Wednesday, August 18, 2021

8.17.21 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council met and discussed a few significant items:
  • We discussed two resolutions that will come before CalCities (formerly the League of California Cities).  

    The first was a push to distribute statewide sales tax more evenly throughout the state.  This applies primarily to online retailers where currently sales tax revenue is attributable to the location of fulfillment centers, not where the product is shipped to the end user.  This resolution would encourage the legislature and governor to change the formula on how sales tax revenues are allocated and base it on where products are actually delivered to end users.  If this would come to pass, Clayton would certainly receive greater sales tax revenue than it currently does.

    The second resolution was to encourage the legislature and governor to provide funding and direction to address homelessness and related challenges near railways.  Clayton doesn't have any areas that would be impacted by this.

    Both resolutions seemed to have garnered wide support and I would expect them to pass.  These are recommendations to the legislature so are not binding but at least stake a policy position.  The Council recommended that our delegate vote in favor of both of these.  Councilmember Diaz is our representative to CalCities and will be casting the votes at the September meeting.

  • We also discussed a General Fund Reserve Policy.  We first discussed this at our July 20 meeting and after that discussion suggested certain changes to the initial draft.  This item was to discuss the various updates.  Overall the edits made were positive, however I felt the policy language was still more permissive than we intended.  I suggested a few substantive changes that would increase the catastrophic reserve amount (from 50% of general fund budget to 75%), and also increasing the approval threshold to spend the reserve from a simple majority to a 4/5 majority.  There were other changes suggested such as updating the policy language to be more precise and the Council decided to have the next draft reviewed by the budget subcommittee before coming back to the full council for approval.

  • Lastly, we discussed the potential uses of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, of which the city is slated to receive approximately $2.9M.  There are four major categories of eligible spending:  (A) Costs incurred as direct result of responding to COVID-19 and / or addressing the negative economic impact, (B) Premium Pay For Eligible Workers, (C) Government Services to the Extent of Lost Revenue, (D) Infrastructure Investments in Broadband, Water, Sewer and Storm Drainage.  Each of these has various requirements and limits that we'll have to navigate.  The Council all agreed that prioritizing those people who live in Clayton and work at our Clayton businesses, Clayton businesses themselves, and those people who live in Clayton who may work outside of the city, but were negatively impacted by the pandemic.  These were the folks most impacted and we want to do as much as we can to provide relief and assist those who were impacted.

    The Council agreed with the recommendation that we engage a consultant to help design and administer a program to allocate ARP funds.  This would involve establishing criteria, managing the day to day activities, and ultimately distributing funds.  Program administration is an eligible use of the ARP funds as well so this would be covered by our share of ARP receipts.  We expect to bring on a consultant soon to help facilitate community outreach soliciting input on how best to design the program.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Upcoming Council Meeting 8.17.21

There are a few significant items on the next council agenda that we will be discussing:
  • The designation of a voting delegate to the League of California Cities Annual Conference.  There are two resolutions that are being presented at the upcoming September meeting.  The first is a resolution to urge the legislature to distribute sales tax receipts for online retailers in a different way.  Currently distribution appears to be weighted towards locations that have fulfillment centers and the League resolution would ask the legislature to distribute sales taxes currently attributable to those locations to a broader swatch of cities in CA.  The second resolution urges the legislature and governor to provide regulatory authority and funding to assist cities to address illegal dumping, graffiti, and homeless encampments along rail lines in the state.

  • The adoption of a general fund reserve policy.  The proposal in the agenda packet contemplates a Catastrophic Reserve equal to 50% of operating expenditures, Budget Stabilization Reserve equal to 5% of operating expenditures, and the remainder being undesignated fund balance.

  • A presentation and discussion about potential uses of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds that the city is slated to receive.  Clayton expects to receive approximately $2.9M through ARP.  This will be distributed in two stages, of which we've already received the first.  The next stage will be received in or around July 2022 and must be encumbered by the end of 2024.  Unspent funds must be returned to the federal government.  There are a number of specified categories that are eligible to use the funding.  I encourage community input on how we should direct these dollars.
If you have any thoughts of questions about the items above, please let me know.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

8.3.21 Meeting Summary

Apologies for the delay, I've been out of town.  On Tuesday 8.3.21 the Council met to discuss and take action on several items:
  • It was brought up by Councilmember Diaz that historically certain gifts paid for by taxpayer dollars were given to elected Councilmembers upon the completion of their term, among other occasions.  After investigating, it was determined that this occurred without a well defined process and at times the basis for approval was "Mayor's prerogative".  This term had been used with growing frequency in the past few years and I questioned the origin.  Since no definition was offered, we all tacitly agreed the use of this should be discontinued.

    A draft was offered in our agenda for an actual policy for gifts to employees, volunteers, private citizens, and elected officials in an effort to establish a policy.  This draft was supported by Councilmember Cloven.  I voiced my concern regarding gifts for public officials.  Given gifts are funded by taxpayer dollars, and we would be voting on it among ourselves, I felt the ethical implications of voting to give ourselves gifts of taxpayer dollars made this inappropriate.  Given there are also provisions of the California constitution that prohibit gifts of public funds, I suggested that we eschew gifts of public funds to elected officials completely.  This was updated to the draft proposal which was then passed by the Council unanimously.

  • We also discussed a previous incident where a city owned tree fell and damaged a resident's house and fence.  This incident was submitted to our insurer and the claim was ultimately rejected as the city enjoys immunity under Government Code 830(a) and 835(b).  One of the basis of the rejection was the idea that the city has a system in place for inspecting and maintaining its trees.  When we originally met to discuss this matter in late 2020, it was communicated that the city had inspected this tree.  However, after reviewing the evidence, it was clear this did not take place and the city does not have a system to inspect its trees.  I reconfirmed this during the meeting.

    Even without inspection however, the city avoids liability due to the immunity recognized in the above mentioned government codes.  I suggested that we clarify with our insurer the actual fact pattern and strive to accurate in how we communicate our processes.  Given the amount of trees the city owns, and the potential liability should they fall or suffer other damage, I was concerned about the potential precedent that accepting liability would set and ultimately the Council took no official action.

  • We updated our list of recognized cultural heritage months and other significant events to remove both Columbus Day and Juneteenth as these are federal holidays.

  • We discussed our current sign ordinances for temporary non-commercial signs.  Ultimately we made no changes to our sign ordinances.  I reiterated my comments from the previous time we discussed this issue - essentially I am not in favor of any speech restrictions and signs are speech.