December 29, 2012
An LA Times article that says small scale solar projects are more cost effective than the large, subsidized projects that are being built way out in the desert. The distant projects require construction of new transmission lines, and some power is lost in long transmission lines.
December 28, 2012
DHS City Council - September 26
The audio recording of this special meeting of the Desert Hot Springs City Council comes in two parts: part 1 and part 2. There were about 31 members of the public in attendance at this 3 PM study session; the largest number of attendees I've seen at a study session.
Councilmember Betts said that a 3 PM meeting time was very unusual and the city council was not affording the public an opportunity to be there. He said this was a classic example of being anything but transparent. Mayor Parks said he could her responsible for the unusual timing of this meeting. She had to be absent from a previous meeting to be with her daughter during surgery. Mr. Sanchez said this is not the first time they've had meetings at 3 PM. "It's like a trend and a pattern that we have going on around here." [This is certainly the first 3 PM meeting of the city council since Mayor Parks took office in 2007.] He said we should have the meetings at the normal times - which would be 4 PM. He read some statements about open government. One of those statements said that open government means the public has the right to access the documents and proceedings of the government. He said he would read these statements at every meeting held at 3 PM. He said not everyone is participating because some people don't get off work until 5 o'clock. Next Mr. Sanchez said he would read something "from the U.S. Department of State, which we all present in city government here. We always refer to the state for their grand knowledge and accountability." [I think Mr. Sanchez has somehow confused the Department of State, a federal office that deals in foreign affairs, with the State of California.] The item he read described government accountability. He repeated that he would read these statements again at any 3 PM meeting "until we can get to the point where we can start having our regular meetings at 5 o'clock and include the entire community. [Of course, the regular meetings ARE at 5 o'clock and have been starting at that hour without exception since the new time was adopted in early 2008. The regular meeting time for special sessions, such as this one, is 4 PM. This one started at the unprecedented hour of 3 PM with a full house of citizens.]
The agenda was approved 3-2 with Mr. Betts and Mr. Sanchez voting against.
Mike Perry, the new publisher of the the Desert Star said their mission is to seek a partnership demonstrating a two-way exchange of ideology, community involvement. They want to become a trustworthy and respected member of the business establishment. "We are here to bring to light the tireless efforts of the council and everyone at City Hall in making our community safe, clean and a respected part of the Coachella Valley." They want to publicize the positive aspects of life in DHS, not the bad. He said a town without a trustworthy newspaper is a town without a soul.
Sports Field Facility Use
This item was continued from September 11. First Mr. Daniels presented a proposed schedule to try to resolve conflicts between AYSO and other soccer organizations. The proposed way to resolve scheduling conflicts was to...
- give priority to the group serving the most DHS kids,
- private, non-profit community benefit corporations whose proceeds go back into the activity will have priority over for-profit private businesses,
Mission Springs Park has four fields and a snack bar. AYSO has 288 kids - 90% from DHS. DHS United, DHS Milan, DHS Pumas and Juventus have 192 kids - 84% (of the 57% who supplied addresses) were from DHS. Basic guidelines for youth sports require a day off between a practice day and a game day. With practice usually from 4:30 to 8:30, a field can handle about 200 kids per night. One group could have the fields for practice on Monday and Wednesday and play their games on Saturday. The other group would get Tuesday and Thursday and play their games on Sunday. This schedule should accomodate all of the current requests. Friday would be a rest day for the turf or just open play for anybody.
[I'm highlighting the following because the facts have been lost in repeated retellings.]
Councilmember Matas asked if since this item was continued from an earlier meeting were those members of the public who spoke at the earlier meeting going to be allowed to speak again? If so, then he thought each speaker should be allowed 6 minutes. [Following the rules strictly would mean that no one who testified at the earlier meeting would be permitted to testify again.] Mayor Parks said she had reviewed the tape of that earlier meeting. She said she had discussed this matter with the city attorney. She said "we do not have to allow the same speakers to speak again." New speakers or those who have something new to add will be heard. "You know who you are," she said, addressing the audience, "and you can simply come to the podium." Mr. Daniels suggested that since his proposed scheduling was new information not presented at the earlier meeting, that the Mayor might invite the leaders of the two groups to speak for 5 minutes on the subject of the proposed scheduling.
Mr. Sanchez said that when time ran out at the earlier meeting some people had not gotten the chance to speak. He thinks everyone who turned in a card should be permitted to speak. "I agree with you, Councilman Sanchez," Mayor Parks replied, "I just don't want to repeat the same information over and over again." She said it got down to that at the last meeting, different people saying the same thing over and over.
Mr. Betts said not everyone got a chance to speak. He didn't hear repetitive comments. He said he didn't think it was a good idea to limit public input. He addressed the audience: "You have a right to speak. If you feel that you want to speak, you have a request from the chair indicating that they would really not like you to speak as much to make your points, but just to make it clear to the public, you do have a right to speak at this meeting and nobody can limit your time at the public podium."
Of course the chair had made no such request, and the public does NOT have unlimited time at the podium.
Mr. Matas clarified that his point was a question as to whether those who spoke before would be permitted to speak again. He wanted Mayor Parks to make the decision publicly that everyone would get time to speak. He said his point was derailed. He did not want to deny anyone the right to speak.
Mr. Sanchez said that Mayor Parks' statement that the comments at the previous meeting were repetitive was just her opinion. She said it was not her opinion, it was on the tape. Mr. Sanchez rebutted that it was just her opinion. He stated that his opinion was contrary to her opinion. Here Mr. Daniels suddenly interrupted saying "Stop it! That's enough! The public is here." Mr. Betts said Mr. Daniels was out of line. Mr. Daniels said that was not his determination to make. He asked the Mayor for recognition. Mr. Daniels continued "The public is here to present testimony. We can deal with this later." Mr. Sanchez continued saying that the reality is Mayor Parks' opinion. He disagrees with her. "As long as you don't throw in comments, I won't be going back in here to rebut what you have to say." He said that anyone who turned in a card should be able to speak.
Mr. Betts said he concurred with Mr. Matas. He told Mr. Daniels he was out of order and unprofessional. He said that Mr. Daniels owed Mr. Sanchez an apology. Mr. Daniels said he would be glad to go into closed session for a performance review right then.
Mayor Parks asked Mickey Lemus to give her opinion on the proposed scheduling. She said she agreed with Mr. Daniels about sharing the field.
Next Roger Rice came forward to say that that one of the four fields is not lighted. The fields are 50 x 100 yards. Junior All-American Football also has about a hundred kids who practice there. AYSO would like to have Tuesdays and Thursdays. He said AYSO and the other soccer club have gotten along and he doesn't see what needs to change. AYSO plays games on Saturday, the other club on Sunday. He wants equality. The city asks him to prove that AYSO is a non-profit, it has to get a business license, it has to jump through hoops. He wants the same for all groups.
Mayor Parks asked the City Manager how Junior All-American Football is dealt with. He says they practice on an unmarked "fifth field" at the park.
Steve Crosby came up to comment. He said he's been doing soccer as a child advocate for over 20 years. He coached the high school program. He's coached club. No one has talked about the child advocacy programs that football, baseball and AYSO have. They are licensed and trained and backed up by a national organization.
Jesus Marquez said he is making a petition for the benefit of the community. He said his league is new and they are working toward getting all the required documents. He can't get accepted in CalSouth until he has the park permits. He asked the city council to direct Roger Rice not to come up to him to ask for paperwork. The next time Mr. Rice does that, Mr. Marquez said, he will call the police. He said Mr. Rice is constantly harassing him.
Marcella Marquez said she has lived here for 15 years. AYSO is a huge organization, she said and she has known them well in different cities. We all are working to keep the kids busy. She doesn't understand why obstacles are being put in the way. The children why they are practicing in such a small space.
Dania Marquez spoke next. She has asked for Tuesdays, Thursday and Sunday. "Roger doesn't have any right coming up to us asking for any paperwork."
Dean Gray said he respects the opinions presented this day, and he supports all youth and recreational programs that are represented. Ignoring the problems is bad. He talked about how someone died because we didn't build sidewalks. The problem is the lack of recreational parks. "Millions and millions of dollars" that could have been used to build parks have been lost. He said we need to trim the fat from city management. Millions can be saved if those in management work for less money, he said. He challenged the city council to double our parks.
Lindsey Jordan said Roger Rice is an excellent guy. She said that when DHS soccer came and began to use one field there were no space issues. She is at the park every day from 5 PM to 8 PM and she has never witnessed Mr. Rice asking anybody for anything.
Roger Rice said he has asked Jesus for paperwork. This was when AYSO had a permit for the fields and Jesus was trying to use one. He did not do it aggressively. "Personal attacks bring up histories." A person with a history of violence tends to be a person of violence. He said Jesus Marquez was expelled from the Palm Springs soccer league for striking a referee. Mr. Rice said he had the referee's report and the police report. He didn't want to bring it up, but Mr. Marquez attacked him personally. Mr. Rice said he has put ten years into AYSO.
Councilmember Sanchez moved to approve the City Manager's proposal - it did not get a second. He said he had just picked up the agenda packet the day before and it had a lot of information in it and he didn't think the city council should approve it without going through it. He said he did not see a survey of what other cities in the valley charge youth sports organizations to use their fields. Mr. Daniels said it was not in there, because fees were not part of this matter. The current matter focuses solely on scheduling. Charges will come up after the city completes its fee study in the near future.
Councilmember Matas said the agenda item was under discussion items, so he didn't think the council would take any action today to approve the proposal. It should be approved in a regular council meeting. He asked a member of the audience if she represented all four club soccer teams. She answered that they are all in their soccer league. Mr. Matas asked if some of the teams also interact with and play with AYSO. She said she didn't know of anything like that.
Mr. Matas asked Mr. Crosby if club soccer teams have background checks for the adults and do they have training in how to deal with conflict. Mr. Crosby said CalSouth and US Youth Soccer have those programs.
Mr. Matas said he has reached out to Councilmember Sanchez multiple times to try to get DHS club soccer to come to the same table as AYSO, but his overtures have been rejected multiple times. He said that Jesus Marquez has had multiple conflicts with organizations in DHS, including Little League and AYSO. He said that Mr. Marquez has to participate with everybody. He invited him once again to come to the next Parks Committee meeting.
Mr. Matas said every youth organization that applies to use park space should have basic child protection rules in place. He said that city staff needs to do occasional checks on actual park use because he is aware of adult groups sometimes taking over the fields.
Councilmember Betts says there are not enough parks. He said that for 8 years there has been an issue at the core of why he wanted to get involved with the city council, and that is failure to enforce development agreements. Skyborne was supposed to build a 5.2 acre Karen Park. "Where is that park now?", he asked. [As I understand it, the requirement for the park doesn't kick in until 200 homes are built.] Mr. Betts said the city council told the developer that he didn't need to build the park. [I don't recall that decision.] Mr. Betts said we released bonds on a park.
[My write up of the city council meeting where they approved converting the Skyborne bonds to liens is here. Karen Park was never mentioned.]
Mr. Sanchez talked about fees. He said Indio and Coachella don't distinguish been non-profits and for-profits. He said that volunteer hours will have to be tracked.
He said the snack bar needs to be discussed too. He asked Mr. Daniels if the city has final say over that building. Mr. Daniels said the building was built by volunteers in the 1980s. No building permits were issued then. The property is owned by the water district. The city leases it from them. Options were (1) for the city to operate the stand or (2) for AYSO to operate it and share the profits with other organizations or (3) for each group to move equipment in and out of the concession stand as they use the fields. He said there some large scale sales of snacks going on at the park with no health department permit and no collection of sales tax.
Mr. Sanchez asked about storage. Mr. Daniels said storage needs to be cleaned up. He said one possibility was for the city to buy all the equipment and then lease it to teams using the fields.
Ms. Pye asked if there is a second storage area at Mission Springs Park. Mr. Daniels said the snack stand is on the upper level and equipment is stored on the lower level. The storage is about 500-600 square feet. The snack bar has a soda machine, ice machine, and refrigerator. There may be other items. Ms. Pye said she thought this should be acknowledged in writing.
Mr. Matas said AYSO has $10,000 to $15,000 worth of equipment stored there and the city can't make them share that. He said that in 1972 the concession stand at Wardman Park was built by Little League volunteers. If another sort of baseball league comes to town the same problems will crop up at Wardman Park. One issue is the field use permits, he said. A second issue is the number of volunteer hours invested in the parks by AYSO and Little League.
He said the Parks Committee is made up of community members that are well respected. They were not handpicked by Mr. Matas, they are people who joined the committee voluntarily. The Parks Committee speaks for the community, not just one group. He said that Mr. Sanchez has intimidated members of the community by sitting at the park and advocating for one organization. The history of volunteers has to be respected. Roger Rice has been a volunteer in an organization that has been here for 25 years. Mike Platt has volunteered with Little League for 12 years and that organization has been here 30 years.
Mr. Betts said he wanted the Parks Committee to get together again and come up with a different recommendation on how to share the snack bar. He said he has seen the storage area in the snack stand at Mission Springs park and things are not being stored safely; access to the electrical panel is being blocked.
Mr. Matas said that at a Parks Committee meeting he had given Mr. Marquez, who is with DHS Soccer, ample opportunity to suggest a plan for using the snack stand, but he made no suggestion. So the Parks Committee made a recommendation as a whole.
Mr. Sanchez asked Mr. Matas for a history of the Parks Committee. Mr. Matas said that in 2008 the Parks Committee formed partly because there was no where for youth organizations to come and be part of government. Mr. Matas put together a group to study our park facilities. The City Council adopted it as the Parks Committee. They meet the third Thursday of the month at the Carl May.
Mr. Sanchez asked if the Parks Committee is the only city advisory committee in existence. A strange question, since Mr. Sanchez himself sits on the Youth Violence and Gang Intervention Ad-Hoc Committee. There are a number of other committees, such as the Streets Committee (which has changed its name, I believe), the Economic Development Committee, the Emergency Preparedness Committee. Mr. Matas said there was an Annexation Committee that never really got off the ground.
The essential difference between a commission and a committee, in this city at least, is that a committee never has more than two city council members involved and is made up of volunteers, not appointees. Committees are not subject to the Brown Act.
Initially, it was Mr. Matas and Councilmember Al Schmidt who sat on the Parks Committee. Mr. Schmidt was replaced by Ms. Pye.
Mr. Sanchez said it's time to change the name of the Community and Cultural Affairs Commission to "Community Services and Cultural Affairs" and fold the Parks Committee into the commission because then it would be handled by appointed commissioners. Mr. Matas said he agreed and suggested that the Youth Violence and Gang Intervention Ad-Hoc Committee should be folded back into the Public Safety Commission. The Economic Development Committee would go back to the City Council. The Streets Committee would then go back to the Public Works Department. [I think Mr. Matas was being sarcastic.] Mr. Sanchez said he had gone too far.
Ms. Pye interrupted to suggest this was not on the topic of "sports field facility use agreements and sports field seasonal permit application and policy."
Mr. Sanchez said the committee is giving advice to the council. Mr. Matas said it was advice only, that the council did not have to take it.
Mayor Parks asked Mr. Sanchez to wrap it up since he was getting off the point. Mr. Sanchez asked Mr. Marquez to come to the podium. He asked him how long he had lived in DHS. 16 years was the answer. Next question, "Why did you start the DHS Youth Soccer Club?" Answer: he felt a necessity to be more competitive. In Coachella they invited his son to play. He saw that there were 20 to 30 kids from DHS playing in that league. He decided to make a team "under 8." Then they decided to grow because more kids were interested. Then he decided to do the league for DHS Youth Soccer Club because when they went to a La Quinta game they heard comments about the DHS kids being "easy" because they were all druggies. The league aims to fight obesity, gangs and delinquency. His is a year-round league. Last year they had 150 kids. Now they are working on paperwork.
Mr. Sanchez asked him to verify that he wants to go with CalSouth so it's important to have a permit for fields to play on so they can have tournaments.
Mayor Parks asked if he has had this club for over a year. The answer was that there are kids who have played for about four years in the club. Mayor Parks asked why he had not applied for non-profit status before now. Mr. Marquez answered that it was because he was playing for other leagues that had no requirements, just money, money, money.
Mr. Matas said Mr. Marquez is taking some things out of context. He went on to explain that after setting up an organization and getting non-profit status, then he could apply for field permits. Instead, Mr. Marquez is asking for permits before he has gotten non-profit status. Once Mr. Marquez has the non-profit status, Mr. Matas said he would fully support his organization. Mr. Marquez said he hadn't understood that, but does now.
Mayor Parks pointed out that it was 45 minutes until the next committee needed to meet in the room and there were still two more items on the agenda [city council video recording and RFP for attorney services] which are urgent. Mr. Sanchez instructed Mayor Parks...
"You can't decide yourself now that you want to circumvent the whole process please. We were having an open meeting to discuss this. You know, if you put three things on the agenda, I'm sorry, but we're not going to shortchange anything because your agenda is not being met. I'm sorry, but I have more questions of Jesus. I have questions for Little League and I have questions for Junior Football. This is a study session. We need to get his done now, otherwise you're going to have to go to another study session. So, please, stay on task here. I want to be able to ask my questions to this open meeting, because that's how it's designed to be.
Mr. Sanchez asked Mr. Marquez when he submitted his non-profit application. The answer was March 3, 2012. He asked if he has a Board of Directors. The answer is that yes, he does. Does he have a set of bylaws? Yes. Mr. Sanchez asked what the oldest kids were in his organization. "Under 16" was the answer. The organization now has more than 110 members and 92% are from the city of DHS. "At the rate of growth you have now, how many kids will you have in two years?" The answer was "A thousand, if not more." At this point the translator clarified that DHS Youth Soccer League has 426 kids. 98% of those are from the city of DHS.
Then Mr. Sanchez asked Mike Platt, Assistant District Administrator for District 58, Little League Baseball, to come to the podium. He has also served as a coach in AYSO. He has grandkids in the program. He said there are 400 kids in DHS Little League. It's been growing, but it was bigger in 1978 to 1984. The Wardman Park snackbar was built by volunteers before Little League. Little League helped build the snackbar in Mission Springs Park. He said neither snackbar is built to health codes. They sell pre-made snacks and sodas. As a non-profit with those sales, they are not required to collect sales tax. They do have to collect sales tax on fireworks sales. He said he is in favor of whatever's good for the kids. He stays with the program because he's seen kids heading down the wrong road who got put on the right road to graduate from high school with college scholarships because of youth sports. He said there are a lot of organizations for youth in Desert Hot Springs, and there are a lot of financial issues. He doesn't know what they'll do with the school district increasing its fees. Little League has purchased storage bins for their equipment. They have also purchased topping mix for the city and high school fields. Little League purchased the chalk and the chalking machine, the ice machine, the PA system. Those belong to Little League. Little League has had some friction with AYSO when they shared Mission Springs Park, but now they use Wardman Park and the high school field. Little League and AYSO have grown with the times. He said the Parks Committee meeting is a good meeting. Any organization can show up and make input.
Mr. Sanchez asked Mr. Platt what he wanted to do with the Cabot Yerxa building in Wardman Park. He said he wanted it as a community building for the sports leagues so they can hold their meetings there. Mr. Matas said the Little League Bord of Directors had asked that the building be restored to its original use: youth sports. Little League would maintain the calendar for it and work with Junior All American Football, AYSO and any other youth sports organizations. Little League would do interior maintenance.
The only period when Little League isn't using the field at Wardman Park is from mid-October through December.
Then Mr. Sanchez said he wanted to hear from Junior Football. John Martin, the president, came to the podium to speak. They are just shy of a hundred kids now, from ages 8 to 14. They practice on an unlighted field at Mission Springs Park. Mr. Sanchez asked the City Manager how long the timeframe of the permits would be. Mr. Daniels said he would prefer that they be multi-year agreements, so long as the city reserves the right to change the agreement if necessary.
Mr. Martin said they had applied with the school district to use their field for five home games, with a custodian. The fee increased from $300/day to to $1,500/day, so Junior Football backed out of the agreement. It was explained to him that all school districts county-wide had increased fees similarly. PSUSD later agreed to waive the fees, so Junior All American Football is using district fields for this season. The higher fees will kick in on January 1, 2013.
Mayor Parks listed the issues:
- The storage,
- The snack bar,
- Child protection, including background checks and fingerprinting.
She said these need to be addressed in any agreement, along with non-profit status. Only after information on child protection and non-profit status are submitted to the city, can assignment of the fields be determined.
Mr. Betts said it sounds like there is still too much to address before the city council can make a recommendation.
A brief discussion of the fees charged non-profits versus for-profits started. The City Manager reminded them that was not part of the agenda item. Mr. Matas explained that the non-profit/profit distinction also applied to the operation of the snack stand. If the city itself of a for-profit organization took over the snack stand, then it would have to be upgraded to meet stricter public health standards. Mr. Daniels said that those requirements include all snack stand workers would need food handler permits.
Mr. Betts asked about the status of an informal group that was neither non-profit nor for-profit. Mr. Daniels said you are either one or the other - meaning, I think, that until you get a non-profit status from the IRS, you are considered "for-profit."
At this point Steven Mattas, the interim city attorney was introduced. Councilmember Matas pointed out that the attorney as two "Ts" in his name and is not related. Mr. Mattas explained that it was a policy decision to distinguish between profits and non-profits. Mr. Daniels said the distinction also extended to use of the Senior Center and the Lozano Center in Tedesco Park.
Mr. Sanchez said Indio and Coachella don't distinguish between non-profits and for-profits and asked if the city council could get more information on that. Mr. Daniels said he would be glad to when the fee study came up, or if they needed it sooner he would send it to the council within a couple of days.
Mr. Daniels said that during this meeting he had worked out an alternative proposal for scheduling and he had Jeanine Plute draw it out, and I photographed it show you what amazing things can be done without the use of a computer:
In the interim, until the city council approves a policy, the city has given DHS Soccer a permit to use one field. The rest goes to AYSO. He said the two groups do not play well together, so his original proposal was to give them separate days. Mr. Sanchez asked if he could get the two groups together in his office to negotiate. Mr. Daniels said he has tried that and will continue to try.
In response to a question from Mr. Matas, Mr. Daniels said that every organization had to prove they had insurance before the city would give them any permit. The permits that have been given are temporary.
The summary of what the council had come to consensus on included a requirement for child protections, including background checks, fingerprint and some kind of disciplinary process in the organizations and coach training. But they had not come to a consensus on sharing the snack stands and storage.
As it was nearly 6 o'clock the council decided to recess until after the Economic Development Committee meeting.
City Manager Daniels said he wanted to apologize for his earlier outburst. "It was wrong and I apologize to the council and the city staff and the community. I expect more of myself than that. My comments were not, Councillor Sanchez, they were not aimed at you. It was the frustration of wrestling through an issue and being pulled in a hundred different directions. When I was listening to you, you weren't saying significantly different things. You were all saying 'Get the comments in, don't repeat yourself, you want to hear the items.' I was very frustrated, and I'm sorry."
Mayor Parks said his apology was accepted. Mr. Betts said his feelings were understandable.
[And it was a perfectly fabulous Economic Development Committee meeting.]
If you want statistics, that first half of this meeting was 3 hours long. The second half was only a little more than 1½ hours.
Video Services Contract
City Manager Daniels said this item had been brought forward from the last meeting. All the information requested by the city council had been added to this packet. He explained that Awesome Dude Video had been a vendor to the city of Indio. Desert Video is the current vendor to Indio.
Dean Gray commented. He said he heard the bid process was not done properly. Different information was provided to the public than was given to the council. He thought the process should be started over.
The contract is not for three years because of the annual appropriations requirement. Mr. Daniels said nothing in the process was done incorrectly. The contract with the current vendor runs out on September 30, so this had become time sensitive. Mr. Betts said he didn't think it was time sensitive because the city could grant a 30-day extension on the existing contract.
Mr. Betts asked about a fixed-camera system with one operator. Mr. Daniels said that would not have met the city's bid specifications. The specs say the city wants three cameras. Mr. Betts suggested that if the city had specified only the results it wanted, as opposed to the hardware to do it, some more creative and lower bids might have come in. He said he had heard from one person who had wanted to do bid but was told the city wasn't looking for that kind of system.
Mr. Daniels tried to explain that after any bid process it's not unusual to hear from someone who complains about the bid process, but Mr. Betts continually interrupted him saying he didn't want to hear that. Finally, Mayor Parks gaveled and made it clear that the City Manager had the floor.
Mr. Betts asked for an answer to his question. Mr. Daniels said the city did receive a proposal months ago that was in excess of $100,000 that would have used unproven technology. Mr. Betts said he had heard a number of $28,000.
Mr. Sanchez said his concern was that study sessions were not recorded on video. He said that whenever there is an action item, there should be video recording. Mr. Daniels said it costs about $1,000 to video record a meeting and special meetings (study sessions) were not included in the proposal. No other city in valley provides video coverage of every meeting, but Desert Hot Springs provides greater access than other cities by putting its videos up on the internet. The audio of ALL meetings is put on the city's website.
Mr. Daniels said that the council can choose to broadcast the video of any meeting, so long as it's willing to pay for that. "Yeah, but we need three votes," lamented Mr. Sanchez.
Mr. Sanchez asked if the city code required them to award the bid to the lowest bidder. Attorney Mattas explained that for a service contract, such as this, the city council was not required to go to the lowest bidder.
Mr. Betts asked if all meetings could be recorded at no cost, why would anyone not want to do that. [He had not presented a proposal that would cost nothing.]
Mayor Parks said she preferred to televise only regular council meetings.
Mayor Pro Tem Pye said there is no such proposal that would cost nothing. No one is going to install a camera and not charge the city for it, even if it is a piece of equipment that can be operated by city staff rather than professional video staff. She said she couldn't offer an opinion without knowing the actual cost.
Mr. Betts amended his hypothetical plan to say the only cost was the city staff to connect and disconnect it. IOW, free camera, free wiring.
Mayor Parks said it was pure speculation. Mr. Betts said she was making his point for him.
Mr. Betts asked if the problem with low volume on the TV broadcasts would be addressed in the new contract. Mr. Daniels said it has been a problem, and they will make sure it is fixed with a new provider.
Mr. Matas said he agreed with Ms. Pye, that it was pure speculation, and there was no way such an arrangement could be had at no cost. Each broadcast would have to be monitored, because as soon as someone calls to complain about the audio volume, someone on city staff would have to fix the problem. He suggested that the subject could be discussed at a future meeting when they could have the real costs to look at. He said the subject at hand is whether to stick with the current provider which would cost $7,414/year more than the lowest bidder. He said that long time vendors should get some preference on contract renewals.
Mr. Sanchez asked if Rudy Acosta had been budgeted for the full year, since the wellness center would soon be complete. Both Mr. Matas and Mayor Parks said this was off topic. The Mayor urged Mr. Sanchez to get on topic. Mr. Sanchez said it was a budget question. Mayor Parks asked the city attorney to lend his opinion. He explained that at a special meeting they are limited to the items they can discuss. He went on to say that if Mr. Acosta was not relevant to the video contract then the question was out of order.
Mr. Sanchez said the video contract was not an emergency matter. He wants the contract to include all meetings where there are action items, whether they are regular or special meetings. He said he couldn't vote for this package without that.
Mayor Parks compared some details of the proposals. She concluded that not only had Awesome Dude submitted a complete proposal that showed integrity and trustworthiness, but they had the lowest price.
Mr. Daniels suggested that as the revised policies and procedures are working their way through the city council, a provision could be included that determines which meetings are to be videorecorded.
Mayor Parks said the city had received a lot of complaints about the audio provided by the current video company. Awesome Dude comes with a lot of experience, she said.
Ms. Pye said the proposed contract allows Awesome Dude to video any event the city council wants at $350/hour. She said it was important to keep an eye on the budget and if the city could spend less money with a reputable company, then that's what it should do.
The motion to approve the contract with Awesome Dude was approved 3-2 with Mr. Betts and Mr. Sanchez voting against.
City Attorney Services
This is to instruct staff to issue the RFP for attorney services. City Manager Daniels said the sentence "All questions regarding this RFP must be directed to Terrence Beaman, Director of Finance & Administration" was included in error because it's the standard language for all RFPs. He said it should be revised to say inquiries should be directed to the City Manager.
Here is the proposed RFP that was presented to the council if you want to follow along. If you listen to the audio, the council refers to page numbers in the full agenda packet. Page 1 in the RFP is page 209 in the full packet, so to convert full packet page numbers to just RFP page numbers, subtract 208.
Attorney Mattas pointed out these items in the Scope Of Work ("Exhibit A"):
- Represent and/or advise the City in litigation not covered by the City’s self-insured risk pools (which provide coverage for tort claims, workers compensations claims, and employment matters). This non-covered litigation typically includes defending land use writs and regulatory inverse condemnation claims, supporting code enforcement actions, initiation of litigation and the handling of Pitchess motions.
- Provide legal advice and assistance to operating departments, assist in notice of disciplinary actions (including terminations) and provide advisory service to the Human Resources Department during appeal hearings.
- Prepare cases for trial and the investigation claims or complaints by or against the City.
Those three items are all included in the section headed up with "If a retainer is proposed, indicate the services that are included within the retainer, such
as:" Mr. Mattas said it will be difficult for firms to propose retainers that will cover those items. He recommended deletion of the first and third bullet points. The second bullet point should end after "(including terminations)." Appeal hearings are difficult to predict, he said.
Dean Gray made a comment. He said Councilmember Matas should recuse himself because at an earlier meeting he had said he is a very, very good friend with Ruben Duran. Mr. Matas also said that Meyers Nave was not interested in applying for this contract. Mr. Gray also reminded the council that if an interim attorney is being considered, Ruben Duran had a role in many deals for the city over the years that has lost the city "millions and millions of dollars."
Mayor Parks asked Attorney Mattas to advise on that subject, pointing out that the council was taking action on an RFP, not undertaking any actions in regard to Ruben Duran. Mr. Mattas answered that he was unaware of any basis on which Mr. Matas would have to recuse himself. The attorney asked Mr. Matas if there were a "common law conflict of interest," where Councilmember Matas would be unable to be fair and impartial. If there were such a common law conflict of interest, the decision to recuse is solely that of Mr. Matas. Mr. Matas answered that he could be fair and impartial on sending out an RFP. He said he has no potential for financial gain in this RFP.
Mr. Betts suggested revising the dates in the packet, which had not been changed from the previous council meeting where they did not have time to address this issue. He also wanted to provide 60 days (not 30) for firms to submit proposals. His proposal would have the RFP sent out on October 1 with a deadline of December 1, and then provide city staff more than a month to check the information provided by the applicants. Mayor Parks asked if he was sure he wanted to allow 40 days for that part of the process, which seemed to derail Mr. Betts' train of thought, so he had to start over. He wasn't sure if 60 days from October 1 would be December 1 or January 1, but settled on December 1. Then he suggested giving staff until December 10 to review the proposals. He also wanted it clear that interviewing the firms would be by the full council. He said those interviews could begin January 8, 2013, allowing 30 days for interviews, extending the whole process until early February 2013. He also said he was not comfortable with questions going to the City Manager, but preferred it be someone else on staff wo reported directly to the council [I think the only people who could be understood to report directly to the council are the City Manager, the City Attorney and the Chief of Police].
Under the Selection Criteria was a paragraph saying that the "City Council through the City Manager shall designate an evaluation committee to review submitted proposals." That committee would do a lot of legwork, including determining if "The firm is properly licensed to practice law in the State of California," "The firm has no conflicts of interest with regard to any work performed by the firm for the City, and all potential conflicts have been identified." Mr. Betts proposed that the City Council take on all those tasks itself.
Mr. Betts did, however, want the City Manager to check "the references of the firms and the firms' personnel."
Mr. Betts questioned the requirement for a firm to provide the "Date of admittance to the bar." He asked the attorney if firms are admitted to the Bar. Attorney Mattas said that only individuals are admitted to the Bar. Mr. Betts wanted that requirement stricken, but Mr. Mattas went on to point out that this requirement is one in a list that pertains to the individual attorneys who may be assigned to work with the city, so it was relevant.
Mr. Betts asked if the new firm would take over the legal services for Code Enforcement which is currently handled by a firm other than Meyers Nave. He asked for that to be included in the RFP to see if the city could save money.
Mr. Betts made all his suggestions a motion.
Mr. Matas asked the attorney if Meyers Nave would submit a proposal. Mr. Mattas replied that his firm had not decided on that yet. In response to a question from Councilmember Matas, Attorney Mattas said that Meyers Nave would like the council to consider a rate adjustment for them after 60 days [somewhere around late October], but that if the council did not want to pay more, Meyers Nave could not impose a rate increase unilaterally. In that case, the law firm could continue to serve under the current terms or to terminate the contract.
Mr. Sanchez asked the attorney about factor 1A "Responsiveness to the information requested in the RFP." Did that mean we would give extra points to the first firm to submit a proposal? The attorney explained that it meant whether the information provided was directly responsive to the requirements of the city's RFP.
Mr. Sanchez then asked about two points in the RFP. One asks the applicant firm to "Specify the individual that your firm proposes to be appointed as City Attorney;" the other asks them to identify who would be the Deputy City Attorney. He asked if that first item referred to "the point man, such as yourself." Mr. Mattas said that was correct. It asks who they are proposing to be City Attorney. He asked if the second point asked for "the number two guy." Mr. Mattas said yes, but in our case the number two guy is a woman, Bianca Sparks.
Mr. Sanchez asked how easy it would be for a city to change the attorney and deputy attorney. Mr. Mattas said it depends on how the contract is worded. He has seen it structured in various ways.
City Manager Daniels suggested that the firm should be permitted to appoint an attorney, subject to concurrence by the council.
Ms. Pye asked the attorney if 30 days was a reasonable response time for the RFP. He said he thought it was. Ms. Pye said she agreed with Mr. Betts date changes, except only 30 days should be allowed for responses and that flexibility be provided for the length of time in the review process. She also said she did not want the city council to be responsible for checking a firm's references. Mr. Betts said he intended for the City Manager to do those basic checks.
Further discussion among the council and the city manager clarified that they council would intend for city staff to handle the basic screening of applicants, and then all those who qualified would go on to the full city council for interviewing.
On the subject of a law firm for Code Enforcement City Manager Daniels reminded the council that in June 2012 they had approved a 3-year contract with Tucker, but if the council so directs, the relationship with Tucker could be terminated with 30 days notice.
Mayor Parks said she agreed with Ms. Pye about changing the timeline. Mr. Betts said that if someone made a motion to amend his 60-day proposal to 30 days, they all might get of there earlier. Ms. Pye made that motion, Mr. Sanchez seconded. Mr. Daniels provided specific dates. The RFPs would be mailed on September 27, 30 days would be up on October 25, city review of proposals the week of October 29, city council interviews firms the week of November 5, and finally award of contract on November 20. The members of the council said they wanted to stick with the initial mailing date of October 1, and then let all the subsequent dates follow from that. The amendment to 30 days was approved 5-0.
The motion to approve the RFP with all the changes was approved 5-0.
Mapping STDs In The U.S.
A simplified map of the rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and AIDS. They rank four regions: South, Midwest, Northeast and West; and provide the top 5 states for each disease.
CHLAMYDIA: the South leads with the West in 4th place. Hawaii, however, is far and away the top state for this disease.
GONORRHEA: the South wins again, West is in 4th. The top state is Mississippi.
SYPHILIS: the South takes the trophy again, but the West is in second place. The leading state is Louisiana.
AIDS (and here I checked some numbers because they seemed to be a little loosey-goosey about whether they meant AIDS or HIV - they do indeed mean AIDS and not just HIV infection): the Northeast is in first place, South in 2nd and West in 3rd. The leading state is Maryland. Since they are measuring AIDS and not HIV, one thing that can contribute to a higher AIDS rate is a better health care system that keeps AIDS patients alive longer. I think for this map it would have been more meaningful to show the rate of HIV infection rather than AIDS cases.
Stephanie Kelton on Currency, National Debt, Taxes, and the Economy
Transcript of an interesting interview of Stephanie Kelton by Harry Shearer on the October 28, 2012, edition of Le Show. Dr. Kelton is an Associate Professor at University of Missouri Kansas City and a Research Associate at the Levy Institute in New York City. She explains that the analogy between an entity that controls a fiat currency (such as the U.S. government) and entities that do not control a fiat currency (such as Greece, California, or your household) is false.
The fundamental difference between a household, a business, a state or a local government and the U.S. federal government is that the U.S. federal government is the issuer of the currency, and everybody else that I mentioned is merely the user of the currency. We all have to go out and get the dollar in order to spend the dollar. We either have to earn it, we have to borrow it, we make investments, we may have interest income – whatever, but we have to come up with the currency from some source.
The U.S. government in contrast is the source of the currency, right? The U.S. dollar comes from the U.S. government. Congress has given itself a monopoly over the issuance of the U.S. dollar. If you and I try to do it, we go to jail. It’s called counterfeiting, right? But the U.S. government has the monopoly right to create the currency. And as the issuer of the currency, it can, as Alan Greenspan has said, as Ben Bernanke has said, it can never run out, it can never go broke, and it can never be forced to miss a payment.
She says that when unemployment is high and there is real work that needs to be done (like rebuilding our infrastructure of expanding public education), the federal government should just do it with no worry about the national debt.
The New Economic Perspective blog where Dr. Kelton is one of the authors.
History tells the tale. The federal government has achieved fiscal balance (even surpluses) in just seven periods since 1776, bringing in enough revenue to cover all of its spending during 1817-21, 1823-36, 1852-57, 1867-73, 1880-93, 1920-30 and 1998-2001. We have also experienced six depressions. They began in 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893 and 1929.
Do you see the correlation? The one exception to this pattern occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the dot-com and housing bubbles fueled a consumption binge that delayed the harmful effects of the Clinton surpluses until the Great Recession of 2007-09.
The public has been badly misinformed. We do not have a debt crisis, and our deficit is not a national disgrace. We are not at the mercy of the Chinese, and we're in no danger of becoming Greece. That's because the U.S. government is not like a household, or a private business, or a municipality, or a country in the Eurozone. Those entities are all users of currency; the U.S. government is an issuer of currency. It can never run out of its own money or face the kinds of problems we face when our books don't balance.
LAPD Gun Buyback
Besides several hundred of the expected sorts of guns, the buyback also netted 75 assault weapons and 2 rocket launchers. The police say the rocket launchers "are antiquated, decades-old, launchers from wars past" (better than being from wars future, we are sure). They described them as light anti-tank weapons. Rifles, handguns and shotguns got $100 Ralph's gift cards. Assault weapons got TWO cards. The gun buyback is on no-questions-asked terms.
Like Really Old Science Fiction Movies
Grasshopper is actually the rocket tank from the first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 equipped with a single engine and landing legs. The idea is to be able to reuse rockets instead of dropping the used parts into the ocean when they’re done boosting the payload. The Space Shuttle did this with the solid rocket boosters, which fell into the Atlantic where they were recovered by boat. In the case of the Shuttle the financial savings of reusing the SRBs versus just building new ones was debatable. However, rocket design has improved since the SRBs were first built, and it’s possible reuse can save money as well as time.
December 27, 2012
"Hot Springs Hotel"
I just learned about the Showtime series Hot Springs Hotel that was shot in Desert Hot Springs in 1997. As you can see, it was pretty highbrow stuff:
The location was the Miracle Springs Resort while it was in foreclosure, prior to its current ownership. According to a 1998 article in the Desert Sentinel some DHS residents were upset because of the brief flash of the city's welcome sign. Then-City Councilmember Elizabeth Donnelly suggested the TV series was "pornographic," and demanded an apology from City Manager Bob Wilburn because he should have at least been told that the city's sign would be in the show. Karl Baker, just a citizen at the time, said she was over-reacting and that the film had brought $60,000 to the city.
The DVD of the series seems not to be currently available, but maybe you could find a used copy.
Practice Your Trick Shots First
Before you try to use them against the cops. Robert Garcia in Binghamton, New York, tried shooting over his shoulder while running away from police early Christmas morning. Instead he shot himself in the head and died. In this case the NRA would be perfectly correct that because Mr. Garcia possessed a handgun he was able to stop the fleeing criminal before any police were hurt. Expect to his image in the next information campaign from the NRA.
That'll Show Them Homersekshuls
First, in the past has he routinely surveyed his customers to find out whether their degree of sin is low enough to be worthy of his trolley? You know, a sort of check sheet:
- Do you eat pork?
- Do you love your neighbor?
- Do you love your neighbor enough to covet his wife? etc, etc.
Second, will he extend this to other group tours that might involve married same-sex couples, like anniversary parties, birthday parties for the children of gay couples, and even divorce parties? It would seem that almost any special event could include married gay couples, so will he have to restrict himself to just routine non-group events?
Table Tennis, 2012
They lifted the music out of a GoPro video, but they haven't found an acceptable way to attach a GoPro Hero camera to either a table tennis ball or paddle. Yet.
December 26, 2012
Cabot's Pueblo 101
KMIR6 manages to cover just about every basic point about Cabot's Pueblo that you gotta know - in fairly rapidfire action. They've got the bitiest sound bites I've ever heard outside of a political ad. But you've got to go to the museum to advance your knowledge from just the basics.
Yesterday's Hike In The Mecca Hills
Kinara vs. Menorah Safety; Compare and Contrast
The only difference is the point regarding the use of oil for the Menorah.
Christmas Eve In L.A.
That's the L.A. River. The caption on this photo posted by the Los Angeles Fire Department yesterday:
The joint response of specially-trained and equipped Glendale and Los Angeles Fire Department personnel led to the safe rescue of a man trapped by rising water in the Los Angeles River near Griffith Park on December 24, 2012. © Photo by Mike Meadows
UPDATE: Here's the news story.
December 25, 2012
"avid, experienced, and well equipped"
Press Release: Lost / Missing Hiker
Agency: Hemet Station
Incident Date: December 24, 2012 Time: 7:43 PM
Incident Location: Devil's Slide Trailhead, Idyllwild, Ca
On Monday, December 24, 2012, about 7:43 PM, deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department Hemet Station responded to the area of Devil's Slide Trailhead, Idyllwild, in Riverside County, after receiving information a hiker was overdue, lost and stranded in the area. The hiker, a 35-year-old male from San Diego, entered the Pacific Crest Trailhead alone on 12-22-12 near State hwy 74 and State hwy 371 for a planned 4-day hike. The hiker was described as avid, experienced, and well equipped for the weather and terrain. On December 24, 2012, about 6:00 PM, the hiker failed to arrive at his pick-up point and his friends became worried.
Members of the Riverside County Mountain Rescue Unit, Riverside Sheriff's Department Aviation and California Department of Forestry were called out and began a search of the area. At 4:12 PM on December 25, 2012, the hiker was found, cold and wet, and sheltered in his tent after discovering his tennis shoes were not suitable for the December snow and ice prevalent in the mountains. He was escorted to safety, evaluated by medical personnel and treated for minor hypothermia. The hiker refused any further medical attention. The rescue operation was completed at 4:56 PM, on 12-25-12.
The Riverside County Sheriff's Department would like to remind hiking enthusiasts to carry proper equipment for any outdoor excursions. Proper preparedness includes a well-thought-out travel plan shared with friends and family, as well as familiarity with common hiking equipment, such as GPS, maps and compasses, proper clothing and plenty of water.
So we add one additional requirement for safe hiking in the wilderness: don't bullshit your non-hiking friends about your hiking skills.
A few weeks ago I hiked with Great Outdoors to the Eagle Cliff miner's cabin in Joshua Tree National Park. Some photos: