] says major banks have knowingly committed widespread fraud [not that we need HUD to tell us that]. He suggested that homeowners who have been wrong might file charges against local bank officers under California penal code section 115. He suggested another resolution in support of each city devising a foreclosure tax or fee which would be used to fund homeless services.
Carolyn Krause read a statement about Attorney General Harris's "Homeowners Bill of Rights". It includes these points:
- Basic standards of fairness in the mortgage process, including an end to dual-track foreclosures;
- Transparency in the mortgage process, including a single point of contact for homeowners;
- Community tools to prevent blight after banks foreclose upon homes;
- Tenant protections after foreclosures;
- Enhanced legal enforcement to defend homeowner rights - paid for by fees imposed on banks;
- A special grand jury to investigate financial and foreclosure crime.
Russ Martin spoke as a Director of the Mission Springs Water District. He presented a check to Mike Platt of the Little League for $950 on behalf of the water district.
Tom Hile spoke on behalf of the Elks. In 2009 remote caller bingo was approved. The California State Gaming Commission was required to accept applications and issue license. The commission arbitrarily stopped issuing licenses July 1, 2011, citing a shortage of funds. There is Senate Bill 383 which was approved 38-0 by the Senate. [The bill would delete all state licensure requirements, but would require organizations to register annually.] Mr. Hile would like a resolution from the city addressed to Assembly Speaker Perez (with a copy to Governor Brown) urging immediate passage of SB 383. There are over 100 charitable organizations sitting in limbo right now. In their first year the Desert Hot Springs Elks raised $25,000 for charity. When all the organizations who want to host remote caller bingo are permitted to do so, there will be $3 million to $4 million raised for charity in California.
Dot Reed talked about the Memorial Day event planned by CCAC at Veterans Park. She reminded people of the memorial tiles there. The deadline to get tiles engraved in time for Memorial Day was April 15. She spoke in support of Mr. Hile's request, saying the Soroptimists' House Of Hope had benefited from funds raised by Elks Bingo.
Adrienne Miracle asked "can we still sing God Bless America?" Mayor Parks instructed Attorney Duran that he may give an answer. Mr. Duran said the advice he gave was specifically about invocations at city council meetings. Singing God Bless America might be different.
Paul Miller said he was there as a citizen and as a pastor, but not representing the Christian Ministerial Fellowship of Desert Hot Springs. He's been involved in the city council meetings since about 1995 or 1996. He is pastor at Christ Lutheran. He is saddened "that our government is so bending over backwards to accommodate the few that the majority have to kowtow." [That is the very nature of the rights guaranteed in our Constitution - rarely does the majority need to have its rights protected from government intrusion.] He continued...
We as Christians have never said or denied that there couldn't be a Buddhist up here an atheist promoting whatever his philosophy might be or some other kind of what we would call faith to speak their, you know. It's just kind of interesting that the fear rears its ugly head when it's Christian, but you notice that there hasn't been any issue about if a Muslim, which has every right to pray to Allah, I don't care about that, or a Jew to likewise pray to Alhim, and yet, if we are Christian we can't do that. And it's just too bad that in our politically correct society that this has to be the case. I regret that I can no longer stand here and do the invocation. And, yes, many of you have probably picked up that we've implied strongly the God to whom we are praying, but that was not in deference to some other god, and yet the government says "Oh, yeah, you're promoting that Christianity." That's a bunch of - well, I'm ex-truck driver so I have to be careful. But I just get a little tired of this constant - there's one person that's upset - he raises his voice and then the government yields to that - it's just so disgusting. But it also is an indication of what should be going on these latter days anyway. So I just regret that I will not be able to - yet at the same time as our statement made which I do agree with, we still will pray for our beloved city, but personally I will also be praying for each and every one of you as I do almost every evening as I lay my head upon a pillow and I pray in the name of Jesus, amen.
The court decisions and Rubin Duran's message to the council never addressed the speaker's own faith. It addressed only what the speaker says during the invocation. So while any Buddhist, Muslim, Christian or Jew can deliver the invocation, none of them may cite beliefs that are specific to their faith. Praying in the name of Jesus Christ would be an example of that, but there can be examples in any religion. The example of using "Jesus Christ" in an invocation is cited so often because it was the particular violation of the establishment clause that the Burbank decision rested on, and it is the violation that most generally happens in the U.S. Neither the appeals court (nor Mr. Duran) cited any other examples because to do so starts us down the slippery slope leading to government-written prayers.
The court decisions are clear that God can be addressed and named in any invocation.
Mr. Miller considers it disgusting that he cannot use a government-owned microphone at a government meeting to pray to Jesus Christ so that the home TV audience can watch him via cameras paid for by the government. It's regrettable that he considers anything less than a government subsidy for his particular religious message is "disgusting."
All the religions represented in our city are free to proselytize and spread their word in any of thousands of legal ways. But none are permitted a taxpayer funded subsidy to do so.
Mike Platt spoke up for Little League. Opening day was March 31.
These are the TOT appeals filed by Miracle Springs and the DHS Spa which have been continued numerous times now. City Manager Daniels said he has met with the hotels more than 3 times attempting to get a resolution. He said we're not there yet, so he requested another continuation until the second meeting in April. Mr. Betts moved that the item be continued to the April 24 meeting, which would have been the usual date for the second study session of the month. The second regular council meeting would have been April 17. There was no city council study session on April 24, so maybe this will come back on May 1.
Continuance approved 5-0.
Pierson Professional Plaza
Martín Magaña was the staff person in charge of this one. It's 9.4 acres bounded by Pierson, Cholla, Buena Vista and Via Loreto. It's cross Pierson from the football field. Google satellite view.
The site will be divided into 12 parcels. Acoma would be extended through the property, but not as a public road. There will be no access from Buena Vista. They initially propose to construct 48,800 square feet of commercial use on the northern half. Development on the southern half is not part of the proposal before the city council tonight. whatever goes on the southern half will have to go through the whole permitting, design review and planning commission process. The tallest building will be 29 feet with parapets that will extend to 35 feet, the maximum permissible height. The minimum required number of parking spaces is 430 - it will actually have 445. The site will have an underground stormwater retention basin.
A conditional use permit is required for a restaurant in this zone. The developer is proposing a restaurant and a medical facility.
There were concerns from residential neighbors, mostly along Buena Vista. Those people have been in touch with the applicant, and all the issues are worked out, Mr. Magaña said.
Mayor Parks opened the public hearing and Jeff Payne speaking as the applicant came to the podium. This process began in 2006. The project paid $50,000 in application fees in 2008. The city encouraged this developer to look at this piece of property and do something with it. The city will grow to the west. There were lots of applications in for homes then, but retail space was needed to support that. There was also a big need for medical facilities. The applicant was part of the city's group that studied the medical and health care problems in Desert Hot Springs. The idea here would be to have a first class medical office building that could attract the kind of medical services that the city needs. A family restaurant was desired as well. Add to that list some higher scale retail. Plus that undesignated commercial on the south half of the site.
Linda Lennon-Roth lives on Buena Vista south of the proposed project. She said she has been speaking with Mr. Magaña and Mr. Payne about her concerns. She believes the issues have been ironed out. Her first concern was the structures on the southern parcels should be restricted to one story. That was in the minutes from the Planning Commission, but she wanted that included as a condition of approval. Second, Buena Vista residents were told they would have a wall with a planted strip between the sidewalk and the wall. Mr. Payne has agreed to that. The minutes of the Planning Commission said he developer would install the wall immediately after rough grading. She wants that to be etched in stone. Also at the Planning Commission it was agreed that the only possible 24-hour usage would be an urgent care facility on the northwest corner of the site. However, the neighbors would object to night clubs, drive-thru restaurants, and things of that nature. (Mayor Parks granted Ms. Lennon-Roth additional time at this point). Ms. Lennon-Roth concluded by saying that everyone is in agreement, she just wants these items to be written in as conditions of approval.
Jeff Comer lives in Via Loreto. He bought his house in 2008 and didn't expect the parcel across the street to be rezoned commercial. He has children and wanted to live in a low density residential area. People speed on Via Loreto. There has been crime in the neighborhood. He didn't receive all the notifications. He was notified only of the Planning Commission hearing and today's hearing. He doesn't think it's right that the developer wants to develop only the northern part first and then wait to develop the southern part. The wall should be put in and the roads upgraded. Something should be done on Via Loreto about the traffic. When it rains the water comes rushing down and washing out part of the road. He wants all the landscaping done.
Irene Kelly said she wanted to be on record that she agrees with the two previous commenters. She said merging commercial with residential is "so important to the aesthetics." She asked Mr. Magaña to make it better than what DHS has had before.
Mayor Pro Tem Pye asked Mr. Payne if he had any objections to Ms. Lennon-Roths requests.
Mr. Payne referenced a March 13 letter from Ms. Lennon-Roth. He said that everything in item 1 of the letter is fine with him. Item 1 says that except for the water retention basin, any development on the southern parcels has to come back through Planning Commission for approval; and that structures on the southern parcels will be restricted to one story or 20 feet. Item 2 called for construction of the block wall and green belt along Buena Vista immediately after rough grading and prior to construction. Mr. Payne said they need to get to a finer grading before they put in a wall. He proposed that the wall will be built as part of creating the finished lots. He also said item 3 in her letter is fine. Item 3 says simply that all Buena Vista street improvements must be completed prior to any construction. They have also agreed to put in a green belt with landscaping along Buena Vista. Item 4 was the restriction of 24-hour use to an urgent care facility only. Mr. Payne said he is fine with that. He said there are a couple of problems with item 5.
Item 5 says no "fast food and/or drive-up restaurant" and no night club.
Ms. Pye interrupted to ask staff if they wanted to develop any of those things, wouldn't they have to go before Planning Commission for a CUP. Mr. Magaña said "It depends." A CUP is required for a "drive-through." But something like a Subway restaurant would not require a CUP. Ms. Pye asked about a night club. A night club would need a CUP, Mr. Magaña said.
Mr. Payne said he considered a Subway to be fast food and a "drive-up." He would agree not to permit any "drive-through" restaurant. He said that as far back as 2006 a drive-through was looked on with disfavor because of the proximity of the high school. He said there are no plans for a drive-through and a drive-through would require a CUP. But he would not agree to no fast food or no drive-up restaurants.
Item 6 in Ms. Lennon-Roth's letter states there will be no entrances or exists on Buena Vista. Mr. Payne said they have never planned to put any driveways there, so he could agree to that condition.
Mr. Payne addressed a question from Mr. Comer about building the entire site. He said that building the site is dictated by economics. They don't have a proposed user for that southern half yet. They will finish the southern half because they have to put in the stormwater retention basin.
Mayor Parks asked if the landscaping on the southern half could be completed prior to construction.
Mr. Payne explained that they would develop this site as many parcels, so that if, say, a restaurant wanted to come in and buy their parcel, that could be done. First they will rough and fine grade to create the different pads. Then they would build most of the parking lot, except on the rear half. When the parking lot is built they will put in the landscaping. As a practical matter, as individual parcels are sold or leased they would be finished. The last remaining to be done would be curb and gutter and the sidewalk up to that particular building and then the building. The perimeter wall can be built up "reasonably after" the rough grade. Not immediately. The finished elevations have to be there before a wall can be put in.
Mr. Payne also corrected that the property is owned by "Pierson Professional Partners, LLC" and "Tahiti Partners Properties Corporation" is the manager of that LLC.
Councilmember Betts said he would like to see that wall and all the perimeter landscaping done on "some reasonable schedule." He is afraid that if the northern half is completed and there is no wall on Buena Vista, then the dirt lot becomes a new driveway.
Mr. Payne said that when they start construction it will take about 3 months to rough grade, fine grade, and create the lot. They do it all as one thing. They will do curbs and gutters on the three side roads. That's when the wall will be built. Total time, about 3 months. He added that in order to attract the right tenants for their project, the developer needs to have a finished lot. He said the green fabric dust control fence will have to stay around part of the project as long as construction is going on.
Councilmember Sanchez asked Mr.Payne what he had heard from the county about what might go into the office building that is planned as part of the project. Mr. Payne said he has not heard back from the county in its RFP process.
Mr. Sanchez asked about possibilities for a restaurant. Mr. Payne said they had spoken to Appleby's and others like that. They have no commitment at present. They've talked to a couple of Coachella Valley chains.
Mr. Sanchez asked if the larger retail parcel could accommodate a Food 4 Less. Mr. Payne said it could not, but the south half would be big enough. He went on to say that they have talked to Koffi, and they have seemed interested. They have also talked to Togo's and Subway.
Councilmember Matas recalled seeing this project five years ago, and he's still excited about it.
Mayor Parks said that mixing neighborhood commercial with residential enhances the value of the residential areas.
Assistant City Attorney Sparks asked to clarify Ms. Lennon-Roth's first item. She said that at the Planning Commission it was agreed that the applicant would come back to the Planning Commission for additional entitlements on the three southern parcels. She asked Mr. Payne if he was now agreeing to the height restrictions proposed by Ms. Lennon-Roth. He said he was.
Mr. Comer asked permission to ask 4 questions that would not take more than 20 seconds. Mayor Parks said she would give him one minute.
- He said that as far as he knew, the wall could be in place of the fabric-covered chainlink fence to control dust.
- Lighting and sidewalks. Are they on the plans? Someone on the staff answered "Yes." Mr. Comer said that was fine, but he didn't see them. [The sidewalks are shown on many of the plans in the packet, but I don't see anything about the lighting.]
- The communities the mayor spoke of (she used Monterey Avenue as an example of residential and neighborhood commercial) are all walled communities, but he does believe this project will improve residential values.
[Final score: 43 seconds, 1 question, 2 statements.]
Mr. Payne agreed that the wall in back will serve in lieu of the green fence there. He said the sidewalks will be up to DHS code, which means they come right off the curb. The actual process of construction, including lighting, will go through police, fire, planning and building. The 2010 code will apply, which has "fairly green requirements" he said.
Underground Utility District
Approved 5-0 without discussion were these items:
- Award NTE $108,464 to PACE Engineering for engineering services to prepare a Drainage Master Plan. The plan we have been working with was developed in the early 1980s.
- Acceptance of the 8th Street rehab project.
- Approve Prop 1B funding of $330,055.19 for Essential Transportation Improvements Phase III - which is the area bounded by Hacienda, Cactus, Pierson and Palm. The total cost of the project is $1,920,000. $565,000 is coming from the federal government.
- An amendment to the contract with RH Consulting Services to do Worker's Comp and HR consulting. The amount is for $50,000 to carry them through the end of June 2012. RH Consulting fills the place of an in-house HR Director. The earlier agreement with RH Consulting was in June 2011 for $30,000. Protracted negotiations with the DHS Police Officers Association and upcoming negotiations with non-sworn represented personell have to be paid for.
Mr. Matas asked councilmembers who had asked to have items pulled from the consent agenda (Mr. Betts and Mr. Sanchez) if they had made the effort to submit their questions to staff ahead of time, so that staff could give an informed answer now. Mr. Betts answered "I'm not certain." Mr. Matas said it was an easy question. "Did you send your question via email or in person before this meeting?" Mr. Betts said he sent staff some questions, but he didn't know if he had sent them every question he had. Mr. Matas reminded him of the council's policy. Mr. Betts said that even if they had gone to staff, he would probably still ask them here. [Missing the point]. Mr. Matas said he was just stating the obvious, that this matter had been discussed repeatedly, but Mr. Betts continues to bring questions that he has not submitted to staff earlier.
Travel Expenditure For ICSC In Las Vegas
The International Council Of Shopping Centers in Las Vegas is the biggest, richest pool where our city goes fishing for new retail business investment. That's where Dollar General found us. This item is for $4,600. Out of that comes $1,600 that we give to Riverside County so that we can share in their floor space at the convention. It was proposed to send two councilmembers. There is a $550 fee for each person we send. Take out those expenses and you've got $1,900 left to pay for mileage or air fare, plus hotel, plus meals for the period May 20-23 (3 nights).
The city's contract Economic Development Director, Michael Bracken, will go along at his own expense, as will Tim Brophy and other private business owners in the city.
Last year representatives from Desert Hot Springs made contact with more than 50 retailers. Private meetings were held with 16 companies:
- Dollar General
- RJ Feder & Associates
- Spinello & Associates
- Wilson Johnson Commercial Real Estate
- NAI Capital
- Lyle & Assoc. Commercial Real Estate
- Tri-Millennium Development
- Retail Trends Commercial Brokers
- AM/PM (BP)
- Big 5 Sporting Goods
- Fresh & Easy [oh, well]
- In-N-Out Burger
Mr. Betts asked which councilmembers will go. Mr. Matas answered that since he and Mayor Pro Tem Pye are co-chairs of the Economic Development Committee, it has been requested that they go. They've done this trip in previous years.
Mr. Betts asked Mayor Parks and Mr. Sanchez if they wanted to go. Ms. Parks said no. Mr. Sanchez said yes. Mr. Betts said he himself did not want to go.
Mr. Matas said that when Mr. Bracken schedules a meeting in Las Vegas, the plan will be to have two council members present. The presence of a third council member at those meetings would violate the Brown Act. He said he thinks it would be okay for all three council members to present at the same social event.
Mr. Betts said he thinks other cities send their full city councils. He explained that he's sure that any Brown Act issues could be avoided. He recounted an earlier trip he made to Las Vegas where he participated in a city council meeting in Desert Hot Springs by phone, and how it had to be properly noticed even in Las Vegas. [That, however, is a different aspect of the Brown Act from what Mr. Matas warned about.]
Mr. Betts moved that the three councilmembers who want to go should go and keep expenses within the $4,600 limit.
Jim Provance came up to speak. He is on the Economic Development Committee. He gave credit to Mr. Bracken and last year's trip for the current progress with Dollar General and Walmart. He said this where the people with the land come together with the people who have the financing and the people who have the stores. The $4,600 expense is a pittance, he said. The $1,600 fee to the county is "god given." Without the county's help this trip could cost us $20,000. The expansion of Walmart's plans is a recognition by Walmart that the quality of life has improved in Desert Hot Springs and that as the quality of life improves, the residents will be more willing to spend to improve and maintain their quality of life. The Pierson project approved earlier in this meeting will also draw a great amount of interest at ICSC.
Ms. Pye said there's not enough money to send more than two councilmembers. She said it's important that she and Mr. Matas go because of the work they have already put into this, and to maintain continuity. There are people at ICSC that "we need to look in their eyeballs again, and they need to look in ours." There is an individual they have been "working on" for four years, who is about to ready to come to DHS. Consistency and continuity is critical.
Mr Betts repeated his prior motion, which had not yet received a second. Mr. Sanchez seconded it this time.
Attorney Duran said he wanted to clarify the Brown Act issues. If three councilmembers meet with a potential developer together at one time at the ICSC, that would be a Brown Act violation.
Mr. Matas said the budget is pretty small and with three travelers, they will run over budget. He had hoped to be able to go to a conference in Oregon, but has canceled that because the city doesn't have the money. The Economic Development Committee had recommended that the city send 4 people: 2 councilmembers and 2 others from the committee, but there wasn't enough money for that. Mr. Matas said he thinks it's counter productive to have more than two councilmembers, since you can't all be together at once. You end up doubling and it make the city appear disorganized.
Mr. Sanchez asked Mr. Matas how many times he had gone. Mr. Matas said it's been five times. Ms. Pye said she had gone once before.
Mr. Sanchez said Mr. Matas and Ms. Pye could be appointed to the Economic Development Committee for the next 10 years. He said every member of needs to share in the experience and grow as individual councilmembers. We all have to have the opportunity to learn about economic development, he said, and to spend time with Mr. Bracken. Everybody needs an opportunity to grow and develop. "At what point in the future when you have new council members, do you give them the opportunity?" We have to share, he said. Mr. Bracken is the point man. Councilmembers amplify on the opportunity. "This is an area where I need to develop myself. I need to grow and I need to have the opportunities so I want to speak up and say 'yes, I'd like to have the opportunity to go'."
Mr. Betts said he thinks the Brown Act issues will be a non-problem. He said developers don't care which councilmembers they meet, it's Mr. Bracken who makes the real difference. He also said $1,900 is plenty of money for three people to go to Las Vegas for 3 nights and have a great time and live very well. He said you can get a nice room at Bally's for $69.
If Mr. Sanchez went, the amount to cover actual travel expenses drops to $1,350 because his $550 admission fee comes out of that, too. I just checked Bally's in Las Vegas and for the days of ICSC the lowest rate available per night is $399, but maybe if I'd checked in March it would have been only $69. Even looking at Priceline, a room at Bally's would be $205. Google says rooms are available at the Holiday Inn at 4055 Palos Verdes Street starting at $33/night via Booking.com or Priceline.com. 4 stars.
Mayor Parks said that who we send to the ICSC is very important. A non-experienced councilmember would not be conducive to the headway we are beginning to make. Investors are expecting to see "these two councilmembers again," she said, "along with Michael Bracken." We are in a period of growth. She is totally in favor of sending councilmembers Matas and Pye. They have experience in this.
Mr. Matas expressed a concern that if all the available funds are spent to send three people to ICSC, there won't be any for travel for the youth violence and gang committee. He said he could see sending a third person if there was more money in the budget.
Mayor Parks said, "We had $20,000. We gave away 10." [$10,000 to Roy's Resource Center].
Mr. Sanchez said if there was a conference on gang prevention/intervention he wouldn't go. "Because I've got 14 years experience in. I'm better off staying home with all my grant writing experience and knowledge I would stay home because I've been there and I've done it." He said you've got to get to a point where you share. We all need to grow and develop professionally. He saw this as an opportunity to improve in this area and spend more time with Mr. Bracken. Any business that comes to this city will be because of Michael Bracken. It won't be because they saw the same council member that they saw the previous year. They want to see that the city has the passion and interest. He would think a business would want to see who else is on the council. "We all have to grow and develop as a team." "We all get elected to these positions to get involved and to impact the community." He said he didn't want them to set him up as the "bad guy." He's just trying to do his duty, he said. He said that at an earlier meeting the city manager had said there was $10,000 in the city clerk's budget, $20,000 available in the city staff budget, and $20,000 more in council money. He said that Mr. Matas and Ms. Pye need to decide which one of them is not going to go. Don't throw it back on him "because that's inappropriate."
Mr. Betts said they were beating a dead horse. There was a time when each councilmember had a set amount in the budget and used to get reports to let them know where they were on spending. He said he has spent $120 this year. He would like to see each councilmember manage their own travel allotment. He said this was the first time he's seen a set amount in a travel proposal like this. In the past, people just went. If this is how it's going to be handled, he said it's fine.
There's been lots of talk and effort during the last few years concerning economic development in DHS. Everyone says we need it, and as I look around at our city, I cannot disagree. It's supposed to be our highest priority, right after public safety. Mr. Sanchez thinks the highest priority for scarce city funds is to train him up on issues where he's weak. He admits economic development is an area where he needs to learn. It would have been kind of him to mention that during his campaign for office, so we could have expected this.
I'm just a naive dweeb, but I would think that, recognizing this deficiency, Mr. Sanchez might have attended some of the economic development committee meetings before he was elected. He can't now, because there are already two councilmembers at those meetings.
I have never fished in my life, but if I somehow found myself on the editorial board of an outdoors sports magazine (just giving a crazy example) and wanted to bring myself up to speed on this fishing thing, I don't think my first training lesson would be to head out and catch a tuna. I think I'd go over to Whitewater first and see if I could tell which end of a fishing pole was the fish-catching end and which the holding end.
Mr. Sanchez could become more involved with CVEP, or maybe just invest more time in the Chamber of Commerce, if he wants to start learning about economic development. But, no, he's not doing that. He says it doesn't matter which council members go, but it does matter that he goes. He agrees that Mr. Matas and Ms. Pye are fully informed on ICSC and economic development, and that's why one of them could stay home. Consistent with that, he says that if there was a conference on gang prevention/intervention he wouldn't go, because he already knows all there is to know. In his view, then, the only point of a conference is what Mr. Sanchez can learn and take away. He doesn't see himself contributing his knowledge to any conference. If there was a Coachella Valley conference on youth and gang violence, Mr. Sanchez would stay away.
If we follow Mr. Sanchez's reasoning to its logical extreme, the city would always send the least knowledgeable person to any particular conference. This would seems to me to be the very least efficient way of getting any bang from our very small buck.
My opinion is that we are desperately in need of economic development and if we are going to effectively use that little $4,600 allocation, we have to do it right by sending the people who know what they're doing: Mr. Matas and Ms. Pye, the two who have regularly been meeting with business and real estate people here in DHS and the CV. Mr. Sanchez should get himself informed on economic development by starting with some smaller fish, and maybe spending some his own money and time to fulfill the responsibilities of the job he sought in last year's elections.
Mr. Betts' motion to send three people to Las Vegas failed 2-3 with Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Betts voting in favor.
Mr. Matas moved to approve staff recommendation (which is to send two people). It was approved 3-1-1 with Mr. Betts voting against and Mr. Sanchez abstaining!
It is my understanding that since this vote, funds have been found or moved around to allow Mr. Sanchez to go to ICSC along with councilmembers Matas and Pye.
Amending Mid-Year Operating Budget
The staff report said the "proposed amended budget includes reconciled adjustments for carry forward items related to the General Plan, the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, for contract planning assistance on development applications in the amount of $254,782 and for the energy efficiency improvements being made at City facilities through the receipt of 100% project funded grants awarded in the amount of $191,916. While this represents a cost increase, these items are one-time items funded by development permit activity, carryover funds, and new grant funds."
Mr. Sanchez asked Jason Simpson to give a staff report. He didn't say anything different than what was contained in the written staff report. Mr. Sanchez said he pulled this item from the consent agenda "for transparency," because if he hadn't pulled it we wouldn't have gotten this information. He asked if the there would be a deficit of $2.5 million next year. Mr. Simpson said, yes, that was what the council and staff had discussed.
Mr. Sanchez asked what grants are involved in this mid-year correction. Mr. Simpson said there are $200,000 in grants and one of them is an energy conservation grant used to retrofit the city's 24-hour facilities with new air conditioning and lighting. It was also used for the Carl May retrofit, and for the LED traffic lights [we're still waiting on those, I think].
Mr. Sanchez asked if the city manager had a $30,000 spending limit. Mr. Simpson said that is generally correct.
Mr. Betts verified that the budget is not out of balance in this fiscal year. Mr. Simpson said it's in balance now, but the legislature could change that tomorrow. The budget is always fluid.
Mr. Betts said Mr. Simpson has done a fantastic job on the budget over the years.
Mr. Betts asked what jobs in this city owe their existence to the RDA. Mr. Simpson said at one point the city had "maybe ten positions." Today it's one-half of a position.
This item was approved 5-0.
Claims & Demands
Mr. Betts asked about an item for the rehab of walkways at City Hall. It's $7,500 and he thought that was high. He saw workers removing nails from boards and replacing them with screws. Another bid was $8,350. Mr. Simpson said he didn't have the bid documents in front of himself, but Mr. Betts had them in front of himself. He said there were 3 bids close to each other, and he could probably get a better answer after talking to public works staff. Mr. Betts said he thought one of the bids was $30,000.
The list of claims & demands was approved 5-0.
Mr. Sanchez wanted to say more about the Las Vegas trip. He said that in the future he doesn't want to see staff make a recommendation about which councilmembers should go to conferences.
Here is the brief staff report on that item. It makes no recommendation as to who should go. It mentions no councilmembers by name. It does say there's enough money to send two councilmembers. In the agenda itself, the item says it is there at the request of Ms. Pye and Mr. Matas, but only says that it authorizes $4,600 for "those attending" the ICSC.
He explained that the city manager works for the council and staff works for the city manager. "In the future, if any of us council members are asked if we're going to go on a trip, or we're going to go to a conference, we need to do that ourselves." He said the city council needs to discuss that among themselves. "Never again should we have to come out here on the dais and have to have a major discussion about what right someone has to go and what right someone doesn't have to go or whether someone has because they're appointed to a committee the right to go, I mean, unless it's in the policy and procedure that says you have that obligation, I like to see it." The dais is the wrong place to hash this out, he said. When these things are put on the agenda, he said, we need to make sure they are discussed prior and come to a consensus so they don't have to be debated.
What Mr. Sanchez is clearly saying is that on issues of travel, the city council should have meetings out of sight of the public where they decide who will go and how they will vote on it, rendering the public vote simply pro forma. That is, of course, a Brown Act violation. The open city council meeting is the only place where the council can legally debate, discuss and decide an issue - except for those issues that can be handled in closed session, and travel expenses certainly ain't one of those.
He was disappointed that the Ministerial Association will not be participating in invocations any longer, but he said there are many pastors in town who would probably be happy to come and participate.
Mr. Sanchez said he has "always said that if the water district can give a thousand dollars [to little league] why can't we just budget a thousand dollars for each of these youth groups?" He admitted that maybe we can't do that if we have a $2.5 million deficit in the budget.
He said there are an estimated 60 gang members in the Dos Palmas neighborhood (outside city limits). He proposed that the youth violence and gang committee meet one hour earlier at 5 PM specifically so that families from Dos Palmas could meet then. He would like to make the Dos Palmas families a subcommittee.
Here Is What Some People Call "The Meltdown"
Mr. Betts said...
The public does not see all that goes on behind the scenes. About a year ago an event took place that caused me to vote against renewing the city manager's contract. [That vote as on January 18, 2011.] That was a $90,000 settlement with a former employee. My responsibility then and now was to the residents of Desert Hot Springs. My vote response to that event was supported by legal counsel and was in keeping with my responsibility to those who voted to put me in this seat. That vote was not well received. It was a tough vote and has set off a series of behind the scenes attempts to quiet me, to make things personally very difficult for me.
On other matters that I have sought to take a closer look, I have also been met with attempts to shut me down, to quiet me. I count at least four times so far. I want to make this clear; I'm not up here looking for trouble. But when problems stare me in the face, I don't have the luxury of looking the other way. I will tell you, as I have told the city attorney and others, what is being thrown at me is having a chilling effect on my ability to provide oversight on behalf of our residents in this job that I was selected to do. This council has met to discuss a bogus charge of harassment being leveled against me. It is clearly motivated by my looking at questionable contracts.
Attorney Duran attempted to interrupt Mr. Betts after the word "looking." Mr. Betts continued, saying "I'll finish."
Mayor Parks and others on the dais said "No, no, no."
I have pressed to have several matters looked at. Instead of my inquiries being met with a serious investigation, I am confronted with a continuing [unclear] of scurrilous accusations against me personally. I am going to make it very clear as long as I am a councilmember in this city I will not look the other way.
As Mr. Betts was reading the above several other members of the council and Attorney Duran spoke over him.
Mr. Matas: "Turn his mic off."
Mayor Parks: "Turn his mic off."
Mr. Matas again: "Turn his mic off."
Attorney Duran: "Madam Mayor. Mr. Betts I [here Mr. Betts's mic was turned off]. Madam Mayor, will you please instruct the councillor to stop?"
Mr. Matas: "Madam Mayor, you need [unclear]."
Ms. Pye: [unclear]
Mayor Parks: "You have to stop! These are closed session. You are violating."
Mr. Betts: "I'm not discussing anything about closed session. There's nothing in here about closed session.
Mr. Matas: "Madam Mayor the city attorney [unclear]"
Mr. Betts: "If my poking around makes people uncomfortable."
Mayor Parks: "Mr. City Attorney, please."
Mr. Betts: "I can't avoid my assignment and my role. I can't look the other way."
Mr. Duran: "Madam Mayor."
Mr. Betts: "When ten million dollars of public improvement bonds are given away at Skyborne. I can't. That's not closed session."
[The change in financial security at Skyborne was discussed and voted on by the city council in open meeting.]
Mr. Betts: "I can't look the other way when other development bonds in this city are left to expire."
Mr. Duran: "Madam Mayor, may I have a recess, please?"
Mayor Parks: "We're going to have a recess."
Mr. Betts: "I'll just issue my statement publicly." [I'm still waiting for that public statement.]
Recess. All stop.
During the recess Mr. Betts and Mr. Duran retired to the back room, while the rest of the council members milled about with the public.
Mayor Parks: "Over my gavel."
Mr. Betts: [unclear]
Mr. Matas: "You were sharing information that could be closed session sensitive. That is not protecting the city."
Mr. Betts: "That was not closed session."
Mr. Matas: "You did, you mentioned the harassment charge."
Mr. Betts: "There's plenty of charges of harassment without the ones..."
Mr. Matas: "But you're alluding."
Mr. Betts: "I didn't reference any specific one. Do you want me to name the specific ones that have come up? How many times has this come up? It's not the first time. It's four times. I said that at the beginning of my statement."
Mayor Parks gavels.
Mr. Betts: "I'm going to tell you, I'm not going to be deterred from doing my oversight role on this council."
Mr. Duran: "Madam Mayor."
Mr. Betts: "Do you want to listen very carefully to the rest of this? Ruben [Duran] will have no objection. I offered to show this to the city attorney, and he didn't even look at it."
Mayor Parks gavels.
Mr. Matas: "You have to wait until you're recognized by the Mayor."
Mayor Parks gavels.
Mr. Betts: "I was recognized. I got cut off."
Mayor Parks continues to gavel.
Mr. Duran: "May I address the council, Madam Mayor?"
Mayor Parks: "Yes."
Mr. Duran: "So, I appreciate your patience as I tried to talk to Mr. Betts about the statement he was making. The reason that I interjected was because I heard Mr. Betts mention a matter that I believe to be a confidential personnel matter of the city, currently ongoing. I believe the council, some members of the council felt the same. I am asking Mr. Betts if he continues in his statement to refrain from providing any further details or any further encroachment on that private personnel matter. It's my duty as your senior attorney to ask him to do that. Mr. Betts obviously is a member of this council. He's got a right to speak. I'm admonishing him and asking him not to delve into private personnel matters. Mr. Betts has told me that he will release a statement tomorrow, publicly. He asked me to look at his statement. Or he offered to have me look at his statement. I declined. I think that the best thing I can do is give this admonishment in public and hope that Mr. Betts will do what's best for the city."
Mr. Betts: "For the record..."
Mayor Parks: "I think, just a moment please, I think that some... the thing that must be recognized is that if he is allowed to go forward, and any comments that can be used against the city that he is independently at risk, putting the city at risk as well. I think that's important for everyone to understand and for you, Mr. Betts, to understand before you go forward."
Mr. Betts: "Thank you Madam Mayor. I was referencing past instances, not any specific one, that everybody jumped out of their seat over. I'll continue.
"My poking around makes people uncomfortable. I can't avoid the role that I have been put in this seat to do. I can't look the other way when ten million dollars of public improvement bonds have been given away at Skyborne. I can't look the other way when development bonds in this city are left to expire for no good reason, and the residents of those developments are left to live with blight. The former Jewish Temple building deal stinks on several fronts. And, it was well documented by deliberations up here on this council that there were improprieties in the contract for the Cabot register position. We voted on that.
"I sought a seat on this council for one reason. Three years before I ran for office I was very actively involved in watching what has continually held this city back. The challenge then was to try and find out what was going on in time to be able to do something about it. Now I've had a much better look as a city council member. What has been reported in the press over the years is only what has bubbled up to the surface. Behind the scenes there is something very wrong in this city and it is not just a few multi-million dollar mistakes. To repeat, when I see things, when I see these attempts to quiet me in response to my legitimate inquiries as a councilmember, I take it as a sign there is reason to keep digging. That concludes my council comments."
I'm left wondering how the earlier accusations of harassment made against Mr. Betts were resolved, if they were. Any expense to the city?
At a later city council meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Pye explained that she was the one who instructed City Clerk Jerryl Soriano to turn off Mr. Betts's mic because Mayor Parks was busy gaveling. Mr. Betts didn't want to hear that explanation. Nonetheless, if you want a head count, Mr. Matas, Ms. Pye and Mayor Parks, all three told City Clerk Soriano to throw the switch (or touch the screen, or whatever), but my sense is that only the Mayor can issue that sort of instruction...and maybe the attorney.
Here we move on to Mr. Matas's comments. He said that the Palm Drive interchange took a little longer than the Indian interchange because of some labor issues with the company that had the Palm Drive contract.
Mr. Matas reported on the Trails Committee, which he chairs, but which Camille Linde pretty much took care of. She was part of trying to look for a better route for the 1e11 pathway. So he set up a subcommittee made up of two Trails Committee members and three Parks Committee members to study what the pathway could be in DHS. They will bring their results to the city council.
He said that he thought he was doing the right thing to have the economic development committee make a recommendation to city staff to make sure there was funding for travel to ICSC. At the time he had no idea that Mr. Sanchez wanted to go to the event. He said he will continue to work on economic development and parks and transportation as long as he is on those committees. He has put in his time and continues to better himself, he said. He said that Mr. Betts had commented many times that not so much money should be spent to go to these conferences, "but his tone changed tonight."
He thinks the city council members do a pretty good job of respecting each other. "I'm just asking Mr. Betts, will you stop making your rude comments when these sessions are over." Mr. Matas said he takes offense to Mr. Betts's "continued comments on the record of this mic whenever we finish an item that you disagree with." He said Mr. Betts owes the council an apology.
City Manager Daniels having left the meeting much earlier to travel to Sacramento, Chief Williams filled in for him, delivering some of the City Manger's report.
More Public Comments
Because we never wanted this meeting to end.
Nigel Gator said that the previous Tuesday something happened to his son. He said he had known Mr. Sanchez for years. He said he loves this city. His mother just died at age 89. He lost his brother in 1995. He was killed by a 16-year old Mexican boy. The boy went to jail and is free now. Mr. Gator said he wanted revenge, but he grew out of that. In 2003 his daughter was shot three times by gangs at a party in Palm Springs. She's scarred for life, but doing well. His son was robbed on his way home from school. Six kids surrounded him. His son found pictures of them on Facebook showing gang signs. One of the kids had a gun and he was arrested a couple days later. His son did not resist. When they drive by the park, his son slouches down in the car. Mr. Gator wants to see something done. They go past that park every day and there are kids smoking weed. There are kids fighting. There are kids being mean. "You got to do something," he said. He loves basketball and coached basketball. There are great kids in this town and they are all scared. The first time his son went to the park by himself to play basketball, he came back in tears because two guys jumped him and beat him up. He's never gone back since. Mr. Gator said he was frustrated to hear bickering and fighting at the city council meeting. He wants to see professionalism.
Robert Bentley said he has lived here 35 years. "The way that Mr. Sanchez has been treated, the brutal inappropriate way he's been treated, I haven't seen that type of stuff maybe in a certain state, but I don't want to besmirch, but that type of brutality I've seen that too much especially in some place where you're suppose to have the dignity and decorum that people are supposed to have here." He said Mr. Sanchez is in a Catch-22. He doesn't have any experience, so he can't get any experience. "It's a pure political power play."
Mr. Bentley said that one time he was almost stabbed in one of our city parks. "This is not a safe town." He said the messages we give to the kids are important.
Mr. Betts is much maligned, even though he is 100% right, Mr. Bentley said. Mr. Bentley said he himself was brutalized in a closed session of the Police Commission (the predecessor to today's Public Safety Commission). If something is discussed in closed session, that does not necessarily mean it cannot be discussed publicly.
April 28, 2012
How Psychics Do It
Bostonians Write About Gay Palm Springs
The article explains the necessary basics, including the top fact: that Palm Springs is in California, not Florida. I ran into that when I told people in Boston that I was moving to Palm Springs. "But Florida is so humid!" they would say. Boston is very provincial and insular, despite everything.
Edge Boston has, it seems, hired a reporter from The Desert Sun. They say that Palm Springs is 2 hours south of Los Angeles. So I guess we have an NFL team, too. The article also says our Republicans are a better quality than those of the east coast.
April 27, 2012
First Gay Marriage Proposal Actually ON A Marine Base
As things progress, the string of qualifiers for each "first" gets longer. You know, you start with first gay marriage, then first gay marriage in California, then first gay marriage involving someone in uniform, and now it's first gay marriage proposal on a Marine base.
Upcoming firsts: first on-base gay marriage proposal where both of the parties are in uniform, first gay marriage performed ON a military base, and ultimately first gay marriage between a Sailor and a Marine.
Astronomer Phil Plait Thinks President Obama Doesn't Have Time To Play Angry Birds!
DHS Visitor Center
San Joaquin Valley Has Dirtiest Air
An article listing the 10 most polluted cities in the U.S. The populations in the article are for SMSAs or metropolitan areas. Central Valley cities are bolded:
- Bakersfield (sits in a bowl and Fresno is upwind)
- Hanford (old cars, plus Fresno is upwind)
- Los Angeles
- Visalia (irrigation pumps that burn diesel, plus Fresno is upwind)
- Fresno (traffic, few public transit choices)
It sounds like if we could just put a big dome over Fresno the rest of the valley would have a chance.
Medical Marijuana And Jewish Law
What with medical marijuana becoming legal in New Jersey and Connecticut, it had to be asked, "What about Jewish Law?" Dr. Wallace Greene, formerly director of Jewish Educational Services for the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, has written an article discussing the pros and cons. He cites several sources, but I think it's a little interesting that he didn't seem to try to find out how this has already been resolved in Israel, where medical marijuana is legal. I'm sure there's a been a ton written about it there. So, ya want me to give you the bottom line, or do you just want to go enjoy the whole, long Jewish argument?
[M]edical marijuana may be prescribed by physicians in states where it is legal to do so, and be taken by patients to relieve pain. It may also be appropriate to prescribe medical marijuana in all states based on Leviticus 19:16.
The final word is that a physician heals with all types of herbs that God produces.
Just Buy A Mutant Vehicle
Why go to all the effort to design and build a mutant vehicle for your transportation and enjoyment at Burning Man, when you can just buy one. $4500 for this little showstopper:
Asking only $4,500, you can pick it up in Oakland. This milk carton and bowl of cereal can be licensed for both day and night driving on the playa, where we last saw it in 2010. Under the
hood bowl you'll find a modest, unassuming 1992 Ford Explorer. It has been enhanced with a 25-feet tall milk carton, a 10-feet diameter fiberglass bowl that can seat 10, a slide, at least 4,000 LEDs, and 80 pillows. The owner says this Ford "starts and runs" and glides along on 31 off-road tires (two spares included in purchase). Two warnings: it is not street legal, kids, and "no longer has a usable VIN#." What are the various ways a VIN can become unusable? It was reported stolen? It was in that Swap & Chop program early in the Obama administration (what was that thing called)? It was seized in a drug bust, but "fell off the truck" and out of the police impoundment lot? You tell me. In any case, I've never seen Sheriff's Deputies checking the VINs of mutant vehicles on the playa.
Move fast, mutant vehicle registration closes May 15.
This vehicle does not include a ticket to Burning Man.
April 26, 2012
Illegal Aliens Deported
They were the Bin Laden family. A Pakistan court ruled them illegal aliens, so they were trundled off to Saudi Arabia. From one our great allies to another, go three widows, two adult daughters, five minor children and one grandchild. It was rumored that Saudi Arabia was less than delighted to help.
No, you can't buy it! But they're looking for start up money.
Burning Man 2012
Rainbow Chronicle is brand new and was created by two guys in Cambridge, Massachusetts, instead of California where these sorts of things are supposed to come from, so it's got some glitches.
If you go to Places you'll see it currently says the top cities nationwide are Boston, Chicago and "Mid-Cambridge, MA." Oh, Cambridge is so very vast that their system has broken it down into bite-size chunks. Does mid-Cambridge mean like just Central Square, or are they really trying to say not Lechmere, not Alewife? When I zoom in on mid-Cambridge I see it means Central Square. Looking up at Harvard Square I see two lonely listings. One is Paradise? It says Paradise is in the Atrium Shopping Center. Is it possible that things have changed so much since I left? Paradise used to be in a little old building way down by MIT. Rainbow Chronicle says their address is still 180 Mass. Ave, but somehow has transported them to the wrong end of the city. Paradise's own website says they are still where they have always been.
[UPDATE: I emailed them about the error on Paradise while I was writing this, and it was fixed before I posted! So I'd give them a 5+ on customer service today!]
I signed up on the site, thinking that might give me a tool to fix that map, but no go. I did notice, however, that in the sign up process I did NOT have to agree to any Terms Of Service! These guys are going to need a lawyer. I wonder if there are any in the Mid-Cambridge-Boston metroplex.
Leaping across the continent, Palm Springs shows nothing, nada, zilch. It's a totally clean slate guys! Told ya this was new.
But there's a little bit of activity in Los Angeles. The place markers have different colors on a subtle scale from beige to geen, but as with so many websites, there is no key. You will see that people are rating all sorts of businesses, not just the usual bars, restaurants, shops that you might expect. For instance, the offices of Occidental Petroleum get a -3.08 (that's negative 3.08) for their hiring practices. The rating indicates nothing about how cruisy their corporate cafeteria might be.
Now here's a serious shortcoming. Click on Unsafe and you'll get some wonky results. MOCA Grand Avenue is rated "unsafe" even though it has a 4.0 overall rating (on a 0-5 scale). It has one comment saying "It is a great place to hang out with friends, family or loved ones."
Zankou Chicken at 5065 W. Sunset is rated "unsafe", but it has a positive rating of 1.8 and a comment "This location is near West Hollywood so many LGBT people come here often."
Unrated places also come up as "Unsafe." Yeah, these guys are gonna need that lawyer.
Over here I found what amounts to a map key. The key is: "Letter indicates Event, Leader, or Place. Color indicates gay-friendliness." I was seeing only "P" markers and at first thought it meant the place had a publicly accessible restroom. You've got to do your own Sherlock work on what the colors mean.