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December 17, 2008

Desert Hot Springs City Council - December 16

The meeting started with a motion from Mayor Pro Tem Matas, seconded by Councilmember Betts, to approve the agenda minus item 10g, the proposed discussion of the removal of a commissioner. The vote was 3 to 2, but our usually clear spoken Mayor mumbled her vote and the results, so I was completely blank on which way the 3-2 had gone. Then someone pointed out that the agenda had not been approved, so this time a motion was made to approve it as written, and that was approved 3-2, with everyone speaking clearly, so we know it was Councilmembers Matas and Betts voting against.

Attorney Duran reported on the closed session that preceded the council meeting. In the case of Gallardo vs. Desert Hot Springs, the city has prevailed in appeals court; i.e., we won. Yay (probably). If anyone knows what the case was about, throw us a bone, eh?

Presentations

Police Chief Williams presented the new, reconstituted Citizens On Patrol. They are Tom Hutchinson, Barbara and Lee Eastman, George Salinas, Susan Carney, Gene Colletta, Judy Price, Karen Ragan, and Wayne Clemens. They have two cars and will be wearing gray uniform shirts in contrast with the navy shirts worn by the police.

Plaques for meritorious service were presented to Officer Knabb and Detective Sergeant Radames Gil.

Rossie Stobbs presented a video on the Relay For Life. Their next meeting will be December 30 in the Carl May.

Public Comments

Noel Ericson of St. Elizabeth's food pantry got up to thank the city council for approving the CDBG grant for them at its previous meeting. She also spoke of the good work they are doing.

Hank Hohenstein made a hurried comment that the city had many incomplete projects on hand, among them the general plan update, the housing element update, the downtown vortex plan. Another way of putting it is that the city has a lot on its plate. All of the incomplete projects mentioned by Mr. Hohenstein were things that either should have been completed while he was on the city council or should have had substantially more work done. IOW, this city staff and this city council is picking up the many pieces he dropped. He said that proceeding with spending plans is a recipe for litigation and disaster. Thank you, Mr. Responsibility.

Dot Reed got up and made a thoroughly upbeat comment. I mean even more so than her usually upbeat comments.

Mike Bickford got up and spent about 2½ minutes of his time telling us that times are tough, then wrapped it up saying the city doesn't need to buy up all this property. I think he said we should get "options" on it, and then when a developer comes forward with plans, we could exercise those options. Anybody knows what he's talking about, tell me.

Aside from the subject matter, Mr. Bickford provides me the opportunity to encourage commenters to GUAFC (that is, "Give Us A Clue"). Sometimes a speaker, like Mr. Bickford, will go on and on describing some general situation that we are all aware of, without giving us the slightest clue of how he's going to tie this in with some city-related subject. His point, for example, could have been made much more effectively if he had simply started out by saying something like "The city needs to hold off on buying downtown property," then launched into his 2½ minute news flash that the economy is bad, then wrapped it up with his main point. It doesn't have to be as big as "Tell us what you're going to tell us; tell us; tell us what you told us." But something like "Hint at what you're going to tell us; tell us" would be an improvement.

Marilyn Heidrick got up to say that she was surprised and concerned when she saw on tonight's agenda that the City Council and Redevelopment Agency meetings were combined and simultaneous. She was worried that funds would not be properly accounted for. Much later in the meeting Mayor Parks reminded us that this change had been voted on in an open city council meeting over a month ago.

Then Judy Shea got up to tell us that something got foreclosed and something is moving somewhere else where the cost will be one-fifth as much. The economy benefits some of us.

Medical Marijuana

There were two public commenters on this issue. First up was Dana Sessions, a resident of Desert Hot Springs. She said she wanted to live in a progressive community, not a backward town. She pointed out that even conservative Yucca Valley had recently legalized marijuana coops/collectives - the first city in San Bernardino County to do so. She said that in her dealings with marijuana dispensaries she had not observed any crime, and that marijuana patients do bring in a criminal element.

Next was Lanny Swerdlow who said that the staff report on the subject was unbelievable in that it was completely one sided. He asked why it did not include the "Oakland report" which is the only university study on medical marijuana. I Googled "Oakland report" and first found these city council minutes dated October 4, 2007, from Indian Wells in which Mr. Swerdlow, in public comments, complained that the staff report did not include the "Oakland report." While, we would all like our city staffs to include all of the best, most relevant information in their reports, sometimes it's necessary for the well-informed citizen to come forth and hand the good information to them. One could have even brought five copies tonight and handed them to the city council.

Anyway, I finally found the Oakland report here [PDF]. It's dated February 2007 and addresses issues around medical marijuana dispensaries in Oakland in 2005 and 2006. This was before the Attorney General issued his guidelines, and it looks like all of the facilities operating in Oakland were dispensaries; presumably, profit-making dispensaries. It's a fascinating read of how a city entirely different from Desert Hot Springs deals with the issue. It does not mention any great stress on city police. I don't know if any councilmember would consider it very relevant to the issue before them.

Mr. Swerdlow also demanded to know why citizens were not told about the Planning Commission meetings where medical marijuana was discussed. I guess that clarifies for me why no supporters of medical marijuana showed up at any meetings in Desert Hot Springs after that first study session October 28. I had thought they had simply given up on the idea of getting marijuana coops/collectives permitted in DHS. Now I understand that the medical marijuana supporters simply lack the magical telepathic antennas that I possess which allow me to plumb the depths of our byzantine city processes. This is how I do it: after the city council study session where they said they would send the issue to the Planning Commission to make a recommendation I looked at the schedule provided on the agenda for that very study session. There my magic decoding eyeballs revealed the next meeting date of the Planning Commission. Shortly before that date I went to the Planning Commission's website and got a copy of the agenda, which showed that medical marijuana was, indeed, on their agenda. Then, half an hour before the scheduled meeting time I used my magical transporting devices (they were probably magical transporting sandals that day) to get me to the Carl May Center where, upon approaching the grand portal, I spoke "friend" and entered.

If he doesn't want rely on all of that magic, he could set up a Google news alert on a phrase like "medical marijuana" and then Google would send him an email every time the phrase pops up somewhere on the web. Every meeting where marijuana was going to be discussed was mentioned in the Desert Sun, too.

Councilmember Betts said that the city has few resources to spare.

Mayor Pro Tem Matas said that the feds and the state have got to resolve their differences before a strained city like Desert Hot Springs could proceed.

Councilmember Schmidt said that he opposed anything that might derail or slow the progress that is going on in Desert Hot Springs.

Councilmember Baker expressed his disappointment in the staff report which was entirely one-sided. He said that a college-educated staff member should be able to put together a balanced report on a subject. The allegation that coops/collectives would be a drain on the police was not supported by any facts.

I agree with Mr. Baker, of course. If you wanted to know how much stress medical marijuana might put on a police force in Coachella Valley, where would you look for your answer? Palm Springs, of course, where marijuana dispensaries have been tolerated (although they are illegal). People on either side of the issue could have contacted the Palm Springs police for their input. Neither side did. I'm sure Police Chief Williams is occasionally in touch with Palm Springs police. Even an anecdotal, off-the-cuff report like "Palm Springs police say they are very overworked by their dispensaries," would have carried a lot of weight. But it's not in there. The staff report does, however, include the news report from Desert Local News on the earlier DHS city council meeting! WTF was the point of that?

The proposed ban on marijuana coops and collectives passed 4-1 with Mr. Baker the lone dissenter. Of course, California law still allows every medical marijuana patient to grown his own weed in the privacy of his own home. By passing this ban, those DHS residents who would have preferred to pool their resources in a publicly known and identified collective, may fall back on growing it alone. The police will not know where it is being grown until they stumble across it while on other business. Grow it in your home next to a park, a school, a church. It's all legal so long as you're a legal medical marijuana patient, you stay within the attorney general's restrictions, and you don't do it with another medical marijuana patient.

Some, of course, may join a collective in Palm Springs or Yucca Valley. I don't think the attorney general's guidelines detail the division of labor and responsibilities within a marijuana coop and collective. Might an infirm but financially well off individual buy the hydroponic equipment, for example, while a more mobile plant lover does the daily work of overseeing the plants? A large coop or collective might evolve in the way large food coops did: some members working, others contributing money. From the point of view of those contributing money, it might not seem too different from a dispensary.

AB1600

An annual report on receipts and expenditures of Developer Impact Funds in the prior fiscal year. In response to a question from Councilmember Baker it was clarified that we had $5.4 million in DIF on hand at the end of the fiscal year.

Administrative Calendar

Second reading of the revision of the ordinance dealing with abandoned, distressed and foreclosed homes passed 5-0.

Approval of the MOU between the city and the Desert Hot Springs Police Officer's Association by 5-0.

Councilmember Baker had some questions on the proposal to authorize an agreement with VA Consulting for the Palm & Pierson beautification project. Mr. Baker said that landscaping goes in last, so the city should make other improvements, like the facade work, first. The contract is for $233,589 for design work only. Actual beautification will cost substantially more. It passed 3-1 with Councilmember Baker dissenting and Councilmember Betts recusing himself.

The contract for Wardman Park lighting improvements went to McKenzie Electric for $327,790 by a vote of 5-0. There were two lower bids, but neither of them completed the required CDBG forms that were given to them.

The contract for sidewalks and bike lanes on West Drive (north of 8th), Pierson, and Two Bunch Palms was awarded to Tri-Star Construction for $379,985.40 by a vote of 5-0. Three lower bidders had not completed the CDBG forms.

The contract for four emergency power generators for the fire station, city hall, the Carl May Center and the senior center was awarded by a vote of 5-0 to La Salle Lighting Services at a price of $291,115. This wasn't a CDBG grant, and La Salle was really the lowest bidder.

Removal of Planning Commissioner King

Discussion started with Councilmember Schmidt who explained that any Commissioner could be removed for cause or no cause at any time by his nominating City Councilmember (that would be Councilmember Betts in the case of Commissioner King), or by a majority vote of the City Council. He read from the ethical guidelines that apply to Commissioners. He also read excerpts from Commissioner King's recent speech. He said that Mr. King had impugned the integrity of the council and caused embarrassment. He said that Mr. King implied that city council acted in a cowardly fashion.

Councilmember Baker said he was deeply disappointed that Commissioner King had implied the city council was on the take. He pointed out that Rick Daniels had said the city staff would take the heat for failing to provide all information necessary to the Planning Commission before their first vote. He said that it was a possible consideration that some of what Commissioner King had said was a "subrogation of the truth." Mr. Baker went on to say that in an attempt to recreate Commissioner King's list of cities that are demographically similar to Desert Hot Springs he has a list of all the cities in California with a population of 19,000 to 26,000. He's gotten about halfway through the list and has found only two cities with an AIPP fee and that only Laguna Beach's rate is 1%, but obviously Laguna Beach and Desert Hot Springs are far apart economically. He pointed out that the city with the most similar demographic in Coachella Valley is the city of Coachella, which has no AIPP.

Councilmember Baker said he did not want to remove Commissioner King, but that he urged Councilmember Betts to have a one-on-one conversation with Commissioner King. He also urged Commissioner King to mind his manners and to consider this a "shot across the bow."

Mayor Parks said she had voted to keep this item on the agenda because she thought it was important for the members of the city council to discuss it, and the Brown Act requires them to discuss it in public. She said she was extremely hurt and disappointed by Commissioner King's words and disrespect. She said he had done a disservice to the city council, the planning commission, the city manager and staff.

Mayor Pro Tem Matas said he had first talked to Councilmember Betts and then to Commissioner King and felt that the matter had been resolved to his satisfaction. I, for one, would have been very interested to hear what good words Mr. King had spoken to Mr. Matas to resolve the issue for him, but Mr. Matas wasn't sharing.

Councilmember Betts said Commissioner King was not an eloquent speaker; which he had said earlier to the Desert Sun. He said Councilmember Schmidt's quotes from King's speech were taken out of context. His basic point was that Commissioner King had been unclear in his words and so he was misunderstood. Councilmember Betts said he hoped this discussion would smooth things out, and that Commissioner King would be more careful with his words in the future.

I find it quite difficult to stand back far enough and squint my eyes just the right way to see Commissioner King's speech the way Councilmember Betts describes it. (Full context here).

"Unfortunately, it is very apparent to me that city staff has taken up the cause of those that do not support a properly funded art program. It seems that staff does not want a straightforward honest examination of the art issue." Earlier in the speech Commissioner King had made it clear that the BIA is the group that opposes funding the art program. But Councilmember Betts says these sentences do not mean to say that staff has taken up the cause of the BIA, and Commissioner King is NOT accusing the staff of not wanting a straightforward honest examination of the art issue. Black is white. War is peace. Commissioner King meant something else entirely. If Commissioner King's grasp on the English language is really that poor, then that too calls into question his qualifications to sit on a commission. Obviously, in addition to appropriate technical skills and high ethical standards and a sense of dedication, any Commissioner on any commission is going to have to deal well in written and spoken English — or you end up in spots like this.

Florence Martin made the only public comment. She was at the planning commission meeting in question and said she opposed the removal of Commissioner King. She said to do so would smack of old fashioned backroom retributions.

Councilmember Baker moved to keep the Planning Commission as it is with Commissioner King aboard. His motion was approved 4-1 with Councilmember Schmidt the dissenter. Councilmember Baker then suddenly requested that a copy of Ron's Log's report on the planning commission meeting of December 9 be included in the record! Oh, dear. I've lived in terror of being named from some dais or other, and now to have Ron's Log be placed in the official record. I don't know if I should be proud or fear some terrible retribution from the Confederation Of City And Town Clerks. Who, I might add, walk on water.

Consent Calendar

Councilmember Betts wanted the minutes of the November 18 city council meeting to be revised to make it clear that Fred Bell spoke against AIPP. He pointed out that the minutes listed several people who spoke for AIPP, but that when it got to Fred Bell the minutes stated only that "Fred Bell spoke." I remember Fred Bell's comments at that meeting very well for their utter lack of clarity. Here's what I wrote:

Fred Bell himself got up to comment. Anyone who thought he might embrace a compromise or moderate view was disappointed. I thought he was building up to saying he supported AIPP in theory as he spoke of the necessary building blocks a developer looks for in a city: streets, sewers, public safety, etc. But public art was not on his list of basic building blocks. He mashed a lot of words, but he never explicitly stated his complete opposition to AIPP, nor any support of a compromise. i think there was the suggestion that if AIPP passes there would be no construction at all, an assertion that I find hard to believe. If Mr. Bell had any facts about the effects of AIPP, he didn't share them with us. Apparently, he couldn't cite an example of two adjoining towns with different policies on AIPP that would demonstrate how AIPP brings about a complete stoppage of construction.

I never heard him clearly say he was for or against AIPP, and I'm a prejudiced listener. One could hardly expect City Clerk Soriana to interpret it one way or another. Councilmember Betts's request was not approved.

Approved 5-0 was the proposal to request inclusion in the sphere of influence of the Coachella Valley Parks & Recreation District. Once that gets approved, we can request actual annexation. CVP&R has been renamed Desert Recreation District and recently won an award as "District of the Year" in California. Rudy Acosta is the President of the district. If we are annexed into the district we will pay a parcel tax which I think Mr. Acosta said is usually $9.90 per month. Why do they give these things as a monthly rate, when we don't pay them monthly? Anyway, if it comes to fruition it will be a tremendous benefit to the city.

The position of a planning manager was approved 5-0. The city used to have 3½ to 4 staff members providing support to the Planning Commission, but now it's down to less than two staff members. This planning manager will be paid less than the previous one got.

Approved without discussion was

  • A contract with Graffiti Protective Coatings, Inc.
  • $3,492 for "Shake, Rattle and Roll Emergency Preparedness Expo" on February 21.
  • A resolution recommending that the Waokiye Indian Monument be known as a county landmark and a state point of historical interest.
  • Acceptance of completion of Phase 1 of the street rehab project.

Reports

Mayor Parks reported that Planning Commissioner Bob McCroskery was celebrating his 90th birthday! He does NOT look that old.

Councilmember Schmidt said that he and his three partners in The Village shopping center venture are getting close to completing some kind of financing deal that will let them get that thing moving again. That will be a happy day.

Mayor Pro Tem Matas announced that Attorney Duran had become a partner in his law firm. Applause all around, and no comments from Councilmember Baker.

City Manager Daniels and Director Hoy pointed out that Indian never flooded during yesterday's rain. Indeed, I drove along there this morning and the crossing of Mission Creek was as clean as a whistle. Another round of applause.

Public Comments

In a final public comment Don Sholty said that the feedback he was getting on the street repairs was 99% positive and felt that it was all going very well.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | permalink | December 17, 2008 at 12:45 AM

Comments

I was only trying to summarize your point, which you have confirmed. If there's any personality in it, I didn't put it there.

Posted by: Ron's Log at Dec 17, 2008 8:15:44 PM

The ends do justify the means if the means are ethical. And they are. It is issues, not personalities that is important. I have been reluctant to share with you lately since you have been so vigorously spinning for Karl lately. I like Karl very much, we have been good friends. But, until you want to talk issues, there is no reason to give you anything just so you can spin it in a personality contest. A "he said he said" BS. mentality. If someone is gunning for me (as you obviously am by your statements) why leave anything around they can use (spin)against me. Do you think I am that dumb just because I cant spell? Think again. Let me know when you want to talk issues and not personalities. It is ego BS that what stops good things from happening in this town. I can win on issues so that will be the playing field I will insist upon.

Posted by: Gabriel at Dec 17, 2008 4:46:32 PM

IOW, the end justifies the means. A commissioner can say anything and behave any way he wants, just so long as the issue of the day turns out the way he wants it. I think that's your big picture.

Posted by: Ron's Log at Dec 17, 2008 11:45:51 AM

Ron, you are allowing the details to distract you from the big picture here.

The truthfulness of my statements is yet to be determined by council and staff's future actions. I stand by my statements. Each and every council-member read into them their own issues. Like Al Schmidt thinking that I was accusing them of brivery. That is how Al took this personally. Telling dont you think? For the record, this thought of bribery never ever crossed my mind.

The truth about my statements is somewhere in between Betts statements and Schmidt's statements. Where the truth is finally determined to be in the Ron's spectrum will be determined by in the future by how the Council votes and staff recommends on the Art program. My hope is that they fully fund our commission's art proposal and in doing so make me into a liar. I will trade that for lots of beautiful art in town. In regard to some of council's statement that I had embarrassing staff and belittering them. This really is not true when you review staff's proposed $200,000 threshold and lack of support of commission. These things are far from what the PC wanted. Is staff setting policy? Anything I said about staff or council pails in comparison to the belittling Karl does to staff publicly during every council session. Just review the tape on Karl's belittling comments to the attorney and others about the marijuana issue that he feels "compassionatly" about last night.

The truth will set you free or in desert hot springs, get you fired. If the council "prove me wrong" and vote for a fully funded art program, I will be happy. There was lots of talk about "proving me wrong" last night by Yvonne to fund the art program to spite me. That is good because once the arguments about who is right and who is wrong has passed and forgotten, there will hopefully be art in abundance in DHS. And you know that there is some truth to what I am saying.

I guess that all the time I spent helping Karl putting out campaign signs and digging his truck out of the sand helped me from being thrown under the bus last night.

The bottom line here is the funding of Art. Prior to Al and I elevating the Art issue in the public eye , I seemed that the powers to be where hell bent on de-funding it. And that's the "truth."

Posted by: Gabriel at Dec 17, 2008 7:16:09 AM

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