City Council Meeting - City Council Returns After One Month

After a one-month hiatus taken by the City Council, the meeting convened at 7:00 pm with all current council members present to review and discuss a lengthy agenda.  Mayor Russ Brown called the meeting to order with the invocation by Rhonda Tvetson of the Interfaith Council.

Comments from the public are encouraged, although you will never hear anything more than “thank you” once they are made.  The old 3-minute rule to comment has been reduced to 2 minutes; no one has ever explained the reason for the change. 

Sometimes there is action, sometimes complaints go unanswered are too large to .   

There were a number of public comments made, the most glaring of them by Hemet resident Pat Gregory on Measure U.  There was a meeting last week of the Measure U Oversight Committee and she made it her business to be present.  Quoting Gregory, directly, “Through a request for documentation, I have received the city’s expenditure and revenue reports for Measure U.  Based on the city’s numbers, there is a Measure U balance of $12,720,298.98, as of June 30, 2020.  However, the proposed 20/21 budget that was approved by only three council members shows an estimate beginning Measure U balance of $6,421.137 as of July 1, 2020.  That’s over a $6 million dollar discrepancy in one day.”  Ms. Gregory expressed concern over what she heard at last week’s committee meeting.  She went on to say “Mr. Lopez (city manager) is repeating a misrepresentation of the city’s financial health.  He stated that we have a surplus for the first time in years, this statement is inaccurate for several reasons”,   Here are her reasons: 

 

1.       Using Measure U funds to pay for normal General Fund expenditures is in express violation of this council’s promise as identified in Resolution 4731.

2.       Without Measure U money, there would be a $5 million dollar deficit.  What that means is that Mr. Lopez, instead of focusing on ways to reduce the actual deficit, is using Measure U money for purposes not intended.

Mr. Lopez thinks that he is legally able to use Measure U tax for whatever he wants because it is a general tax.  What Mr. Lopez is forgetting it that he has an ethical obligation to uphold the city council’s policies, one of which is using Measure U money for the enhancement of public safety.  Using Measure U for normal, ongoing, public safety expenses is not using Measure U for the enhancement of public safety, as promised by this council.  Mr. Lopez is playing with words and ignoring the enhancement requirement of Measure U.” 

When this measure made it to the ballot in 2016, there was a lot of public discussion of just this kind of heavy-handed activity.  This is not the writer’s opinion; these are the facts. 

Hemet is grateful for Gregory’s investment of time in revealing the numbers and the fact that the oversight committee does not appear to be doing much oversight.   There will be more to come. 

In another unrelated but familiar comment, Matt Thornton, a longtime resident of Hemet shared his frustration with the city of Hemet when he talked about his business.    He planned on opening a restaurant.  “COVID hit so I bought a food truck.  I poured my savings into this business and adhered to all regulations”.  In April, 2013, Riverside approved food trucks in the cities.  Hemet, his home town has declined.  The only time food trucks are permitted in Hemet is at Farmer’s Market and special events.  There are currently no special events due to COVID.  He is asking the council to take another look at this business.  He has been referred to city staff to see what they can do.  

Hemet resident Mary Ann Derouin congratulated the police department on the enhancements they have made, further asking if that money came rom Measure U funds.  She left the council with a very positive “feel good” view of how the local police are doing a great job.

In the last of the public statements were a number of people commenting on Hemet Youth Baseball.  Unfortunately, according to former Marine, wounded warrior, middle school teacher and longtime Hemet resident William McDaniel, accountability is a very real issue.  The former Hemet Youth Baseball is misrepresented and is not a legitimate non-profit.  From what the writer was able to ascertain, they are operating as a non-profit but without legal status.  He would like to correct this situation and legitimize it.  The council listened without comment.  Jeff Mastick, one of several other people commenting on this situation stated he has been a resident in Hemet most his life.  He is utterly disappointed the shape of the baseball fields.  He talked about how self-supporting the current team is and concurs with McDaniel.  The current group is completely responsible for the field and they do all they can to keep the field in repair.   Hemet mother, Doris McCoy ,  expressed her frustration at the fact that the names appearing on the now state suspended team, are no longer active.  She would love to legitimize the team and is asking for help from the city council. 

While the council failed to publicly comment, they did put this matter at the top of their agenda.  The council would like to remedy this situation. 

On a happy note, the council took a break to present Certificates of Recognition for Community Cleanup.  Council acknowledged volunteers Jim May, owner of Allied Erosion in Hemet, Patrick Eggering, David Hune and Steven May.  Jim May thanked Hemet for the honor of serving his city. 

Moving through the agenda at what felt like a snail’s pace, there was a Resolution awarding CSG Consultants, Inc. a contract for Plan Review, Inspection and Code Service for a realistic but hefty sum for a three-year term.   Fire Chief Scott Brown made the presentation on this contract.  He felt confident about the company, having used them previously.  As stated in a staff report provided by the city, “The City of Hemet Fire/EMS Services Department contracts for many Fire Prevention services that include fire and life safety inspections, plan review, construction inspection and code services. Currently, one part-time contract Fire Marshal from CSG supports this effort.”  CSG Consultants, Inc,. won a bid to provide continuance of the current Fire Prevention service delivery throughout the current fiscal year (FY 2020/2021).  This service is normal protocol for municipalities and adds to the fire protection necessary for Hemet.  The cost of this service will not exceed $300,000.  Folks, it takes money to run a city, it takes money to run a fire and EMS department.  Chief Brown has from time to time gotten his facts mixed up, however the staff report is clear and he was on cue in this particular presentation. 

Council woman Karlee Meyer expressed her exasperation at the fact the so many times, the Hemet City Staff comes to council with documents that have mis-matched dates or other conflicting details.  Voting her conscience, she said no to this resolution.  She wasn’t opposed to the actual contract, just the way it was presented.  In Washington DC parlance, it was a procedural crime!  Ms. Meyers continues to try to hold council’s feet to the fire.  The vote was three to one in favor. 

A lengthy discussion took place regarding a Resolution Declaring City Owned Property as Surplus Land in Conformance with the Surplus Land Act, California Government Code Section 54220, Et Seq., as Amended on January 1, 2020. 

The City of Hemet owns a lot of property that has been vacant for a long period of time.  The city has designated these properties as surplus land.  The idea of “surplus lands” was developed by the state so it could be determined what of this real property could be used for affordable housing,  The city would really like to dispose of a lot of this unused property and in order to do that, had to take an intermediate step of designating the land as surplus.  The city would publicly offer this land for 60 days.  If the city received an offer on any of the land, they could enter into a good faith agreement with the purchaser to determine the price and terms.  If the two parties were unable to reach an agreement, as determined by the state, the city could go forward without regard to state regulations and move to sell the properties.  There are some restrictions to the provisions of any sale where use of the property is designated for residential use.  The good news is the city isn’t required to sell any of their property at less than fair market value.  Perhaps they can balance some of their current budget with any incoming funds without relying on Measure U Funds to help keep them afloat.  The City Council must approve any sale.  Unfortunately, the resolution failed with 2 yeas and 2 nays, Meyer and Perciful being the dissenters. 

There were some other tedious actions to be voted on, nothing that would directly affect the pocketbooks of residents. A bright spot in the meeting was a Resolution Accepting a Grant from California State Library for Bibliotheca Open Access+ and Establishing a CCTV Recording Policy

Head librarian Kathye Caines-Henderson made an impressive presentation. The California State Library made a grant opportunity available for Bibliotheca’s Open+ Access, a self-service program that gives patrons access to libraries. Ms. Caines applied for the grant and was one of 10 libraries statewide that were given this opportunity.  This is truly a gift to our often-beleaguered Hemet library. The library serves not only Hemet residents, but those of San Jacinto and other outlying areas.  The City has been awarded $33,476 to implement the program, with no requirements except annual maintenance after the second year, and acceptance of the funds. The Friends of the Library has agreed to pay the annual maintenance costs beyond the second year, an annual amount of $9,000. Grant funds must be spent by December 31, 2020.  The response from staff and the public for open Access is very positive. The resolution passed unanimously

Another bright spot, benefiting a favorite local café, was an approval of a license agreement with Riverside County Transportation Commission with Destination Coffee Bar and Bistro.  Ericka Murphy made the presentation.   Destination owner Patricia Yerperian expressed her excitement at this agreement.  Essentially, land that is not being used by RCTC was being granted for use to Destination, with improvements to be made  by Yerperian.  There will be more parking and more patio dining!  This resolution passed unanimously. 

Last, of all the major discussions was a new assembly bill passed by the state.  This bill covers campaign contribution limits.  The governor signed a bill stating cities are now accountable to the current state bill.  The bill allows the city to raise or lower their limits (by resolution).  If the city chooses to propose a resolution, they can increase of decrease the limit.  Council asked city staff to present them with additional information so they could vote within the next month.

Closing out the council meeting was a note regarding Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) Emergency Declaration Update.  The state continues to change its guidelines and visiting the state website for the most updated information would assure you of the current information, maybe.