Wednesday, June 19, 2019

6.18.19 Meeting Summary

There were a few significant items discussed at last night's meeting.  A brief summary as follows:

  • PGE gave a presentation about their overall Community Wildfire Safety Program, including efforts to reduce incidence and magnitudes of wildfires and conditions for when they would execute a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS)
  • Onsite parking waiver extension was passed after the 2nd reading
  • Two incumbent Planning Commissioners were re-appointed for an additional 2 year term
  • The preferential parking program for certain affected areas near Regency Gate on a pilot basis was approved.
  • I asked for a future agenda item to discuss relaxing animal control ordinances regarding backyard chickens

More detailed thoughts below:

I appreciated hearing about PG&E's plans for reducing wildfire risk.  Especially given recent events it's especially important that everyone is aware of potential risks, steps for mitigation, and preparedness in the event of a fire.  PG&E mentioned that they at times have difficulty in gaining access to certain properties to do their tree and vegetation maintenance.   I would encourage everyone to provide access when requested to facilitate needed maintenance.

I'm very glad that we were able to get the pilot parking program approved.  The intent was always to strike a balance between quality of life of the residents, accessible parking for all, and resource constraints of the city.  I'm hopeful that this pilot does that and after we gather more information we'll learn more about what works and what doesn't.

One of the things that came out last night regarding backyard chickens is that of the 19 cities in Contra Costa County, all but three (including Clayton) allow chickens in some fashion. Contra Costa County recently passed (Jun-18) an ordinance allowing backyard chickens with certain guidelines.  Since many cities simply adopt the County rules and the County allows them, then those cities allows them. We'll have more discussion around this item when it comes back as an agenda item.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Upcoming City Council Meeting 6.18.19

Other than the consent calendar, there are a few significant items on the agenda:
  • 2nd reading of the downtown parking waiver program extension
  • Preferential parking program in certain affected areas near Regency Gate on a pilot basis
  • Appointment of two Planning Commission slots that are expiring at the end of June
  • A placeholder to discuss the Contra Costa Transportation Authority's potential expenditure plan which includes plans to place a sales tax increase on the March 2020 ballot
In addition to these items, there will also be a presentation from PG&E regarding their program to shut off power during certain high fire danger times.

If you have any thoughts or questions on any of these items, please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

6.4.19 Meeting Summary

There were several items discussed at this meeting.  A brief summary as follows:
  • A new method of recording minutes was adopted - closely resembling an Action Style.  This omits summary of actual Council discussion and only lists the final vote tallies.  This is a move towards less transparency.
  • The FY20 budget was adopted with a general fund operational budget of $4.774M.  This was approved unanimously.
  • The downtown on-site parking requirement waiver was extended for three years.  This waiver is intended to encourage and facilitate downtown retail development by easing on site parking requirements.  This was approved unanimously.
  • A contract with a recruiter was executed in order to assist in filling the upcoming City Manager vacancy.  The contract is not to exceed $25K.  This was approved unanimously.
  • A one year 4.25% adjustment to the salary ranges of certain undesignated miscellaneous city employees was approved.  This does not include police who are members of a separate union.  This was approved unanimously.
  • The retainer for legal services of the City Attorney was increased 11.4% from $8,500/month to $9,470/month and an automatic annual increase based on CPI was also approved.  I was opposed to the automatic increase based on CPI, however the vote was 4-1.
  • The July 2 and August 6 regularly scheduled meetings were canceled.
More detailed thoughts below:

Regarding changes to the minutes:
Omitting comment summaries of Council discussion certainly saves time.  The City Clerk previously compiled minutes with detailed notes, and re-watching video, in addition to various rounds of editing. By only focusing on the final result, this makes taking the minutes less labor intensive.  The argument put forward by other members of the Council is that video is available should anyone wish to find out what was actually said, and that more people prefer video anyways.  I disagree.  

Previously, I could review the entire meeting minutes in about 15 minutes.  This was a great source of transparency in the actions of the Council.  By eliminating these summaries, it would take a person much more time to review and familiarize themselves with the discussion that transpired.  During the campaign last year, I familiarized myself by reading through the previous 4 years of minutes.  I was able to do this because of the summaries in the meeting minutes.  Without these summary minutes it's unlikely I would have been able to gather enough information to conduct a successful campaign.

Part of the reason I write these summaries is so that people can be aware of what was discussed, in a quickly digestible format.  Of course the video is available, but it's quite common to be able to read many times quicker than spoken dialogue.  I'm disappointed in this move towards less transparency.  I will continue to offer summaries of meetings as I think it's a valuable way for residents to be informed.

Regarding downtown on site parking waivers:
The way the downtown parking waiver works is that the City designated 200 on site spaces as available to be waived in order to promote development.  Without this waiver, a place like the Flora Square property (where Subway is) would need to provide parking on the property itself.  Because of the small size of the property, that would constrain the footprint of the actual commercial building, and a development like Flora Square would be much more difficult to execute.

The Development Director monitors the overall utilization of the parking waivers.  To date, there have been three properties that have utilized these waivers.  Those are the aforementioned Flora Square, the Bocci Courts, and the Creekside Terrace development that has been entitled (approved plans) but not yet executed by any developers.

Regarding recruitment for upcoming City Manager vacancy:
The outside agency assisting with filling the upcoming City Manager vacancy is CPS HR.  They are a quasi governmental joint powers authority. Vice Mayor Pierce mentioned that the same firm and assigned individual also helped place the new Executive Director of MTC.  The plan is for the recruiter to work to gain an understanding of the ideal candidate, through direct interviews with the Council, city staff, and interested members of the public.  They indicated they will also be creating online surveys to solicit feedback on what the residents are interested in in the next City Manager.  The timeline was projected at 4 months, however I suspect that is on the low end.  If the position is not filled in time for Mr. Napper's retirement at the end of July, it is likely there will be an interim City manager appointed.  Look for more info as its available.

Regarding increasing certain city salary scales:
When the budget sub-committee met to review the proposed city budget, we knew that the current MOA with certain city staff was expiring shortly.  In previous years, the undesignated miscellaneous city employees had 3 year agreements.  Given a new City Manager will onboarded quickly, it was the opinion of Mr. Napper that it would be more prudent to not constrain the next City Manager with multi year agreements.  Ultimately the 4.25% increase was approved unanimously.

It is difficult to pay competitive wages in a town our size.  Due to several factors including in large part to state compliance requirements, there is a certain base level of work required from staff regardless of our small size.  As a result, we have a smaller tax base, but none of the scale of a larger city.  The result is that some of the workload of staff is the same as if we were a large city, but they tend to get compensated less because there is less money to go around, compounded by the fact that there are less people to perform those tasks.  This could make working for other nearby municipalities attractive.  We are experiencing that in a way right now.  The City Manager, Finance Director, Development Director, and Code Enforcement officer have all left or announced their leaving their employment with the City of Clayton.

Regarding increasing legal retainer and adding automatic annual increases:
Generally I'm opposed to automatic increases in compensation.  Periodic review of rates is a catalyst for discussion about quality and level of service.  By making the increases automatic, it doesn't prompt this type of transparent discussion.  I voiced opposition but did not have the votes.  This passed 4-1 with only myself opposed.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Upcoming City Council Meeting 6.4.19

Other than the consent calendar, there are several significant items on the agenda:
  • Adoption of the FY20 budget
  • Discussion of a waiver of on site parking requirements for the downtown area
  • Discussing engaging an outside recruitment firm to assist in filling the upcoming City Manager vacancy
  • Consideration of an adopting a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the city's undesignated employees instituting a 4.25% increase to salary ranges
  • Consider increasing the rate paid to retained outside general counsel, and an automatic increase in rate over time
  • Discussion of whether any regularly scheduled meetings during the summer should be canceled due to potentially not having a quorum
If you have any thoughts or questions on any of these items, please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.