September 30, 2012
Well, This Is Different
Annual Chamber Awards and Board Installation Luncheon
Also recognized were the Desert Hot Springs Women's Club as Non-Profit Of The Year, and Ocean Springs Tech as Business Of The Year.
It looks finished to me, top to bottom. Well, except maybe for those mailboxes.
Parachute Jump Onto The Playa With A GoPro
After he lands on the playa, he lets the camera run while he gathers up his chute and chats with another jumper and a couple of other Burners, so if you don't want to see that you can stop it after he lands.
The satellite photo of the Man, showing the Circle of Regional Effigies. The regional effigies were burned on Friday night. On Saturday, when the Man is burned, a cordon is set up at about the distance of the regional effigies. Ordinary Burners, such as myself, are not permitted within that cordon until the entire structure of the Man has collapsed during the Burn. The people who get to go inside the cordon are fire dancers, a few authorized individuals (like professional photographers), and fire safety personnel. I suppose there is another inner cordon where only the pyrotechnicians and safety personnel are allowed.
At the Burn itself, people pack up close to the cordon, but farther out from that is another circle, and that's formed by the art cars/mutant vehicles. It's about 200 feet back from the official cordon. I don't know if there is a real, written rule that sets that distance for art cars, or if it's just tradition, but it's been consistent from year to year. So you've got this ring of art cars - and 10 or 15 feet behind that is a ring of art cars, and behind that a ring of art cars, and behind that a sort of loosely scattered ring of art cars - and then you finally get to dark, open playa.
The art cars engage in a ritual that is not too different from mating season, except there seem to be only males - i.e., the ones who put on displays and show off. This is the night when they roll out laden with their full crew and friends. Their propane tanks are fully pressurized. The diesel tanks on their generators are topped off, and they are ready to put on their best fire, light and sound display. It doesn't matter that ten feet away is another art car putting on its best fire, light and sound display, because tonight is the Burn. Everyone pushes everything to the limit. The result is a cacophonous show with overlaid soundtracks and lighting that shifts as quickly as lightning from blackness to full daylight.
Out in the middle of the circle, of course, the Man stands, raises his arms, shoots fireworks, burns and kicks off two rolling fireballs, eventually collapsing into a hot, hot bonfire. And if that's what you want to see, those videos are easy to find on the internet. But for me, the show is back there in those art cars. So what I did was just turn on the GoPro and walk through those rings, completing at least one full circuit while the Man burned. Then, with the cordon down, I walked up to the fire itself, where Burners are circling it in a counter-clockwise direction. I edited out very little, so the end result is about 90 minutes long. It will not win any videography awards.
0:00 - All quiet on the playa before the Burn.
0:33 - A few art cars and people forming up the circle around the Man early.
1:00 - Genuine fire truck, not an art car.
2:34 - El Pulpo Mecanico.
4:21 - The Man has raised his arms.
4:30 - The fire dancers are out there, but we don't have a good view of them.
10:19 - A general hue and cry - the fireworks have started. The Man begins to burn. You can sometimes see one or two drones buzzing around the fire.
15:43 - The first fire ball. The Man is engulfed.
16:25 - The second, much larger fireball. The entire structure becomes an inferno.
22:18 - The first fire tornadoes form and the Burners love it.
24:52 - Some unspent fireworks ignite.
25:47 - Robot Heart.
28:27 - I'm sure this is a Lutheran Church from Iowa.
30:44 - The crowd cheers. This probably signals that the Man has fallen, but in this video the glare of the fire blocks out all detail.
38:50 - Another cheer - probably a collapse of a major part of the Man's pedestal.
45:35 - The remains of the Man continue to burn. Fire tornadoes are still forming.
47:30 - I spot Red in the crowd. He lives in Sky Valley, and you may have seen him out and about in DHS or Palm Springs. He has been going to Burning Man for many years, but this is the first time I've actually seen him at BM.
48:37 - The Man's pedestal collapses.
54:03 - Heart Deco.
54:53 - El Pulpo Mecanico again - I've made a 360° circuit of the art cars.
56:18 - That couple who I highlighted in a separate video.
59:09 - Bunny car with go-go dancers - sorta?
1:01:50 - Blue laser light goes directly into the lens of the GoPro for an interesting effect.
1:05:37 - I begin to head for the burning remains of the Man and on the way realize that the barrier is down and we can go right up to the fire itself.
1:07:17 - I arrive at the fire which is (could you guess?) VERY hot. I have some concerns about the functioning of the camera, but it rolls on without a glitch.
1:07:44 - Note the uniformed firefighters stationed around the fire. There are too few to prevent any fool who wants to try to jump over burning embers. Probably their role is to try to extinguish any costumes that burst into flames.
1:11:16 - Somebody tosses something into the fire. I didn't know about this tradition.
1:15:55 - Drummers sitting on the edge of the fire.
1:18:12 - I begin to make my way from the fire back to the art cars, where the party continues.
1:22:38 - Death Star.
1:23:55 - Man toasting marshmallows in a woodburning stove that hangs off an art car.
1:29:52 - BRAT.
1:30:00 - Monkey spanking.
Michael Holden's Burning Man Photos
This Is Not The Onion
Hunters in Sweden use cinnamon buns as bait to draw wild boar out of the woods and into the sights of their guns. "But local officials warn that the practice, while increasing the chances of a successful hunt, it increases the risk that the boar suffer from weight problems and poor dental hygiene."
The Lost & Found Files
Burning Man Lost & Found has begun to post photos from lost cameras on the playa. Always an interesting way to see ordinary life at Burning Man:
September 29, 2012
The Man, 2012
September 28, 2012
Your Parents At Burning Man
Failure to keep up to date on his terms, Post Release Community Supervision
CITY OF DESERT HOT SPRINGS
INCIDENT: Warrant Arrest
DATE OF INCIDENT: September 28, 2012
TIME: 12:10 pm
LOCATION: Hacienda & Caliente, DHS
SUBJECT: Napoles, Anthony, Hispanic, Male, 5'-8" 160 lbs, Brown, Brown, Resident of Desert Hot Springs
DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT:
On Friday, September 28, 2012, Officers from the Desert Hot Springs Police Department were investigating suspicious circumstances in the area of Palm and Flora. A subject, later identified as Anthony Napoles, fled from officers. After a brief foot chase, Napoles was taken into custody. Napoles has been on Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) since November of 2011 for CVC 10851- Grand Theft Auto and PC 459 - Burglary. The Post Release Accountability Team
(PACT) has contacted and arrested him for PRCS violations 3 times since February 2012. Napoles has run from officers on two other occasions and was not taken into custody. Napoles was wanted by the PACT Team for not keeping up to date on his terms/not reporting/not reporting change of address. He was later transported and lodged at the Larry Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
That's Detective Chilner To You
CITY OF DESERT HOT SPRINGS POLICE DEPARTMENT
DHS High School Graduate appointed to Detective at the Desert Hot Springs Police Department
Desert Hot Springs Police Chief, Kate Singer, has announced that Michael Chilner, a Desert Hot Springs High School graduate, Class of 2003, has been appointed to the position of Detective. Chilner grew up in Desert Hot Springs and served in the U.S. Marine Corps, 4th Tank Battalion, and served in Fallujah, Iraq. He has been an officer with the Department since 2008. Chilner, who has served as the agency's Rangemaster and as a Field Training Officer, is being assigned to the Investigations Bureau as a Detective.
Upon being notified of his selection Detective Chilner said, "I would like to thank Chief Singer for giving me this opportunity to further my law enforcement experience. I am humbled that I have been given the opportunity to further serve my home town of Desert Hot Springs, as a Detective. I believe we have one of the hardest working detective bureaus in the valley and I look forward to joining the team."
City Manager Rick Daniels said, "Officer Chilner represents the best of choices for the Police Department. He is an outstanding law enforcement officer with local roots. He brings a special knowledge of the community. He has a special love and concern for the safety of this community that only a local can provide. He has seen the evolution of the commitment to public safety during the last 5 years and is committed to improve his home town. Officer Chilner provides a role model for all kids in high school today considering a career in law enforcement."
Detective Michael Chilner
September 27, 2012
Another Presidential Shrine In Boston? (well, Somerville)
Students, ages 8 to 12, visit the apartment that Barack Obama rented in Somerville while studying at Harvard. They talked to the landlord, Jay Holmes, who says Obama always paid the rent. The students are from The Elizabeth Peabody House, a school which can claim Leonard Nimoy among its alumni.
September 26, 2012
Close To The Edge by Yes was released in September 1972.
Three tracks on it:
Equal Marriage Rights Videos
John Corvino provides calm-voiced refutations of the common "arguments" against equal marriage rights. The trouble is, the people who cite these arguments are not usually the sort of people to listen to calm, thoughtful reasoning.
- Definition of marriage
- Do children need a mother and father?
- Regnerus study
- Threat to traditional marriage
- Threat to religious freedom
- Why not civil unions?
- Are People Who Oppose Gay Marriage Bigots?
Workaround For Apple Maps (or whatever it's called)
If you've got the new iPhone or ios6 on any device, then you've lost the public transit aspect of Google Maps. The Source tells you how to get that feature back on your iPhone.
Gawker considers the question of whether Boston is the most racist city in America - and by "Boston" they mean the metropolitan area. This item, for example, occurred in Cambridge: "If you're a black Harvard professor and you live in Boston and someone breaks into your house, the police will assume you're the burglar." I can confidently state that Boston is the most racist city I've ever lived in - not that I've lived in a lot.
September 25, 2012
Save-A-Pet plans to open a veterinary clinic in the former Video Depot location on Palm Drive. They will also offer animal licenses. The Planning Commission considered and approved their application for a conditional use permit tonight as presented to them by staff with only three additions:
- That staff will take a look at making the north driveway the ingress and the south driveway the egress; the reverse of how staff proposed it.
- That staff look at adding some trees to the landscape plan.
- That Save-A-Pet be allowed the option of voluntary participating in Art In Public Places. This was suggested by Dean Gray. Since the project does not go over the $100,000 threshold, AIPP is not mandatory.
DHS City Council - September 4
City Manager Rick Daniels asked to withdraw item 12 "Park Site Acceptance at Skyborne Development" from the agenda. He said it needs additional work in the legal description of an easement for a Mission Springs Water District well.
Mayor Parks called for the report from the closed session. The only item on the closed session agenda had been "Public Employee Appointment Pursuant to Government Code Section 54957(b): City Attorney." Sitting in the attorney's usual spot was a new face who had not been introduced. He had no name plate. Attorney Ruben Duran was seated in the audience. The unidentified individual said something that I couldn't quite make out, but it boiled down to "No reportable action," I think.
I would have thought that with the recent news that Mr. Duran had left Meyers Nave and now the presence of a new face in the attorney's chair, there would have been something to report...but I guess I would have thought wrong.
Chief Kate Singer came forward to swear in new police officers. She said she could not do Chief Williams' badge story justice, so she talked about "The Spa City." For the police, she said, "Spa" stands for Safety, Professionalism and Accountability. There is Code of Ethics each officer must recite upon graduation from a police academy. That's the only time people talk about it, she said. So she listed some "snippets" of that code. The most basic duty of a California law enforcement officer is to serve mankind and their community. "We have to keep our people and their possessions safe." "We have a responsibility to protect individuals in communities against deceit, intimidation, oppression, and violence." Listen here to her remarks in full - just a bit under 3 minutes.
The new officers:
Sergeants Phil Han and Jose Guerrero. Sergeant Han worked in the Riverside District Attorney's office and the Indio Police Department. Sergeant Guerrero came from the Department of Justice
Sergeant Brad Ramos - the former Indio police chief. Before that he worked with El Centro police. DHS Police are now fully staffed with sergeants.
Officer Larry Gaines. He came from Cathedral City.
Officer Jerry Martinez - also from Cathedral City.
Golden Bear Awards
Lieutenant Scott Madden from the Riverside County Sheriff's Office, representing CalID, came up to present Golden Bear Awards for outstanding work in lifting latent fingerprints, an award in which DHS Police continuously lead the county. This night six DHS Police were to receive Golden Bear Awards for a sum total of 68 hits.
Lt. Scott Madden.
Golden Bear Award recipients:
Officer Mike Chilner - this was his third Golden Bear Award - he had 8 hits in this 12-month period.
Sgt. Eddie Cole - he has won a Golden Bear for three consecutive years and had 8 hits in this 12-month period.
Officer Daniel Brazeal - this is his first Golden Bear Award; he got 5 hits.
Officer Rene Olague - this is his second consecutive Golden Bear Award - he got 5 hits.
Community Service Officer Tom Pittenger - this is his second consecutive Golden Bear Award, and he had 19 hits.
CSI Terry Sherman, the leader year after year. This is his sixth consecutive year - he had 23 hits in this 12-month period. Lt. Madden said that Officer Sherman alone gets more hits than some entire police departments.
Hart Ponder, Code Enforcement Manager. He presented the quarterly report for "2nd Quarter 2012" which must mean 2nd quarter of the calendar year, or April - June 2012. Some of the numbers:
Public Nuisances - i.e., not foreclosed or abandoned properties.
149 new cases
129 closed cases
142 courtesy notices
87 notices of violation
39 public nuisance citations
$23,800 fines issued
$10,195 fines paid
96 demand letters with a total value of $433,665
4 abatement warrants
62 new cases
98 closed cases
113 violations issued
104 citations issued
$411,500 fines issued
$324,363 fines paid
$115,034 from Assessor/FTB
Then he showed some before and after photos of residences that had been improved after being notified by code enforcement. If it were up to me to pick the photos I'd try to pick some dramatic differences. The ones shown were pretty subtle. In one photo I can count 10 little clumps of weeds or crabgrass, no more than about 5 inches high, that had sprung up along the curb. Five minutes of easy work and you've got the "after" photo. I don't think that's the sort of "problem" that most people in this city worry about. If there don't happen to be any dramatic photos to show, then skip the photos.
Councilmember Matas asked how long it takes from the time a complaint is received until code enforcement can meet with the owner and get the matter fixed. Mr. Ponder says there are a lot of variables. If it's owner occupied, then it can be pretty fast. But if it's rented, they have to do research to identify the owner and then mail a notice to the owner.
Mr. Matas said he was glad to finally see that problem house on Desert View demolished.
Councilmember Sanchez said the lots between Ironwood and the middle school are "terrible, totally terrible." He would like to see some volunteers to help improve them. Mr. Ponder said that when they do it, they will do it right, and that means it will take some time to plan.
City Manager Daniels said that Mr. Ponder came to us from Palm Desert.
George Fisher, Chair of the Community & Cultural Affairs Commission presented their new yard beautification recognition program. Every quarter (February, May, August, November) 4 residences and 1 business will be selected by Code Enforcement to be recognized for showing pride in their property. This is not necessarily for the best looking property or the property that has shown the most improvement, but for the property that has been maintained exceptionally well. Criteria include: inside city limits, quality of landscaping, curb appeal. Only the front of the property is considered. Properties that are recognized will have a sing placed in their yard and will be announced at a City Council meeting. Mission Springs Water District is helping to sponsor this award. The fire department and the Norco Conservation Corps have assisted in creating the signs. The Coachella Valley Real Estate Association donated the frames. Properties in gated communities or mobile home parks are not eligible. Properties with pending code enforcement violations are not eligible.
Brian Kalajian came up to ask about the paving of Western and Scenic. City Manager Daniels directed Mr. Kalajian to Public Works Director Hal Goldenberg who would give him a detailed construction schedule. He estimated construction would start in two weeks.
John Soulliere thanked Mayor Parks, Mayor Pro Tem Pye, Councilmember Matas and City Manager Daniels for attending the Rite-Aid ribbon cutting. He said Rite-Aid's regional manager was very impressed with the turnout. He went on to talk about the many people involved over the years in making the new Health & Wellness Center a possibility. He compared it to a baton race. He commended the city council, city manager and city staff to have the courage to pick up the baton and carry it across the finish line, and to do it at such a minimal cost to the city.
Mayor Pro Tem Pye said that the Rite-Aid regional manager told her that the DHS Chamber of Commerce was the most professional he had ever been around.
Barbara Eastman from the Women's Club spoke next. They will be having their Dollars For Scholars dinner on October 22, 5:30 PM, at the Capri Restaurant. Next year will be the 60th anniversary of the Women's Club.
Russ Martin, MSWD Director, said the district opened bids on construction of sewers in Area F and Areas M1-M4 that day. The low bidder was Matich at $8.8 million. The project could begin in early October. No district funds will be used to pay for the project.
Caroline Krauss said she would talk about the CPV Sentinel power plant which she called "a disaster about to happen." She said she doesn't think people are aware of it. She said its backers, GE and Mitsubishi, are playing a cruel and terrible joke on us. She described the Coachella Valley as "geothermal abundant." She told us where Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs are located. She said that the American Lung Association gives Riverside and San Bernardino Counties a grade of "F" [on a scale of A to F, and I assume F is the worst]. She said that if the power plant goes into operation it will be an emergency. "We want to shut the thing down." [She did not say who "we" are.] She said regulations had been sidestepped and facts falsified to get this power plant approved. She said there was no "environmental impact statement." She has a petition online. She read some of the comments. She said the plant will ruin property values, the economy, health. "You guys have the power to shut it down and that's what we're going to try to push you to do." [She did not explain what this power is that would allow the City of DHS to shut down a construction project not within its city limits.]
[First name unclear] Sallas also spoke about the Sentinel plant. She said she is very concerned about it, as are other people who are collecting signatures on a petition. The plant will emit 1 million tons of carbon per year, she said. That's the equivalent of 188,000 vehicles.
[I think her terminology is incorrect. Rather than "carbon" I think she means "carbon dioxide" - Googling around gives somewhat different numbers, but they are all fairly close to her number of 188,000 vehicles - carbon is just one component in carbon dioxide - take away the oxygen atoms and you don't have a greenhouse gas any more.]
She said PM10 will exceed the state standard by 443%. [The California standard for PM10 average on an annual basis is 20 µg/m3 - exceeding it by 443% would mean a PM10 level of 108.6.] PM2.5 is dangerous according to a professor at UC Irvine, she said, but she gave no numbers for PM2.5. She wondered if people who live within 2 miles of the plant know of its construction. [I think it would be hard to miss.] "Do the residents of the trailer park know about the plant?" She said they know nothing about it.
Bob Terry spoke about the Sentinel power plant and said he had three minutes to try to save the lives of everyone in Coachella Valley. "People Over Pollution" had a two-hour meeting with Rick Daniels and Adam Sanchez about three weeks earlier. He presented the city council the same paperwork he had given Mr. Daniels. The petition has about 750 signatures, in addition to those online. They got the signatures in front of Vons, Kmart, Stater Bros. "The people of Desert Hot Springs...were not aware of the issues about this plant," he said. He said there was an article in "The Sentinel" calling for the carbon credits not to be used. ["The Sentinel" has not been published for several years.] The pollution from the power plant will cause heart attacks, heart disease, cancer. It will get into our bodies through our pores. In addition the plant will be taking "Desert Hot Springs water" at 2,000 gallons per minute for 30 years. It will be replaced with Colorado River water, he said. He said the power plant is a big crime. "They are going to poison us and steal our water."
Tony D'Alesio came up with Mrs. Bailey and asked her to read his letter to the city council. She said water prices are constantly rising. Water agencies are being bought out by conglomerates and water is becoming a commodity. Prices are doubling and tripling. Edison, the gas company and Verizon have a lifeline program. The United Way offers an emergency once per year payment of $50 to those who can't afford their water bill. This is not enough. To qualify a family of 2 must have income below $31,000. She thinks that number is too high. It should be $14,000. The $50 amount should be increased to a "more practical and pragmatic figure." She beseeched the city council to intervene with the water district. We are beginning to resemble a third world country, she said.
[No conglomerate or any other private firm is trying to buy out Mission Springs Water District. MSWD's water prices have not risen any since January 2011. That increase was far, far, less than a "doubling or tripling." Public agencies, like the water district, are forbidden by law to provide discounts to some of its customers. Everyone is required to pay for their water. The United Way program is a charity offered by a private organization, not MSWD. Higher payments might be possible if people donate more money to it. The city has no authority to intervene with the water district. As far as I can recall, Mr. D'Alesio and Mrs. Bailey have never turned up at a water district board meeting, although they might have been on at one of the multiple Prop 218 Town Hall meetings back in 2010, where these issues were addressed.]
Joe McKee said he came to a study session where he learned about the legal fees being paid by the city. Then he saw an article in the Desert Sun saying the city had spent $340,000 on legal fees. In the Register of Demands for one month he saw that the city had spent $170,000 on legal fees. He went back to July 2011 to look at Registers of Demands up through June 2012. He said it appeared the Desert Sun figure of $340,000 was the money spent from January 2012 to June 2012. The total for the fiscal year ending June 2012 was anywhere from $621,237 to $763,022. The lower figure is what was paid to Meyers Nave. When you add in amounts paid to other legal firms you get the higher figure. He asked that correct figures be given to the local newspaper.
Dean Gray thanked Rick Daniels for making it possible for him to attend city council meetings. [Mr. Daniels displayed a confused look in response.] He said the exit of Ruben Duran is especially appreciated by those who want good government. He listed city deals that Mr. Duran had been involved in [which would be virtually all city deals, of course]: the purchase of the former Temple, the "Pink Flamingo," the music festival contract. He said release of the bonds on Skyborne cost the city tens of millions. Meyers Nave bill the city an extra $40,000 for the Temple purchase and $100,000 for the music festival, he said. There are still those who want to keep secrets and who "want to keep throwing away good city money." He said we should be concerned about an attempt to subvert the democratic process by avoiding open bidding. There is an attempt to "steal away" the contract from Meyers Nave and give to the law firm with which Ruben Duran is now associated.
[There is a tendency among some in this city to heap all praise or all blame on single individuals. Every one of the mistakes of Ruben Duran that Mr. Gray cited were discussed in open city meetings and approved by a vote of the city council. I think responsibility or credit should be spread around appropriately.]
George Fisher said Kelly McDaniel is forming a children's community choir. They meet every Wednesday evening at the Senior Center. They will perform at the Veterans Day ceremony on November 11.
The next CERT class will be November 16-18 at the Carl May Center. It's free for up to 40 participants.
Connie Taylor came up to speak for Jr. All American Football. The season has started. The first home game will be September 22 at the high school. Elks Lodge is doing a car show and barbecue fundraiser to benefit Jr. All American Football. There will be a dart tournament at Playoffs. You can call Connie at 760-329-2470 for more information about any of this. Jon Martin can be reached at 760-250-2484.
Adam Sanchez Appointee To The CCAC
A rare photo of the elusive Luis Sanchez-Porras who was appointed to the Community and Cultural Affairs Commission in January. He missed the February meeting, but showed up in March to be sworn in - which is when I got this photo. He sat at the dais but did not participate in the meeting otherwise. He never showed up again. He has since moved out of town. So the item on tonight's agenda was for Mr. Sanchez to appoint someone else.
Jennifer Lugo came up to comment. She congratulated Chief Singer on her appointment. She said she loves this city and has lived here since she was 13 years old. She asked to be appointed to the CCAC because she has been working as a volunteer with the City of Palm Springs to open a wellness center there. She wants to volunteer and encourage other volunteers in DHS.
Mayor Parks said that there were four other applicants for the position. Mr. Sanchez appointed Max Liebermann based on his experience with parades.
Naming Of The "John H. Furbee Aquatic Center"
Rudy Acosta introduced this item, explaining that naming the Aquatic Center for John Furbee is consistent with the city's naming policy. He said Mr. Furbee had made significant contributions to the community including gifts, property and donations to organizations. He has been a resident of DHS for 43 years and is a former Planning Commissioner. He is a Mission Springs Water District Director and a member of Mission Springs Foundation, a member of the DHS Historical Society, and is on the Board of Directors of DHS Rotary Club. He is also a board member for the Coachella Valley Boys & Girls Club.
Mr. Furbee came to the podium and said he had been working on this Boys & Girls Club and swimming pool for about 40 years. Everyone has made a big contribution, including the city council, the board and staff of the DHS Boys and Girls Club, the board and staff of Coachella Valley Boys and Girls Club, city staff, and the Desert Healthcare District board. "But the main person that made all this happen is Rick Daniels."
Mr. Furbee said he and John Soulliere went all over the country looking at pools, but never dreamed of having something as nice as what the city will have. It will be the nicest Boys & Girls Club in southern California. "We are all musicians in this orchestra, and we all did a lot of work, dedicating a lot of money and a lot of hours to make it happen. But the maestro's Rick."
Councilmember Matas said that Mr. Furbee is a true inspiration to this community. He said he had given over and over and over.
Councilmember Sanchez said he wanted to add some clarification. He asked the total cost that the Desert Healthcare District put into this project. Mr. Daniels said it was about $5.2 million. Mr. Sanchez said "Desert Healthcare District doesn't step up, we don't have this facility." It was a major commitment to the city. He said he and Mayor Weyuker talked with Congressman Lewis in Washington. Mary Gibson made that relationship happen "and I haven't heard her name tonight." Congressman Lewis would never have promised $2 million if it weren't for Mary Gibson. He would like to see something named for Mary Gibson in this project. He said he would have named the pool for Mary Gibson and put John Furbee's name on the teen center. He doesn't want to see a well or any kind of a plant named after Mary Gibson. He said we should also thank Marion Ashley because he gave us the first $300,000 to purchase land.
Councilmember Betts thanked Mr. Furbee for his contributions. He said he didn't think credit could be given to any one individual.
This is the first reading of an ordinance that will modify retirement benefits for future Safety Employees to 3% at age 55 - current Safety Employees get 3% at age 50. Retirement for future Miscellaneous Employees will be modified to 2% at age 60 - currently it's 2.7% at age 55. All employees are either Safety Employees or Miscellaneous Employees.
Approved 5-0 without discussion were these items:
- The minutes for the July 3 meeting and register of demands for July 2012.
- Acceptance of the street improvements on Sonora Drive north of Mission Lakes Boulevard.
- A letter of intent to lease RDA property at 66463 Pierson , Unit A, to Michael Rizzio as MJ & R Computer Repair. The space is 193 square feet. The monthly rent will be $193.
- Granting an easement to Southern California Gas for a 2-inch pipeline along Annandale Avenue between the cul de sac and The Ranch.
Schedule of Authorized Positions
You can download the schedule of authorized positions from the city website here. Here are the changes summarized in the staff report (all salaries are in monthly terms):
- Deputy City Clerk reclassified from Non-exempt to Exempt.
- Administrative Services Director/Assistant City Manager reclassified to Director of Finance and Administration. (Monthly salary range revised from $9,821 - $14,583 to $11,000 - $13,400.) [+12% to -8.1%]
- RDA Finance Manager reclassified to Program and Financial Specialist. (Monthly salary range revised from $7,265 - $8,831 to $6,750 - $7,840.) [-7% to -11.2%]
- Management Analyst reclassified from part-time temporary position to full-time position with no change in pay range.
- Public Works Manager reclassified to Public Works Director. (Monthly salary range revised from $7,820 - $9,505 to $9,637 - $11,714.) No salary change will automatically occur without a performance review. [+23.2%]
- Police Chief/Assistant City Manager reclassified to Police Chief. (Monthly salary revised from contract rate of $16,713 to salary range of $12,040 - $14,635.) [-28% to -12.4%]
Mr. Betts said "This gives us a chance to take a second bite at the budget apple." He said he would be speaking only to those positions not covered by contract. He pointed out the "new management analyst position." [There are two Management Analyst positions on the schedule. Neither is new. One is being revised from part-time to full-time and the other is being transferred from the Police to the City Manager.] The position's salary range is $5,685 to $6,922. He proposed taking 10% off of the top of the range. IOW, reduce $6,922 to $6,229.80. For the Director of Finance and Administration the top salary is listed as $13,400. Mr. Betts proposed reducing that 10% to $12,060.
He acknowledged this would have no effect on this year's budget, but could save money in future years. His motion was that anyone not covered by an employment contract, that the maximum salary cap be reduced by 10%, so long as no one is already receiving the maximum salary so that there would be no salary cut for current employees.
Mr. Sanchez spoke:
You know I being a witness to the discussion at the water district they had at the water district this year and all the concerns about raising the water rates and we had two speakers today speaking about how it affected the elderly. But one of the big outcries in the community then was the salaries of [unclear] district employees and the money amounts they are making in each [unclear] department. And when they went ahead and then finally raised the fees they didn't really address the salaries of those water district employees. And I know that was as they went through that difficult process so bringing it up to speed where we're at right now you know last year we had to basically borrow from the general fund, the reserve fund, in order to balance our budget. And we're hoping the Sentinel is going to come through with that money this year, because all we got last year, I believe, was $250,000. So we're hoping that they're going to be able to produce that money this coming year so we get it back into the reserve fund to get it balanced out again. So as we go into through the budget process this coming June-July, you know we're facing some very, very severe shortages, money shortages. And we're going to have to then decide what this council wants to do. And many times the easy out for the council is going to be to raise taxes or to find some other revenue that's going to cost the taxpayers money. And it's not going to be a good position we're going to be in, you've got to get to the point you've got to decide, are we going to be conservative as we move forward with the taxpayers' money, do our due diligence, and to make sure, you know, as I look at some of these salaries they're up to $140,000. I mean, how many people out there, you know, should be fortunate to have, you know, really good paying jobs at $140,000? And it's going to be a tough job for us once we get to the budget this year, and I want to, and I think this is good diligence on our part to be looking ahead right now before we even get to June and July to have to make these choices. And, say that, you know, we're thinking ahead right now to make these adjustments to these salaries so that it'll lower the impact we're going to have to deal with this coming budget process. And if we don't do it now, we're going to be thinking about doing it in June and July and it's not going to be a very comfortable position we're going to be in. And I have to agree with Councilmember Betts that just doesn't affect the bottom line if you have an employee how many years does it take to get to maximum? Well, it could take many, many years, I mean most employees don't reach that maximum before they leave the city. But the reality is that looking at the budget, looking at what we're going to have to be looking at this coming year, the moneys that are going to have to be there are going to be tough on us. And I want to make sure that right now that we're planning ahead and trying to do our best part to meet that impact. We're going to have this [unclear] budget.
[Two things: First, Mr. Sanchez needs to correct his calendar. He thinks the budget process is June and July. The budget has to be approved before the end of June, so the work for the council comes in May and June. Second, what he said about the water district is nothing more than a load of horseshit. He witnessed nothing. He doesn't come to water district board meetings. He did not attend the 218 meetings. There has been no discussion of raising water rates at the district "this year." The last discussion about that was almost two years ago in the fall of 2010. More importantly, Mr. Sanchez completely ignores all of the hard work the district has done since then to trim personnel and other costs. But I don't need to say that because there was a water district Director in the audience who came up and said it much more nicely in the public comments at the end of the meeting. To keep this coherent, we're going to skip directly to Director Russ Martin's public comment now.]
During the discussion, I believe it was item 6, in dealing with city employees' salaries there was a reference made to the Mission Springs Water District and when we raised our rates that we ignored the public concerns regarding Mission Springs Water District employee salaries. I understand political hyperbole, and I didn't take offense to what was said, but I do think that it's important to correct the record. First, the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors since our district was formed in 1953 has never taken an increase in their stipend, even though we're entitled to take a 5% increase each year. In the last 5 or 6 years we've gone from 55 employees down to 44 and now we're looking at 36 employees. That was done through layoffs and attrition. Our employees that we did retain went 4 years without a cost of living increase. Six employees are looking at - they're being given an opportunity for early retirement which is going to save the water district something in the neighborhood of $3 million over the next 5 years. Much of the concerns expressed by the public at the time did not really involve salaries, but dealt with our benefits package. Our employees volunteered to take a ... to pay a larger portion of their medical benefits and their retirement. We have established a financial advisory committee - this has been going for about the last year or so, and in fact we have one of our members sitting right over here [gesturing to Richard Cromwell]. We get terrific input on all matters financial dealing with the water district in terms of our rates, fees and so forth. So to suggest for a second that we ignored the public's concern about salaries and fringe benefits and how much water district employees are getting paid at the expense of raising the water rates to cover that simply misstates the fact. And I just wanted to clarify that for the record.
Councilmember Matas said he couldn't support the motion without doing some research on it. Councilmember Pye said she would need more information too. The item being presented produces an annual saving of $74,000 she said. How much more would be saved, she asked. She also pointed out that one of the two management analyst positions is empty and not expected to be filled.
Mr. Sanchez said he would like to find a way for the lower level workers in Public Works to get a 10% raise. [There are five Maintenance Worker positions in Public Works whose pay can range from $3,381 to $4,110 per month ($40,572 to $49,320 per year).] He said that at budget time the city would have to make cuts or raise taxes. He said the lower paid workers are being left behind.
Mayor Parks said that those who Mr. Sanchez says are "being left behind" are those represented by unions. She asked if he thought they were not being well paid. Mr. Sanchez said that they are not being paid well in comparison to a Public Works manager.
Mr. Matas said that with education and hard work, you'll get paid for the job you're doing. "Not everyone's equal." He said that if there is to be further discussion, the council needs to know what pay ranges there are in other cities. He asked City Manager Daniels if the item were urgent, or could it be brought back with additional information.
Mr. Daniels said that if Mr. Betts had, in accordance with written council policy and procedures, let Mr. Daniels know that this was his intent he could have brought the analysis to this meeting, but he had not. He went on to say that there some blatant errors and misstatements had been made. Five years ago there were 122 city employees. Now there are 65. Total. The Police Department has increased in size by 15 officers, meaning all the cuts plus 15 have had to come from non-Police positions. The city has already analyzed the positions, considered the required skills and experience. A salary survey of other cities is done including Yucca Valley, Beaumont, Banning, the wealthier and bigger cities are excluded. Then the salary range is set in the middle. In other words, they survey lower-paying communities and then choose a range that's lower than the top. There are five steps within a salary range, each with a 5% difference. An employee moves from step to step based only on successful performance reviews. More successful performance reviews are denied than issued, he said. Cutting 10% off the top, now makes it a 3-step ladder to the top, which means simpler management. But by picking on only the unrepresented, the proposed motion would give a powerful incentive to those people to organize. So far Desert Hot Springs has succeeded in preventing management employees from organizing. The policy could also not encourage employees to work as hard to succeed, since after three steps there are no more increases. The policy might also risk creating gender, age and racial inequities. Most employees are at the top step already. Finally, he said it's city council's authority to determine the number of employees, but it's the City Manager's responsibility to set the pay rates. Salaries of DHS city employees are not great, he said. They lag behind most cities. Many of the higher positions require college degrees, five years of experience, specialized expertise. There are people who have invested in education and those who have not. People who have chosen education should not be penalized.
He recommended that the city council approve the item as presented by staff and that they can continue to look at costs at future meetings. He said that DHS has been more fiscally conservative than any other city in Coachella Valley.
Mr. Betts said he did not contact Mr. Daniels because he didn't know when to contact him. He said the city council had been told not to send Mr. Daniels an email when he is not at city hall through the city server. He said DHS has "a huge deficit and a budget crisis coming up unless somebody pulls some magic out of their hat." He said he was not comparing the salaries to other cities. Comparison's need to be made to the private sector, he said. "If somebody's going to tell me that $160,000 is not a lot of money, I'm sorry, but in any world that I live in $160,000 is a darn good salary." [I believe a phone call to Mitt Romney will get you someone who will say that $160,000 is not a lot of money.]
Mr. Sanchez asked if this could have been presented to the council in May or June. Mr. Daniels said no, because the loss of Jason Simpson delayed the budget process by 4 to 6 weeks. Mr. Sanchez asked if this could simply be put off until the end of the fiscal year. Mr. Daniels said the law requires that there be a salary resolution. He said that if the council would put this off for two weeks he would do analysis and bring back a full report.
Mayor Parks said she was concerned that the council didn't have all of the facts to make a decision. They didn't know how many employees would be affected.
The motion failed 2-3 with Mr. Betts and Mr. Sanchez voting in favor.
Mr. Matas moved to approve the staff recommendation as presented. Mayor Pro Tem Pye said she would prefer to delay this to the next meeting so the council could have more information. Mayor Parks asked Mr. Matas if he would revise his motion to continue the item. He said he would not because every city councilmember knows the exact times the city manager is available every day, so this information could have been requested for this meeting in advance.
Approved 3-2 with Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Betts voting against.
Contracts Management Report
37% of the city's general fund operating budget goes to contract services. City staff has introduced a contracts management report for the city council. You can download a copy of it here. The report includes these columns:
- Contract number
- Version (original, 1st amendment, 2nd amendment, etc.)
- Service or commodity provided
- Current contractor
- Responsible department
- Contract amount
- Last RFP/Bid date
- Council approval date
- Effective date
- Expiration date
So we see, for example, that the Meyers Nave contract is for $320,000 and was last bid in 2006.
Ms. Pye said she pulled this item from the consent agenda to be sure that people knew it was now available. She said this is a list of council-approved contracts and next month there would be list of contracts that the city manager approved under his $30,000 limit.
Monthly Financial Report
This is the first of these. Mr. Betts asked where the balance in the reserve fund shows up in this report or in the Treasurer's Report, which was the next item on the agenda. Ms. Pye said it was on the first page of the report, near the bottom, the line labeled "Contingency Reserve." The amount is $3,223,000. Mr. Betts said he wanted a monthly monitoring. Ms. Pye directed him to the Revenue page, the line labeled "Total Operating Revenues." The actual amount in July was $189,748. Then the next page, Expenditures, has a line "Total Operating Expenditures." In July the actual amount was $378,558. The difference between those two numbers ($188,810) is the amount taken out of reserves. Mr. Betts asked for that number to be provided in future reports so he wouldn't have to do the math.
Mr. Daniels explained that the city's revenues do not come in on an equal basis every month. There are two primary allocations of property taxes in December and April. Sales tax comes in cyclically, as does TOT and other fees.
Ms. Pye said during last week's Finance Committee meeting, they decided to expand. It will now be similar to the Economic Development Committee. Everyone will be asked to fill out information forms. She prefers registered voters or business owners. The request for info is so they know the knowledge base of everyone who wants to be on the committee. The plan is to meet monthly at 6 PM, but they haven't settled on a day yet. It will be ad hoc and informal. Everyone is asked to sit at the table and participate.
Mr. Sanchez said it will be acceptable to sit in the audience and listen. A city councilmember, however, would be able to sit in the audience but not allowed to make any comments, because there are already two council members on the committee.
Mr. Sanchez asked if the city had two reserve accounts. Mr. Beaman said there should be only one account.
Mr. Betts, who had asked to pull this item from the consent agenda, said his questions had already been answered, so there was no discussion.
DVD Quarterly Report
Mayor Parks wanted to highlight some problems that had come up with the bulky item clean up week. In July some people dumped high volumes of mixed debris along the curb. Trash needs to be wrapped, tied, boxed, bundled, bagged, or dealt with in some way to make it possible for DVD employees to pick it up and get it in the truck. During the next bulky item clean up week, Code Enforcement will be looking for violators and may cite those who do not correct the situation.
Mr. Matas said the quarterly newsletter from DVD tells you how to bundle your trash.
From their website:
All single family residential dwellings can have extra household waste collected. This waste must be set at the curb in regulation trash containers or plastic bags. Yard trimmings tied in 2' or 4' bundles are also acceptable. Containers can't exceed 50 pounds per item nor the 32 gallon capacity. This collection is on your regular trash collection day and must be placed at the curb by 6:00 a.m.
Customers may set out two bulky items on the curb by the Monday morning of the cleanup. There is no longer a requirement to call to arrange for pickup.
Bulky items consist of appliances, furniture, some auto parts and some construction debris. These items can't exceed 150 pounds and must be able to be lifted by two men. Items larger than this will be subject to additional charges. Large items will be collected throughout the week.
Electronic waste is NOT a bulky item. There will be an electronic waste pick-up and document shredding event on Saturday, October 27 from 8 AM to noon at the Carl May Center.
City/County Agreement For Park Lane
Richard Cromwell came up to make a comment. He said he had talked to Mr. Daniels some time ago on this subject. He said during last year's heavy rain a foot of mud came across the road and did considerable damage to the natural gas fueling station. He asked to meet with Mr. Goldenberg to see if a fix for the flooding situation could be along with the street construction. Mr. Goldenberg had told him only this day that east of the new health facility, the school district owns both sides of the road. If he had known that earlier, he would have gone to talk to the school district. He asked if some mitigation could be put in. He reminded the council that DVD's trash trucks and the school district's buses are 100%^ natural gas fueled.
Mr. Daniels said the county will widen the northern half of the street. It will have curbs and sidewalk. It will extend as far east as the gate in the fence, where their property ends. He said city code requires a property owner to contain mud on their own property, and they will look at that. When the street is done, there can be diagonal parking on the north side on days of events at Mission Springs Park.
Mr. Betts said he had been contacted by property owner who complained that code enforcement had told him he couldn't let his customers park on a dirt lot, but he sees other businesses around town where that is done. He asked that this be enforced fairly.
Mr. Betts praised the way City Clerk Soriano handled the swearing in of the police officers. Mr. Soriano said he learned at the feet of Cathedral City City Clerk Pat Hammers. "The Hammer," added City Manager Daniels.
Mr. Matas advised Joe McKee not to believe everything he reads in The Desert Sun. They don't always get their facts right, he said.
Mr. Matas then spoke about Ruben Duran. He said he appreciated all his efforts for DHS. He thinks he's getting a bad rap from a couple of council members. "I am happy to call you a friend," he said, addressing Mr. Duran in the audience.
Mr. Matas praised Chief Williams as a man of honor who took this community to a whole new level of public safety.
Ms. Pye said that someone had made the accusation that "Ruben Duran was filling his pockets." She wanted to clarify that the checks for his legal work were all payable to Meyers Nave, not to Mr. Duran himself.
Mayor Parks said Ruben Duran has been a great city attorney and she supports him.
Mr. Sanchez asked City Manager Daniels to explain the rent per square foot prices in the downtown RDA properties - are they all the same, or do they vary?
Mr. Sanchez said that after the Boys & Girls Club moves to the Health & Wellness Center, the Parks Committee is considering using the old building in Wardman Park for a boxing club. He said that we need job training for the unemployed. A non-profit could come into that building in Wardman Park and do job training. "We don't got a jobs program, and we don't got a small business development program," he said.
[This proposal seems to be introducing unnecessary conflict. This city has both a great need for jobs training and a great need for more recreational opportunities for youth. There is no need to pit those two against each other. It does not have to be either/or. Jobs training can take place in any building - the Carl May Center back rooms, one of the RDA store fronts. Boxing needs to take place in a recreational facility, and we have very few of those. The Wardman Park building would be suitable for boxing.]
Mr. Sanchez said we have to have a Christmas Parade this year. He said it's not hard to do and won't cost the city a penny - except for public safety and public works. "We lost $250,000 on a wellness festival and we haven't recouped a penny of it."
[I've heard that strange logic used a few times, and I don't understand how losing $250,000 is justification to spend money on some other unrelated program. If a loss of $250,000 can justify spending, say, $6,000 on a parade, would a loss of $500,000 justify $12,000? How much would we have had to lose in order to justify spending as much money as we need to get everything done that needs to be done? BTW, some of the $250,000 did come to the city as other resources, but not cash.]
He said there's no excuse for not putting on a parade when we can build a Wellness Center for $17 million. [I think the Wellness Center is closer to $12 million and extremely little of that is city money.]
Mr. Daniels said a second "Fam Tour" is being planned for business and commercial developers.
He said that finishing work at the Health & Wellness Center has been delayed for three weeks because Edison did not believe that the city would actually adhere to the schedule it gave them, so when the day came for Edison to hook up the building, they were no where to be found. Electricity is needed for pumps for the pool and to heat the gym so the maple floor can be installed.
Mr. Daniels said the Health & Wellness Center has a thousand parents. It's been a relay race where people have handed off the baton to one another [and only Edison dropped theirs]. A thousand people played critical roles at important times to make it happen. He said he was humbled by John Furbee's comments, but he thinks they are unearned.
He said he looks forward to working with the parade committee on the parade permit.
As to the rents for RDA properties, he said local brokers determine the market rates. Some spaces are more, some are less.
FEMA has approved a reimbursement of $56,649 for flood damage in 2005!
Mr. Daniels estimates that the Walmart development may come before the Planning Commission as early as their January meeting which, if approved, would get it to the City Council in February.
New pavement has resulted in faster moving flood waters. The city has put in temporary berms to try to spare residents as much as possible, but the real solution is for the Riverside County Flood Control District to put in their major works that will divert water away from the developed areas of the city.
Mr. Daniels introduced Terrence Beaman, the new, permanent Director of Finance and Administration. He has worked in a number of cities in southern California, including San Bernardino. He is a resident of Riverside.
Director of Finance and Administration Terrence Beaman
Mayor Parks asked Mr. Daniels to agendize an item for the next meeting to consider authorizing an RFP for attorney services and whether or not to appoint an interim attorney.
Fire Chief Pat Tomlinson said they have started a new database called "Patient Care Reporting" or PCR. This will allow them to track more closely the nature of the medical calls they go out on.
He said he had read The Waters of Comfort by John Hunt and found it interesting that flooding is nothing new in Desert Hot Springs. It's been going on since the first road was built. He suggested that property owners who know their property is at risk should take some responsibility to protect it. That is, get your sand bags before the rainy day comes.
Pamela Berry said the DVD newsletter is vague. Two different times they did not pick up some large green waste that she had. There has been nothing in the newsletter about the limits on the size of green waste. She has since learned that branches need to be 6 feet or less and they need to be wrapped or tied up. She called DVD and asked them to have this clarified in their next newsletter.
Then Russ Martin made his comment which I have addressed above.
September 24, 2012
Mitt Opened His Mouth Again
I wonder if Obama's campaign workers have started to slack off, thinking that Mitt Romney was doing most of their work for them. From the L.A. Times:
"I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don't think she knows just how worried some of us were," Romney said. "When you have a fire in an aircraft, there's no place to go, exactly, there's no — and you can't find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don't open. I don't know why they don't do that. It's a real problem. So it's very dangerous. And she was choking and rubbing her eyes. Fortunately, there was enough oxygen for the pilot and copilot to make a safe landing in Denver. But she's safe and sound."
Also, this past weekend Romney released a position paper on NASA and space exploration, but one astronomer says he's not so sure he wants to trust NASA policy to someone who doesn't understand why airplane windows don't open.