June Meeting Minutes

Richmond Heights Neighborhood Council

June 3, 2019 Membership Meeting

 

Executive Committee Members Present:

Seren Pendleton-Knoll, President

Jim Hanson, Vice-President

Rock Brown, Treasurer

Nina Smith, Secretary

 

Agenda:

Police Officer Lal

City Manager Carlos Martinez

Council Member Eduardo Martinez

 

Meeting called to order at 7:06.

 

  1. Police Officer Lal: last month’s crime stats: a lot of impounds, stolen vehicle recoveries, 3 vandalism calls, thefts (mostly Amazon packages – they’re working on identifying the folks doing this), drug offenses (2 on Solano, 1 on Wilson), 3 home burglaries, 2 firearms, 1 shooting on Dimm and Nevin. After a request from the audience to make it easier to make a police report, Officer Lal explained the Online Police Report system which is available on the app and on the website – the officer encouraged people to use that rather than try to come into the police department. He was asked to suggest that the app report interface include a drop-down option for “gunshots heard”. The officer said that if gunshots are heard they would want an officer to come out and do an investigation immediately. There are two mobile phone app’s available for both android and apple phones: the Police Department App and the City App. There was a question re how to find out if there have been reports of vehicles doing donuts at Key & Barrett. The officer encouraged everyone to make a report whenever that happens.
  2. Carlos Martinez, Richmond City Manager
    1. Budget: explained the process of developing the budget, starting in March. Each department head asked to submit a baseline budget in April – a budget that doesn’t ask for additional resources. They know costs are increasing and won’t have ability to spend more money. Inevitably the requests are larger than the year before. Each Department also prepares a wish list. In April, he met one-on-one with the financial analyst and they reviewed the various department budgets. By the end of April, he had heard all the department requests. The demand for services is larger than the resources the City has. Finance Department presented in May to City Council the total budget which included a $7.6 million deficit. Asked the various departments to go back and represent an amended budget which would lower the deficit so that a balanced budget could be achieved. The City is required to have a balanced budget by 6/30, the last City Council meeting of the fiscal year. He received revised budget proposals from the departments which resulted in substantial progress, reducing the deficit to $3.3 million. A balanced budget depends upon the way revenue is projected and different scenarios are possible, e.g. recession is possible but so is continued growth in housing market. To close the budget gap, he tried to form estimates that strike a balance between optimistic and realistic. He uses the same approach when budgeting for risk management and litigation costs.  There is also uncertainty in figuring the cost of refunding bonds, such as, for example the Port bonds and City Center bonds. Just the other day the City received an improved credit rating which will mean a substantial decrease in the cost of refinancing of Port & City Center bonds, which when figured into the budget now leaves a $1.9 million deficit to erase before the end of June. There are 3 City Council meetings in June. 75% expenses are staffing. He submitted a balanced budget proposal which includes reduction of 12 positions. Currently there are 733 positions and to balance the budget he is proposing to remove 12 positions. Council has other options they can consider. He hopes that by 6/18 they will have a balanced budget. They are negotiating with SEIU on the basis of a 1% salary increase per year. The various unions have “me too” clauses so that means $1.1 million because all the unions would have to receive what SEIU is to receive.
    2. 10 year trend: total number of City personnel has gone down. The main driver of the budget deficit are the retirement costs and other post-employment benefits, especially retiree health insurance. People are living longer. Over time the proportion of retirees to workers is getting larger. This year CALPERS estimated a 7½ % return which is unrealistic and that means they’re going to miss their target again which requires the City to contribute more. All the cities in California are under this same fiscal pressure.
    3. Other issues: the Richmond Housing Authority has a $14 million debt to the City, and he is unsure how much we will be able to recover.   The City is no longer going to be administering the federal Section 8 housing program but is instead turning it over to the County. The City keeps the housing assets which will be turned into a Rent Assistance Demonstration Program, with the City partnering with nonprofits to run the section 8 voucher program. HUD funding has declined. The Federal government is not funding HUD. The City has been subsidizing low-income housing for a long period of time.
    4. Another issue: a number of funds within the City have a negative balance. Have started working on repaying the total $12 million debt.
    5. Another issue: Proposition K requires the City allocate sequentially 1, 2, 3% of the general fund towards providing services for youth and children. This year, the program’s first year, the City allocated $250,000 to establish the Children & Youth Department. City Council will appoint a Board of 15 members to create a spending/program plan. Next year $750,000 will be needed; the following year a plan will be presented to the Council for approval. Then the mandates of Proposition K will go into effect so that the third year the City will be required to allocate 1% of the general found, the following year 2%, and then 3 % of the general fund, for the 3rd, 4th and 5th He says that this prospect is scary because the only place to find such a large amount of money would be to reduce the Police and Fire budgets. He is planning to recommend that the Council put the issue back on the ballot for the voters to reconsider. The problem is that a companion measure designed to fund the program by instituting a transfer tax hasn’t generated the revenue anticipated. These are long term concerns. He thinks the housing market is slowing down. It has become so expensive in the Bay Area that companies are moving elsewhere.
    6. Questions:
      1. How many of proposed layoff positions work with blight? The 12 positions that are contemplated for layoff are management positions. In the past, the budgets were balanced from the bottom up. He is doing the opposite by proposing the removal of 12 top positions. 1 is the depart of infrastructure & maintenance operations. His plan is to consolidate departments: 1 manager to do the work that had previously been done by 2 managers.
      2. Can the police school resource officers’ cars not be wasted sitting in front of the schools all day?
  • Suggestion made to explain his plans on social media to address the rumors that are all over. He is trying to keep as much direct services for the community.
  1. School Board wants to cap the salaries of the resource officers at $150,000, how is that negotiation going? School district is under the same fiscal pressures. The City Council has said that SRO’s are important and wants to preserve them. At some point the City may have to allocate more resources. For now, he’s hoping to make the program work within the School District’s limited budget. If the School District keeps cutting the funding the Council will have a decision to make, but not there yet.
  2. This year and next are going to be difficult years but he anticipates that in 2 years we’ll see the fruits of projects being built which will bring in property taxes eventually.
  3. Question asked about what is projected and what the plans are to increase revenues: Approximately 1,000 units planned: 500 under construction, some approved and others proposed residential units. 400,000 sq. ft. of commercial development planned.
  • Question asked about Terminal One project and City Manager explained some of the complications that have come up.
  • Sewer plant capital improvement: funded by bonds, state revolving loan funds involving low interest rate loans, development impact fees. He is proposing Sewer rate fee increase of 7% annually for next years.
  1. Question re Chevron settlement for Measure T, which has about 4 more years left, what about when that time is up? He said that their 5-year projections incorporate a number of factors including that one. The settlement goes away in 2025.
  2. Can only afford 1% per year salary increases for workers.
  1. Richmond Heights Neighborhood Council voted unanimously to write a letter of support for the plan of our neighbors, Vivian Vidale and Eric Carlson, to build a bar/garage on their property at 936 Kern Street. This support is conditioned on the lack of any objection from any immediate neighbors. “letter to the City expressing support for this project conditioned on there being no opposition from the immediate neighbors.”
  2. Church asking for donations for the Children’s Defense Fund of the West County Freedom Schools – seeking donations. This will go to help disadvantaged children. Contact Joanna Pace, 6226 Arlington Blvd, Richmond CA 94805 510-215-1594 to donate.
  3. At our next neighborhood council meeting in October we will be having officer elections and desperately need people willing to serve on the Executive Committee. We especially need someone qualified to serve as Communications Officer and as Secretary.
  4. Council member Eduardo Martinez:
    1. The City is in turmoil, always putting out fires.   He’s been pushing for a more reasonable plan for Point Molate. It’s clear that the Point Molate development being undertaken has been orchestrated from the very beginning. Eddie Horton showed plans for the housing already all mapped out even before the agreement was planned. Sun Cal got the deal somehow. To him it doesn’t feel right. He’s been trying to bring everything to the public without breaking confidentiality regulations.
    2. Working on transitioning to non-fossil fuel energy for the City.
    3. He was a teacher and Union organizer for many years. The schools need more money. Organized a City/School District cohort to work together to provide better services. Worked on the joint use agreement for City and School District to get priority to use each other’s facilities when available.
    4. Trying to get around obstacles to having a functional Police Commission by proposing a floating quorum that it would depend on the number of people appointed rather than the number of positions theoretically supposed to be filled.
    5. Working with a task force trying to organize Bay area responses to area wide problems such as homelessness and sea level rise.
    6. Budget: The Council is still waiting to see the fiscal report of how the City performed fiscally last year and yet they are being asked to make decisions on current budget without yet seeing how it went last year. City Manager hasn’t proposed taking a pay cut to share in the pain. Eduardo tries to have conversations with everyone. The Unions are working together. He’s working on alternative solutions to the fiscal problems other than what the City Manager is proposing.
    7. Questions:
      1. Audience statement re workers’ cuts in Parks & Rec & Code Enforcement – been losing staff since 2004. Instead of promoting people they work them out of class. They haven’t had a cost of living raise in 4 years. The 1% pay increase proposed by the City will result in losing some workers. Eduardo responded that he met with all the unions together to work on possible solutions. In closed session, Eduardo wonders if what is said to the City Council isn’t filtered to lead the Council down a certain path.
      2. Question re Rosenberg’s Rules of Order re definition of quorum – Eduardo explained that all the Commissions have separate rules set up by their governing rules.
  • Question re revenue effects of legalization of marijuana, is anyone trying to figure that into the projected budget: Eduardo said it’s up to the Planning Department. The State has taken a large chunk of the taxes resulting in the smaller cannabis businesses becoming not viable. He’s worrying about the industry becoming dominated by larger businesses. Richmond has the highest tax on cannabis of any city in California.
  1. Eduardo’s been working on a task force looking into establishing a public bank for the local jurisdictions so that the interest on the funds stays in the City.
  2. Question asked why the data provided by consultants cannot be made public even if Council discussions cannot. Eduardo said as of now all the financial information re Pt. Molate has been shared with the public.
  3. Contact information: cell phone 510-712-4934, Eduardo_martinez@ci.richmond.ca.us or richcityservant@gmail.com
  • Point Molate question: do the proponents of the Point Molate development project think revenue will be generated? The City has not been given the information to date. Eduardo believes it’s a bad deal, fiscally, environmentally. He believes we need to concentrate on infilling development. Don Gosney is the best source for information about Point Molate. Don put together a package of historical information, safety concerns of Chevron. Contact him at dongosney@comcast.net.

 

 

 

 

NEXT MEETING: MONDAY, OCTOBER 7

OFFICER ELECTIONS

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