Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Election Results - Update

While still not final, the County has released the latest update on vote counts.  County wide, there remain approximately 1,800 provisional ballots and approximately 5,000 other ballots.  Since this is County wide, only a small number of those would be expected to be from Clayton.  Current ballot count is at 5,745 out of 8,477 registered voters, which is a 67.77% turnout rate.  

It looks like myself and Kim Trupiano have earned a seat on the Council for the next four years.  Our next scheduled Council meeting on 12.6.22 will have the swearing in ceremony but otherwise be a light agenda.

Thank you again to the residents of Clayton who supported me and I look forward to continuing work on the Council.  I recognize there were those who were passionate no matter which candidates were supported.  I hope over the next four years we can all come together in our shared goal of doing what is best for Clayton and its residents.


11.15.22 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council met and discussed one significant item and that was the initiation of the recruitment process for the City Manager role.  Our current City Manager submitted her resignation to be effective at the beginning of February 2023. 

Because of the short time frame, and the recognition that we are near the holidays and the reorganization of the Council after the results of the latest election are certified, we took certain steps to accelerate the process.  We decided to use a recruiting firm, to use funds that had been set aside in a Rainy Day fund in previous years to cover the approximate $27K-$29K it will cost, to form an ad hoc committee consisting of myself and Councilmember Tillman to facilitate the process, and to authorize the Ad Hoc Committee to direct the City Manager to execute the agreement with the recruiting firm that is chosen.

In addition to the above, we also had a swearing in ceremony for our new Police Chief, Richard McEachin.  Chief McEachin was a former Clayton PD Sergeant before leaving to become the Police Chief of another jurisdiction.  I was happy to meet our new chief and look forward to working with him.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Upcoming Council meeting 11.15.22 and Join me at Ed's Afterwards

There is one significant item on the agenda for our next meeting and that will be to discuss the recruitment of a new City Manager, the potential for an interim City Manager, and whether we need an ad hoc committee to facilitate the process.

Please let me know if you have any thoughts or questions on the above.

While the results of the election are not yet final, I wanted to thank everyone who supported my campaign.  In that vein, after the next Council meeting (not sure when it will end, I will head over to Ed's Mudville Grill and would love if folks would like to join.


Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Thank You! Results not final yet

The results are not yet final, but as of last night (11/8) the counts were as follows:

There were 8,477 registered voters, with just 3,623 ballots being counted as of last night.  Historically in non-presidential years voter turnout in Clayton is right around 70%.  If that turnout figure holds up this election, that means that there would be approximately 2,300 ballots left to be counted.  The County will update their counts periodically here:  https://www.contracosta.ca.gov/7761/Election-Results

Regardless of the final outcome, I wanted to say thank you to a whole lot of people.

To everyone who supported my campaign - Thank you! As I tell people I talk with, there is no polling in Clayton so you never really know if what you're doing is connecting with folks.  

To those who volunteered to canvas – Thank you. It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to canvas and without your efforts I would have not gotten to nearly as many people as we did.

To those who were willing to show support by putting up yard signs, sometimes multiple – Thank you.
At times it can be difficult putting yourself out there, inviting those questions and conversations from friends and neighbors but those conversations are truly the most impactful and I am grateful.

To those who spread the word online and in person – Thank you. I've always believed that leaders should meet people where they are.  Today quite a few people interact online and my intent is to continue to have conversations with people this way.  Passionate community involvement is what can drive change and with our ability to connect and collaborate we can be truly effective.

To all other supporters - Thank you. The only way this campaign has gotten this far is both because the message has resonated with people, and they were able to hear that message. The only way that was possible is because of the vocal support of the community.

And to my fellow candidates - Thank you.  Though we may disagree from time to time on matters of policy, healthy debate and discussion is part of the process.  Anyone who decides to put themselves out there for public office is to be commended on their willingness to step up and serve.

More information to follow both on this website and my Facebook page, but for now I'm going to get some much needed rest with the family.


Friday, November 4, 2022

Last Thoughts on my Campaign and Remember to Vote on November 8

This election will have significant impact on the direction this city takes.  Not only does the city face financial challenges, we have yet to do the work needed to understand them.  Like many organizations throughout the pandemic, we've lost key personnel and it will be a challenge to find and onboard new talent.  The city also struggles with transparency and accountability, being unable to produce a schedule of maintenance and other regular activities.

Throughout all of this, most people in Clayton are satisfied - we have a fantastic police force that have endorsed my campaign, along with our former Police Chief and Finance Director.  In this safe environment, we have fantastic parks and trails, and great schools, making Clayton a wonderful place to live and raise a family.

But with a current deficit in our budget, many of these things may be at risk. Unfortunately, the current majority on the Council has refused to make any cuts to address our budget shortfalls. Choosing deficit spending rather than reducing expenditures has exacerbated the problem.

Deficit spending should be reserved for extraordinary times. As a city we need to live within our means. Before any tax increase is considered, the city should do everything in its power to reduce expenses and increase efficiencies – raising taxes should be an absolute last resort. For the Council to place a tax measure on the ballot, 4 out of 5 Councilmembers need to vote in favor. This means that if just two Councilmembers are opposed to a tax measure, it will NOT move forward. If elected, I will not support raising taxes except as a last resort.

The city has a lot of work ahead to increase operational efficiency and fiscal discipline. Unless and until that happens I will not support any revenue measure. I know Kim Trupiano feels similarly. If elected, Kim and I add up to two which shuts down the possibility of more taxes and we can instead, shift our focus away from squandering resources with useless surveys and trying to increase taxes and instead, focus on serious discussions about cost savings, efficiencies, and other ways to reduce our overall expenditures – what we should have been doing since I raised this issue back in the middle of 2021.

If you have not yet already voted, please do so by November 8.  You can vote for two candidates and I am asking for your support and your vote so that together, we focus forward and overcome any challenges the city faces.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

11.1.22 Meeting Summary and my Candidate Statement

While there were no action items or public hearings at last night's meeting, we did hear introductions from several local businesses that have opened in Clayton this calendar year.  I hope this continues as a regular event going forward as it's a great way to get to know the new places that have opened up shop in town.

There was also a presentation from the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District. The District provides essential services for protecting public health by working to prevent vector-borne disease in Contra Costa County.

The District is governed by a a Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees are officials appointed by their respective city councils to govern the Mosquito and Vector Control District knowledgeably and effectively. They serve without compensation but are provided with an allowance to defray expenses while on official business (not to exceed $100 per month). Trustees do not receive any type of benefits and serve for a term of two to four years.

After 18 years of service, Clayton's representative on the Board of Trustees for the District has stepped down and the city is looking to fill the spot.  If interested, please see more information at the city's page on Vacancies and Volunteer Opportunities here:  https://claytonca.gov/our-city/vacancies/

I also gave the following statement during public comment, which is the same as the post I made this weekend:


Monday, October 31, 2022

Upcoming Council Meeting 11.1.22

There are no significant items on the agenda under Public Hearings or Action Items for the next meeting.  

There will be a presentation from the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District, as well as a welcome and recognition of new local businesses established in Clayton since the start of 2022.

If you have thoughts or questions regarding the above, please let me know.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

A Lack of Leadership and Gaps to Fill

With the recent announcement that our City Manager is resigning, this means that 3 out of 6 departments heads are vacant or will be soon - The City Manager, Finance Director, and our Police Chief.

In the four years I’ve been a member of this Council, I’ve been in the minority on a number of issues. It’s time to change that. Because if we continue down this path, with our leaders more interested in attending gatherings and going to meetings with no discernable outcome, rather than focusing on basic operations like maintaining a schedule of maintenance activities, or balancing the budget – then we as a city will continue to hemorrhage good people and city operations will suffer.

After November, the newly constituted Council will be tasked with rebuilding these critical staff positions. Now more than ever we need strong leadership to guide the city and staff in both the hiring and onboarding of new personnel. It will be paramount to have Councilmembers who have experience in hiring staff and building and managing teams.

While I started my career as a governmental auditor, I’ve been a people leader for over 20 years. As Vice President and Controller of a multi-billion dollar company, I have extensive experience in managing budgets and finding and retaining talent - from entry level positions to Directors, in office personnel and remote workers. Having this experience will be critical as we rebuild the team at City Hall.

This is why it is so important that our former Finance Director, Police Chief, and the Police Officers Association representing all of our police have all endorsed me in this election. These are folks that are NOT politicians, but they have deep and recent knowledge of city operations. They have first hand experience working with me and want to continue working with me and in each case I have gained the support of city staff – something critically important as we move forward.

Election day is November 8. I’m asking for your support and your vote.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Issues of Substance and Policy

Many folks are not happy with the flyers that have been passed out, nor am I.  But these are a distraction from issues of substance and policy.  

Our city still has no schedule of maintenance available and no schedule of GHAD activities available.  We have squandered money on consultants to conduct surveys about how much of a tax increase people would accept, without even understanding our actual needs.  We have spent money on consultants to hold charrettes regarding the downtown lot, the outcome of which was unlikely to change given the requirements of the housing element.  We've spent money on facilitating meetings as basic as a goal setting session, which is a simple function that happens everyday in most workplaces without the need to hire a consultant.

We have real issues of leadership, and differences in matters of public policy that are getting crowded out by emotional responses to an upsetting flyer.  So let's address some key areas of public policy - Police services, deficit spending, the Olivia, and raising taxes.  Note how each of these policy differences are supported with evidence.

Regarding Police Services:

As a matter of policy, I would never suggest laying off all of our police and outsourcing them.  According to the Pioneer, this is what Ed Miller has suggested.  

From a Sep 14 article in the Pioneer: https://pioneerpublishers.com/claytons-budget-takes-center-stage-this-november/


Laying off our police and using the Sheriff's Department would yield a higher cost, and a reduced level of services and would be a detriment to public safety in Clayton.  This is part of the reason why the Clayton Police Officers Association endorsed me and not Mr. Miller.

Regarding using reserves and deficit spending:

In addition to suggesting we outsource our police, Mr. Miller proposes to use ARPA funds to make up budget shortfalls.  From Miller's website he says this:


And from the candidate forum:

This is a misunderstanding of ARPA funds.  With no restrictions on how the funds are used, there is no distinction between ARPA funds and our general fund reserves.  Money is fungible, and the only thing that sets our reserves apart from the rest of the reserves is an accounting entry to place it in one bucket or another - otherwise ARPA funds are the same thing as general fund reserves.

I have been consistently against using reserves to make up our budget shortfalls.  Deficit spending is poor public policy and when the city adopted its latest budget, the Council was opposed to any cuts whatsoever and chose to deficit spend.

Regarding the Olivia project that Mr. Miller voted in favor of extending, he says this:

The actual standard for reviewing a request for extension of a project is from CMC 17.64.030, which reads:

“Upon a showing of good cause therefor, the Planning Commission may extend the

period of a permit in which it is to be exercised, used or established, for a maximum

of twelve (12) months at a time or as otherwise specified on the permit.”


The first step is whether good cause exists.  If there is no good cause, then the extension request fails.  Further, there is no standard by which "good cause" is defined. Here the City may define what is sufficient to constitute good cause and unfortunately for Miller and the rest of Clayton, he didn't take the time to understand the law because the extension request could have stopped here.

But even if the extension request went past the good cause stage, this is only a prerequisite for extension, not dispositive. It appears that Miller believes that upon showing good cause the granting of an extension is required.  This is not how the municipal code reads. In the code, it is a two step process. The first is whether good cause exists. If no, then no extension may be granted. If yes, then proceed to the next step. The next step is discretionary - the PC may extend the period of a permit. The use of "may" in this section indicates discretion and there is no other criteria by which that discretion is couched.

And the Olivia extension expires in March 2023.  I voted against the extension but the majority was in favor.  What do you think will happen when this comes before the newly seated Council?  Mr. Miller and two other Councilmembers have voted in favor of extending the first time around already.  

Regarding Raising Taxes:

I am clear about not supporting a tax increase to be placed on the ballot.  We need to make serious efforts to address our budget shortfalls as a prerequisite to discussions about raising taxes and we aren't even close to doing that.  If we don't curtail this quickly, it will serve as a distraction from the work we need to do in order to get our house in order.  But Bridget Billeter has said she wouldn't commit either way, that she is neither for or against a tax increase.  Does that sound familiar?


Billeter says the issue would be to place a measure on the ballot and leave it to the voters.  For this to happen, four of the five Councilmembers would have to vote in favor of it.  It seems to me by saying that she trusts the residents of Clayton to make that decision, that Billeter has already made hers.

We have real issues of leadership, and differences in matters of public policy.  These are some of the key issues that are at stake this election.

Friday, October 21, 2022

October 24 is the Last Day to Register to Vote

If you have not yet registered to vote for the November 8 election, the last day to do so is October 24. You can check your registration status here: https://voterstatus.sos.ca.gov/


To register to vote, you can do so online here: https://registertovote.ca.gov/.  Then vote for me and Kim Trupiano.  www.kimforclayton.com

Thursday, October 20, 2022

On Flyers, Attacks, and Civility

Recently I learned of a flyer that had been distributed to some homes in the city. Tamara from the Pioneer reached out and asked for comment but we did not have time to connect last night. I let her know that I had not yet seen the flyer and asked her to send it to me which she did.

While I support everyone’s right to express themselves in whatever manner they see fit, at times that occurs in ways that I personally do not approve of. To be clear, I do not condone or support these tactics.  

We should be able to discuss any differences we may have civilly without resorting to personal attacks.  If voters are interested in learning about me, or any of the other candidates running this November, I encourage them to do their own research, review each candidate’s website to learn more, ask questions, and make their own decisions.

My goal throughout this campaign has been to be as clear as possible regarding my positions and how we should move forward as a city. This is why I write in detail at my campaign website. My preference is that residents support candidates of their choosing that best represents their interests. If that is me, then that is fantastic. If it is not, I respect people’s choices and that is the process.  I wish all the candidates the best of luck this November.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

10.18.22 Meeting Summary and My Candidate Comments

Last night I shared during public comment additional remarks regarding my campaign, including why the endorsements of most of our recent staff including two department heads and the Police Officer's Association is so important.  These are individuals who have direct relevant experience regarding not just the financial challenges the city faces, but challenges in the day to day operations where we could be much more efficient.  My remarks here:



In addition to my comments, there were two significant items that were discussed:

- We adopted a resolution to authorize execution of an energy services contract with Climatec.  The contract calls for two phases of work.  Phase 1 is an energy assessment to determine where potential savings may exist throughout the city in its use of electricity, water, and other utilities.  Phase 1 will take approximately 14 weeks at the end of which Climatec will produce a report detailing their findings and potential actions the city could take.  Phase 1 has no cost and there is no obligation to continue beyond Phase 1.

If the city were to proceed to Phase 2, that decision would be based on the information presented at the end of Phase 1.  Should that occur, then Climatec would be compensated on a cost plus basis.  Only projects that would yield a savings inclusive of the cost of the project are eligible to move forward.

- We formed a Community Financial Sustainability Committee.  The Committee will consist of 5 Clayton residents with a background in finance, some of which must be government finance.  The duties of this Committee are many-fold, however overall the intent is to increase engagement and information around City financial matters.  Among the duties of the Committee are to identify areas for additional evaluation for financial savings or revenue generation, and to communicate with the community on city financial matters.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Upcoming Council Meeting 10.18.22

There are two significant items on the agenda for our next Council meeting:

- Consider executing contract with Climatec. This would be a consulting agreement for Climatec to do an assessment of where the city could save money by implementing various energy conservation improvements. The agreement calls for two phases - the first would be a review and assessment. There is no cost to the first phase. If there are areas of improvement identified in phase 1, then phase 2 may commence upon authorization from Council to do the identified projects. Phase 2 work would be a cost plus basis. Only projects that would meet the marginal ROI necessary would be approved.

This may sound familiar as we were on deck to engage in this work back in December 2020, however due to timing with coordination with the City of Concord we tabled the issue until now.

- We will discuss forming a Financial Sustainability Committee.  In the current recommendation, the membership requirements are as follows:

Five Clayton residents as voting members, appointed by the City Council. All members shall possess a background in finance, accounting auditing or related field. Membership shall include at a minimum: (a). One member with experience in governmental accounting (b). One member with experience in governmental finance and/or budgeting (c). One member with experience in auditing.

The duties of this committee will be to make recommendations to the City Manager, Budget & Audit Subcommittee and the City Council.  This will include  reviewing the annual budget, attending various related meetings, potential use of reserve funds, and overall expenditures and revenues.

If you have any thoughts or questions on the above, please let me know.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Raising Taxes and Counting to Two

Over the past four years there have been several votes that were 4-1 or 3-2 (where I was in the minority) so when it comes to placing a tax measure on the ballot to address our fiscal challenges, it may seem like a foregone conclusion that the majority will do whatever they want.  With the Council in its current composition unwilling to make cuts, the choice of raising taxes, cutting spending, or both, seems to get reduced down to just one option.  But the decision whether to place a tax measure on the ballot follows a different set of rules.

According to Government Code §53724  and Revenue and Taxation Code§7285.9, a two-thirds (2/3) vote of all members of the City Council is required to place a tax measure on the ballot.  Given there are 5 Councilmembers, 3 votes represent only 60% of the council which is less than the 2/3 threshold required.

This means that if just two Councilmembers are opposed to a tax measure, it will NOT move forward.  If elected, I will not support raising taxes except as a last resort. 

The city has a lot of work ahead to increase operational efficiency and fiscal discipline.  Unless and until that happens I will not support any revenue measure.  I know Kim Trupiano feels similarly.  If elected, Kim and I add up to two which shuts down the possibility of more taxes and we can instead, shift our focus away from squandering resources with useless surveys and trying to increase taxes and instead, focus on serious discussions about cost savings, efficiencies, and other ways to reduce our overall expenditures – what we should have been doing since I raised this issue back in the middle of 2021.


Friday, October 14, 2022

Ed Miller's Loose Relationship With Facts

Recently Ed Miller leveled a few criticisms of my record that I would like to address.  Unfortunately for Mr. Miller, in a failure to listen and a rush to attack on his part has Mr. Miller thinking that he may have finally found that nut after the most recent candidates forum.  The first was regarding membership with Cal Cities and working with other cities, the second was regarding unpopular housing projects.

This is going to be long because it takes some explanation to demonstrate how the assertions by Ed Miller are misleading.

Here is a video of the first question and my response:


Miller asserts, "a question came up asking us if we supported the city's continuing membership in the League of California Cities (Cal Cities).  All four of us stated that we do, and gave our reasons. ... Billeter went next and ... opened by asserting that Wan most definitely had stated the exact opposite".  

The actual question was two parts: "Do you believe that Clayton should remain a part of league of California cities and should Clayton continue to work closely with other cities Clayton should continue to strengthen our position on state mandates and issues?"

My response: "Certainly.  I do think there is a lot of value in these organizations that have the ability to pull together resources as well as represent cities where they have shared interests.  The League of California Cities represents essentially all cities in the state, so they try to do their best to represent all cities.  Now, I would say that some larger cities when we talk about Los Angeles or Oakland or San Francisco, they may have different interests than we, and so there will be times that we don't, as a city, agree with the positions taken by an organization that represents all cities.  Now I do think the membership is important.  It is something that we've been a member for a long time, and so when we look at our spending priorities, that's one of those things that we evaluate."

To this, Miller asserts that I expressed support of the city's continuing membership in Cal Cities.

Miller should have waited for the video to be available because in his excitement over something to attack, he either misunderstood the question and the responses, or he's misrepresenting them intentionally.  Either of these reflects poorly on credibility.

My response of "certainly" is in regards to the second of the two part question.  I certainly believe we should work closely with other cities to strengthen our position on state mandates and issues.  This does not necessarily mean it need be done through Cal Cities, and in fact, I'm not aware of any substantive outcome in this arena as a result of such membership.  In fact, other organizations like Livable California, California Cities for Local Control, and California Alliance of Local Electeds are much more accessible organizations and do not have the bloat that comes along with having to represent San Francisco alongside of Clayton.

I did say there is value to the membership, though I did not say I supported continuing membership as Miller asserts.   I went on to say that spending on membership to an organization that may not represent us should be prioritized against all other spending.  Many different things may have value - like membership in Cal Cities - but only spending that represents the highest best use of funds should be acted upon.  

Miller goes on to assert that "Billeter opened by asserting that Wan most definitely had stated the exact opposite".  In looking at the video, it's clear this is false.  Take a look:


Here is what Billiter actually said:  "And I also agree I thought that was one of the budget cuts that was suggested by Councilmember Wan, the $6,000 dollars, would be a cut that we could make before we ask for parcel taxes which he talked about in his opening. That was my understanding of the meeting as well."

Not only was it at the end of her response, not the beginning, but Miller mischaracterizes her response implying more certainty than was actually expressed.  Miller's need to embellish doesn't engender a sense of trust.  He says one thing, but in reality it's something different.  

On the question of value, I answered affirmatively - there certainly is value to the membership, though I did not say I supported continuing membership.  Training and advocacy have value, but they need to be stacked against all other potential uses of funds.  I mentioned this in my response to the question.
Many different things may have value - like membership in Cal Cities - but only spending that represents the highest best use of funds should be acted upon.  

Because our membership has no impact on the actions that Cal Cities takes, and much of the information that Cal Cities produces in its advocacy is publicly available, during a brainstorming session at our Budget/Audit Subcommittee on how to balance the budget, I asked if there was an appetite to curtail our membership.  This idea did not move forward in the Subcommittee's recommendation to the full council contrary to Miller's assertion. A data scientist getting the basic facts wrong in order to fit a narrative - go figure.

Regarding the second line of attack regarding housing - again Miller either misunderstands the question or is misrepresenting it intentionally, reflecting even more poorly on credibility and trust.  The question was likely in regards to the Olivia project - one where the community was opposed.  Miller stretches when he asserts that the Olivia project approval was required by law.  While I continue to be disappointed by the decision in the Olivia lawsuit, in reading the opinion it is clear that had the city decided against the project it may have sustained court challenge.  From the opinion describing the standard of review:
From the standard: "The trial court presumes that an agency's decision is supported by substantial evidence;"  and "When we review an agency's decision for consistency with its own general plan, we accord great deference to the agency's determination"

In other words, had the city decided against the project, if there were litigation then the trial court would presume that the city's decision was supported by substantial evidence and would also accord great deference to the city's determination.  Had the city decided the way I voted, then the burden of proof would rest with the one challenging the outcome - the result, unfortunately, is unknowable.

The main point that Miller tries to make is that my position about complying with the law is not consistent with my vote on the Olivia project.  He is interpreting the loss at court to mean that the law was clearly against me.  But if we again read the court opinion, it's clear that Miller's claim is unsupported, or perhaps he is ignorant of the words in the opinion:
The court here recognizes that they could find no regulatory or statutory definition of "urban use".  If the parcels in question were not for "urban use", then the infill exemption that was utilized would not be available and the project would have required actual environmental review under CEQA.  But without a finding from the city, and with no actual definition of what "urban use" was, the court came to a decision on its own.  This is a far cry from the law being clearly established.  So in the absence of a clear definition, I used my own judgment in representing the people of Clayton - what I was elected to do.

To assert that my position of complying with the law and voting against the Olivia was inconsistent belies ignorance of the actual law.  Given that the standard of review gives great deference to an agency decision, had the city decided against the project the outcome may have been entirely different.

Miller goes on to attempt to defend his vote in favor of an extension of the Olivia project.  His reasoning has changed - going from his inability to find good cause to deny, to asserting his vote was based on advice from our City Attorney and City Manager.  Regardless of the changing reasoning this is the actual standard for reviewing a request for extension of a project.  From CMC 17.64.030:

"“Upon a showing of good cause therefor, the Planning Commission may extend the

period of a permit in which it is to be exercised, used or established, for a maximum

of twelve (12) months at a time or as otherwise specified on the permit.”


A finding of good cause is a prerequisite for extension, but not dispositive. It appears that Miller believes that upon showing good cause the granting of an extension would be the rebuttable position. This is not how the municipal code reads. In the code, it is a two step process. The first is whether good cause exists. If no, then no extension may be granted. If yes, then proceed to the next step. The next step is discretionary - the PC may extend the period of a permit. The use of "may" in this section indicates discretion and there is no other criteria by which that discretion is couched.

The municipal code clearly places the burden on the one seeking the extension - but Miller claims he could find no reason to deny. That is a misunderstanding of where the burden lies. Further, there is no standard by which "good cause" is defined. Here the City may define what is sufficient to constitute good cause and unfortunately for Miller and the rest of Clayton, he didn't take the time to understand the law.




Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Yard Signs All Distributed - Other Ways to Help

Thank you to everyone who has supported my campaign thus far!  I've now distributed all of my yard signs and have good coverage across the city:

I only put my signs where people have requested them, and since it's against the rules to place signs in the public right of way (even though unenforced), you won't see my signs anywhere but at people's residences in town.

Even though I am out of signs, there are still ways to help the campaign.  Talk with your local friends and neighbors about your support.  Share my posts on Facebook - this is one of the most impactful ways to spread the word.  And of course, vote.  Ballots were mailed to everyone starting on 10.10.22 and should be arriving shortly thereafter.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Candidate Forum Recap and Another Endorsement

Last night all four candidates for the two open Council seats participated in a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley, AAUW of Clayton, the CBCA, the Clayton Community Library Foundation, and the Clayton Garden Club.  I’m grateful to these organizations for hosting this important event. 

Because of time constraints, candidates were limited to one minute for each response and many questions were actually several questions combined.  I have written extensively on many of the items raised and will do so more in the future so I encourage everyone to visit my website at jeffwanforclaytoncitycouncil.net to learn more. 

While other candidates touted their experience working in government, only Kim Trupiano talked about actually being responsible for a budget, or managing teams.  Experience in these areas will be critical as we move forward.  As a CPA, and Vice President and Controller of a multi-billion dollar company, I have extensive experience being responsible for budgets, projects, and teams.  There will always be new things to spend money on but being a fiscal steward means prioritizing competing needs with the resources available. 

It is certain that city finances will be a key issue to be addressed in the near term.  Recently I spoke with Paul Rodrigues.  Paul is also a CPA, and Clayton’s former Finance Director.  He took an opportunity last year to use his talents as the Finance Director for the City of Pittsburgh.  Paul has strongly endorsed my campaign, saying that I have been spot on with my financial analysis and concerns, going on to say that I am the only Councilmember who truly understands the finances of the City of Clayton.

Our former Finance Director, Chief of Police, and the Clayton Police Officers Association representing all of our police have now endorsed my campaign.  These are individuals that have deep knowledge of our city and understand its challenges, have seen my work, and recognize that advancing my ideas will help Clayton move forward.  I’m grateful for their support.

Ballots have been mailed and should be received soon.  I humbly ask for your support and your vote so that I can continue leading Clayton on the path forward.

 

Friday, October 7, 2022

Endorsed by the Clayton Police Officers Association and Former Police Chief Elise Warren

I'm happy to announce that the Clayton Police Officers Association and our former Police Chief, Elise Warren, have endorsed my candidacy for the November 2022 election.

Our Clayton police are the backbone of public safety in our community, without which all other things are at risk.  I’m grateful that we live in a town that is able to enjoy our parks and trails, have kids able to walk and play, and have a community that comes together to support one another in such a safe environment.  

The Clayton POA and Chief Warren recognize that public safety has always been a top priority of mine and I’m proud to support our police and the fine work they do.  Even as we as a city face financial challenges, I will continue to support the police as their role is so critical to ensuring that Clayton continues to be a wonderful place to live and raise a family.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

10.4.22 Meeting Summary

Last night there was one significant item that we discussed and that was the creation of a Community Committee on Financial Sustainability.  While the name of this group will be workshopped, the intent was to have a group of people with a financial background and skillset act in an advisory role to both the Budget and Audit Committee, and to the Council as a whole.

We did not define the parameters of such a group, but in general the idea seems sound.  There are folks that have quite a bit of experience and skills in the community and if we are able to bring those to bear it could be a great benefit to the city.  The details around such a group would need to be fleshed out of course.  

Things to consider when forming such a group would be their duties and responsibilities.  This would need to be made explicit so that they have clear direction on how to proceed.  The scope and purview of what this group would have access to and to what they could provide advice on would also be important.  It would undercut the value of such a group if it were limited in what it could review.

All were in favor of forming such a group, pending the details some of which I just mentioned.  Staff will prepare a draft and bring back to Council for approval once those details are fleshed out.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Upcoming Council Meeting 10.4.22

There is one significant item to be discussed at our next meeting and that is considering whether to establish a community committee on financial sustainability.  The purpose of such a committee would be to increase engagement and information around City financial matters.  As this type of committee would be subject to the Brown Act, it would be supported by City staff adding additional duties to one or more existing positions in the City and due to time constraints, there may be limited availability to support such a committee.

If you have any thoughts or questions on the above, please let me know.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Volunteers Needed - Please Sign Up

The biggest challenge in a successful campaign is getting the word out that I'm running and what I stand for.  Name recognition is helpful, but it's only the beginning. In an effort to reach as many people as possible, I am asking for help placing door hangers throughout the city.

The plan will be to place a door hanger on every residential door in the city.  With a little more than 4,400 residences, the more people we have the better.

I am targeting 10/15/22 to distribute door hangers and am asking for volunteers.  To facilitate the signing up for various areas, I have created the following sign up sheet. Please click this link to sign up: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0e4aa8a82da6fece9-volunteer

Once you are signed up, we will establish a central meeting place to distribute materials and depending on the number of people we can subdivide the areas even further. The more people we have the better, but I am asking for approximately 2 hours or so. 

Thank you everyone for your support and together we can do this.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Transparency and Misleading About the Need

A key aspect of being fiscally responsible is knowing what the financial demands of the city actually are.  If we are not clear on what we need to spend, how can we prioritize our activities to make sure we are being as effective as possible with taxpayer dollars? 

The first time a 5 year projection was prepared was in June-2021.  This is what was shared with the Budget/Audit Committee:

This reflected a balanced budget in 2022, and deficits starting in 2023 of approximately $200K, worsening approximately $100K each year.  And while I raised the alarm bells, no significant discussion took place at Council during the rest of 2021.  If I controlled the agenda I would have included a discussion item each meeting so we would have sufficient time to validate the information, brainstorm, and discuss potential actions.  Unfortunately this did not happen.

The next projection we saw was presented at the 2.1.22 meeting:

Here, the projection had improved.  Deficits still started in 2023, however the amount was reduced to approximately $100K, still worsening approximately $100K/year for the following 5 years.

Staff also presented what they characterized as "unmet needs" though I call it a wishlist.  Things like bringing our City Engineer to an in house employee rather than a contractor (this request was set aside in the prior year due to increased cost including associated pension), an additional police lieutenant, making up shortfalls in special district funds, etc.   This wishlist projection was also presented at the 2.1.22 meeting:


Here deficits still began in 2023, but instead of the approximate $100K baseline, when including the wishlist items the projection showed an initial 2023 deficit ballooning north of $600K, with the projection still worsening approximately $100K/year.

After the 2.1.22 meeting, the Pioneer published yet another table illustrating the projection, however it's unclear where the information was obtained from since it did not match the tables shown at the previous meeting:

This table reflected figures about the same as the "wishlist" projection, but it appears the writer was in contact with someone from the city as each of the figures had been updated.  So why use the "wishlist" version and not the baseline amount?  It seems misleading about the actual need if discretionary spending gets included as a way inflate projected deficits.

And then there was the $30K survey that the Council decided to spend money on (I voted no).  In this survey, the first question about a parcel tax was this:

After already inflating the projected deficit, staff crafted survey questions to query the public, the first of which characterized the first option as an additional parcel tax of $400/parcel.  But with approximately 4400 residential parcels in Clayton, a $400 parcel tax would yield approximately $1.76M!

If we have a baseline deficit projected at approximately $100K, why would we survey residents regarding a $1.76 million dollar tax measure?  Working with the paper to inflate the need and then using $30K of taxpayer dollars to hire a polling firm to inflate the ask is not transparent and is highly misleading.

We do have fiscal challenges.  But we need leadership that will not accept information at face value, especially when it is clearly misleading.  We need leaders who won't look to raise taxes an exorbitant amount as a first option. And before we do anything else, we need to gain a better understanding of our fiscal picture so we have better information to act upon.  This will take more than attending meetings and pontificating at the lectern - it is going to take real nuts and bolts work to dig into what is actually happening and work through solutions that prioritize and support city services so we can preserve Clayton as a great place to live and raise a family.



Wednesday, September 21, 2022

9.20.22 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council discussed several significant items:

- On the consent calendar was a resolution to update traffic patterns during school pickup and drop off hours near Mt. Diablo Elementary on Four Oaks Ln.  There has been issues with vehicles making U-Turns on this street causing unsafe conditions during school pickup and drop off times.  As a result, the city will be restricting U-Turns on that street at certain times.  We also were aware of the confusing nature of the signs and will be updating them for clarity and conformity.

- We formed a new Community Facilities District (CFD) in order to facilitate the HOA creation and fee collection for certain city services at the new Diablo Meadows development at the southern end of Mitchell Canyon Rd.  The rules require a vote of the landowners for this type of action, but as the developer is the only landowner of those parcels, the vote was unanimous.  

In addition to the creation of that CFD, the action taken by the Council also created a future annexation overlay for almost the whole city.  This was done to facilitate potential future developments entry into the CFD and allow them to piggyback off the process we just undertook.  Creating a CFD is a complex, prescribed process that takes several separate meetings and creating this additional overlay could make less administratively burdensome for future developments to pay for city services.  I was concerned this could make it easier to levy taxes, however after in depth questioning all the safeguards in place including the voter approval threshold would still be in place should any property outside of the Diablo Meadows development wished to participate in the CFD.

This development is scheduled to start selling within the next few weeks.

- We approved the placement of plaques in memory of Braden Fahey at the Grove Park and the Clayton Community Park.

- We discussed the preliminary design concept for the Complete Streets Feasibility Study on Pine Hollow Rd as a joint project with the City of Concord.  The initial draft called for improved sidewalk access and connectivity in several areas, two way bike lanes in certain areas, raised crosswalks and better lighting, overall improved signage and crossing areas, and certain curbs to be extended called "bulbouts" which reduce the distance that pedestrians need to cross and narrow the passing of turning vehicles to reduce speeds.

The city approved the feasibility study to move forward.  From there, more detailed work to flesh out specific design and overall cost, as well as potential funding sources, will be presented as a deliverable of the feasibility study.

- We discussed what feedback to provide to Councilmember Cloven as the city's representative to TRANSPAC related to the designation of Marsh Creek and Clayton Road as Routs of Regional Significance.  The benefit of such a designation would be notification and communication regarding projects in other areas of the county that could impact traffic or related issues in Clayton.  Cloven and Wolfe used the familiar refrain that they wanted to have a seat at the table rather than be on the menu.

Upon questioning however, it was clear from the permissive and conditional language used by representatives from CCTA and TRANSPAC, that any such discussion that may be had as a result of the Route of Regional Significance was simply that - discussion.  Nothing required other agencies or jurisdictions to take action based on the desire of the City of Clayton.  In fact, since all of these bodies and jurisdictions are subject to the Brown Act and aren't conducting their business in secret, the benefit of being part of the discussion can be had with or without accepting this designation.

I questioned whether any funding is jeopardized by not accepting the designation and there was no potential loss of funds or access to funds described.  Even if future funding was conditioned upon such a designation, the City could take up the discussion anew when more information was available.

My concern was that such a designation and the publicization of such a designation could lead to increased traffic through Clayton to and from East County.  Even things like publicizing a hiking trail on a website lead to areas within Clayton being inundated with traffic and congestion beyond what was reasonable. In addition, while the proposed designation doesn't require any specific action right now, we've seen how certain designations can be incorporated into other laws like "opportunity areas" that were defined and then incorporated into housing laws taking away local control.  This was also included in the staff report:

Because there was no tangible benefit, and only potential negative outcomes, I conveyed my opposition to designating Clayton Rd. and Marsh Creek Rd a Route of Regional Significance.  There was clear disagreement with the regular majority on the Council and Cloven as the representative to TRANSPAC is able to speak on behalf of the City as he sees fit.

- We were set to discuss a letter of support for the CEMEX Quarry Reclamation Plan Amendment, however a representative from CEMEX was unable to attend and asked that the matter be tabled so this items was closed without any action taken.

In addition to the above items, I requested future discussion regarding two items:

- I received a message from a concerned citizen regarding a family member that resides in Diamond Terrace.  The allegation was that the facility was adjusting fees in a way that may be contrary to the requirement for low income housing that the city monitors.  I requested a future agenda item to discuss what information was available and what potential action the City could take on behalf of the residents.

- I requested a future discussion item about the quality of recent pavement work, how the work scoped, performed, and accepted given the concerns of many residents.

ETA: I removed mention of Tillman in making the comment about "having a seat at the table".  While the majority clearly felt differently than I, it was only the two that made that specific comment.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Transparency and Social Media

There's something that I've been telling people consistently over the last four years and will continue to do so - residents should not have to be super dialed in to the minutiae of government to know what is happening in their city.  

Unfortunately, the city has made this more difficult in the last few years.  There was a change in how minutes were taken, going from a description of what was discussed to "Action Style" where only the result of votes are published.  This means that even reading the minutes of each meeting isn't sufficient to understand why a particular decision was made.  And while meetings are available to everyone, coming to meetings all the time, or sitting through hours of video is not a reasonable expectation of people's time.  

With technology today, the City and its leaders have the ability to communicate and interact widely with residents in a way residents are most comfortable.  We are a small city and there is no reason that people shouldn't be able to ask direct questions and get direct answers from those they elect.  Commonly requested information should be available at the City's website - things like a schedule of upcoming maintenance or the latest report on our street conditions (now on the website after I asked). 

When evaluating candidates, it's one thing to say they are transparent, but it's another thing to actually be transparent.  Take social media for example.  Do they share substantive policy positions?  Do they answer questions? I've heard folks including other Councilmembers bemoan social media and platforms such as Facebook and NextDoor as things they avoid participating in.  Of course there will always be those who act as troublemakers or are bad actors, but that should not be a reason to eschew the communication medium entirely.  In our small town, most people are able to filter out the the bad actors and get to the substance of what is being shared.

Really being transparent means being available, answering questions, and accepting criticism.  That should be both the expectation and the norm.


Sunday, September 18, 2022

Upcoming Council Meeting 9.20.22

Since we cancelled our last meeting, it's been a while since my last meeting update.  I'll continue to do so throughout the campaign, along with other campaign updates.  Please stay tuned.

There are a few significant items we will discuss at our next meeting:

- As part of the consent calendar, we will be discussing extending our current contract with Republic Services for waste management so that negotiations for a new contract can take place.  The current contract has been in place since Aug-2011, and is set to expire at the end of 2022.  With over a ten year term, it's unfortunate we haven't been able to start negotiations so it could be in place more timely, but hopefully a six month extension will be sufficient to ensure we negotiate in the best interests of our residents.

- We will be having a first reading of an ordinance establishing a new Community Facilities District (like an HOA) for the new development, Diablo Meadows, at the southern end of Mitchell Canyon Rd.

- We will be discussing placement of plaques in memory of Braden Fahey at the Grove Park and the Clayton Community Park.

- We will discuss the preliminary design concept for the Complete Streets Feasibility Study on Pine Hollow Rd. as a joint project with the City of Concord.

- We will discuss feedback to provide Clayton's TRANSPAC representative regarding designation of Marsh Creek Rd and Clayton Rd as Routes of Regional Significance.  One impact of this designation would be increased regional pressure to provide improved connectivity and reduced travel times along these streets, likely increasing traffic volumes that use Clayton as a pass through from East County.

- We will discuss the request from CEMEX to provide a letter of support for their Quarry Reclamation Plan Amendment that is before Contra Costa County.

If you have any thoughts or questions on the above, please let me know.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Transparency and City Services

Transparency is an oft touted ideal but when it comes to the city and its activities, we often fall short.  

One of the questions I get most often from residents is around maintenance - when is a particular area going to be addressed, etc.  For several years now I've been asking for a schedule of activities from our Maintenance Department regarding their regular activities, and Engineering department related to the Oakhurst Geological Hazard Abatement District. What areas of landscaping will be worked on, and when?  When will the weeds be addressed?  And so on.  How are we managing our resources if we don't even have a schedule of activities?

Such a schedule would increase actual transparency and let people know what is supposed to happen and when. By preparing such a schedule, it allows for better resource management and helps city leaders and residents hold people accountable. Without such a schedule, no one really knows what is supposed to be happening, or when.  This makes it more difficult to set expectations and foments community dissatisfaction.  

Working with our departments to create such a schedule would be a valuable first step in demonstrating that the city is doing what it is supposed to be doing, or holding them accountable when they are not.  That is actual transparency and would be an early goal of mine in the upcoming term.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Let's Have a Chat - Meet and Greet 9/10/22

In order to get the word out about my candidacy, and give all residents a chance to get to know me, I am hosting a casual meet and greet so all the residents of Clayton can ask questions and talk about anything that's on your mind.  I will be at Skipolini's on the deck from 11-1pm this Saturday 9/10/22.  Please let your friends and neighbors know, and stop by to say hello.


Tuesday, September 6, 2022

First Term Accomplishments - and Looking Ahead

After serving four years there are a number of accomplishments that I'm proud of, and some things that I wish went differently.

Transparency in communication - For government to work for the people, it's critically important that those people be informed.  But ultimately people shouldn't have to be dialed in to the day to day activities of the city - that's why we elect representatives.  But if people want to know what's going on, they should be able to find out easily.   That's why I write updates before and after every Council meeting.  If there is an item of interest, then it gives people a heads up how they can participate.  From the mundane to the impactful, the city always has activity going on and we should make it easy to find out about it.  Unfortunately the meeting minutes that are kept are what's called "Action Style Minutes" - only capturing the decisions made, but none of the discussions or rationale for why a decision was made.  With meetings being hours long, it's unreasonable to expect people to watch videos just to find out why a decision was made.  Elected officials have a responsibility to share their reasoning and I will continue to make it as easy as possible for people to do so.

Fiscal Discipline and the Budget/Audit Committee - I've served on the Budget/Audit Committee each of the four years I've been in office.  During that time, I recommended that we save surpluses to help stabilize pension expenses, identified and corrected numerous items with our external audit reports, facilitated the funding of an additional school crossing guard, and was first to identify the structural financial challenges that the city is now facing.  When we revisited our expenditure policy, I pushed back to make it more fiscally conservative.  Even though I was in the minority, I consistently argued against utilizing consultants for routine activities and was opposed to spending 10s of thousands of dollars and staff time on conducting a survey where the results were entirely predictable.

Addressing quality of life issues outside of Regency Gate - After the trailhead was popularized by social media and even events hosted by hiking groups, the quiet neighborhood became anything but.  Previous concerns from residents in the area around Regency Gate regarding a complete lack of street parking did not gain traction at the city. From driveways being blocked, to trash littering the street, and excessive speeds and aggressive drivers looking for parking, this was something that great impacted the quality of life for the residents in this neighborhood.  After talking extensively with the residents, and meeting with folks that wanted to preserve park access, I proposed a balanced solution that addressed the issue while preserving the ability for members of the public to access the trails.  Even though there was some hesitation, eventually the majority of the Council was persuaded and we were able to implement a permit parking system.  The result has been successful - residents say the impact was like night and day.

Additional crossing guard and interactive signal crossing signs - I have young children and I am acutely aware of how important traffic safety is, especially around our schools.  So when the president of the Mt. Diablo Elementary PFC reached out to me to ask if the city could help provide an additional crossing guard outside the school, I was glad to take action.  Initially this took the form of the city acting on behalf of the PFC, accepting a donation and then working with existing service providers.  This type of cooperation was great, but I thought it the city's responsibility to do what it could to ensure the safety of its youngest residents.  As part of the Budget and Audit subcommittee, I made sure this item was included in future budgets.  Providing a crossing guard, and improving traffic and pedestrian safety especially around our schools is a way that the city can make sure that its spending reflects its priorities.

Updating the sign ordinances around town - Prior to being elected I was surprised to learn how restrictive the sign ordinances were in town.  After reviewing the laws that were passed by previous Councils, it became clear that ours was overly restrictive, so much so that they wouldn't be defensible as they likely violated the 1st amendment.  I argued for change and ultimately the city updated its ordinances.  There are almost no speech restrictions that I will support so ultimately I voted against the restrictions that the city ended up with.  At least through having the discussion we were able to change our ordinances to be consistent with 1st amendment caselaw.

Backyard hens - One comment that was pretty common in talking with people were chickens.  Many people in town keep hens, but officially city ordinances prohibited it.  This was particularly poignant in talking with an elementary school teacher who would incubate a chicks as part of a class project, but at the end had to surrender the hens because they weren't allowed to be kept it in the city.  In doing research about the benefits and impacts, I found that not including Clayton, all but one city in the County allowed the keeping of hens.  I worked with city staff on this research and was able to persuade my fellow councilmembers to change the law.  Now people in Clayton can legally keep backyard hens.

ARPA and the Clayton Cares program - When the city first learned that it would receive federal assistance related to COVID relief, the scope was fairly narrow on what was allowable.  The money was primarily to be used between 5 categories, public health response, economic impacts, premium pay, revenue loss, and infrastructure.  While the Council all initially wished to support our local businesses, I made sure that our ARPA program included direct assistance to households as well.  With experience administering larger programs, I made sure that we did not overreach and that what we created would be directly beneficial for clayton residents and businesses, without imposing a heavy burden on them or our city staff.  

When we revisited the subject, we continued the focus on local businesses and households, while at the same time looking at recognizing our police for the work they did and continued to do throughout the pandemic.  While the original amount suggested was in the neighborhood of $2K/officer, I suggested an overall more structured approach and that we target a certain percent of available funds toward premium pay for all employees and then determine what the amount would be.  This mean that our oft underpaid staff was able to receive each $10K/employee - something more meaningful while still being responsible with our ARPA funds.  Later the guidelines for ARPA changed and the character of the funds became the same as our general reserves.

Areas of Opportunity - There are some areas when I haven't been successful, though I continue to advocate to make things better.  The city is responsible for a number of things big and small.  I've been asking for a schedule of activities for several years from our Engineering department related to the Oakhurst Geological Hazard Abatement District, as well as from our Maintenance department related to their regular activities.  Such a schedule would increase transparency, and let people know what is supposed to happen and when.  By preparing such a schedule, it allows for better resource management and helps city leaders and residents hold people accountable.  This would be a valuable first step in making sure the city is doing what it is supposed to be doing.


Friday, September 2, 2022

Fiscal Discipline and the Public Trust

This is going to be quite long, but recently a resident posed a couple questions that I thought would be good to address.  I'm paraphrasing, but the questions went something like this:
  1. Why didn't I suggest any cuts to the budget during the first 3 years of my term?
  2. Wasn't the idea of a parcel tax mine in the first place? 
  3. If so, why the change of opinion from supporting it to being against it?
A bit of history first.  Like many local governments, Clayton operates on a fiscal year that ends June 30.  I began my term in December of 2018 and have served on the Budget/Audit Committee each of the four years I’ve been in office.  For the year ended 6.30.2018, there was a surplus of approximately $181K of which $100K was set aside in a pension rate stabilization fund at my recommendation, a small amount was used for safety equipment, and the remainder placed in the general fund.  We seemed to be in good shape as we also had historical surpluses.  For the year ended 6.30.2019 there was a surplus of approximately $80K.  For the year ended 6.30.2020, there was a surplus of approximately $400K, however $113K of that was due to unrealized gains on investments so a more realistic surplus was $290K.  For the year ended 6.30.2021, the budget called for a surplus of less than $1K, however at the mid year we estimated an actual surplus of approximately $43K due to increased sales tax revenues, however the actual year end surplus was approximately $140K.

During this same time period, we had quite a bit of turnover in the role of City Manager and Finance Director.  One of the questions that was asked of all candidates for the City Manager role was their ability to produce a 5 or 10 year financial projection – this is something the city had never had before and given the volatility in our financials and overall uncertainty, we thought it prudent to incorporate a 5 year forecast as part of our financial processes.  Because of the turnover though, the first iteration of the 5 year forecast was not provided to the Council until June 2021.  That’s a lot of info to address the first question, but it was asked why I didn’t propose cuts prior, it is because in prior years we had surpluses, and only in June 2021 did we actually have a forecast to operate from.  Nothing nefarious – just taking the best course of action with the information available at the time.

After reviewing the forecast, I knew that this was something that needed to be addressed as what the forecast showed was unsustainable.  I pulled together some preliminary information from our budgets, some wage data, and our forecasts and wrote a post describing the situation.  My hope was this would start a conversation – I was engaged in a thread on Nextdoor discussing it, and began speaking with residents about what challenges we faced.

The post I wrote was titled, “Question: Raise Taxes, Reduce Services, or Both”.  To the extent that the claim is a parcel tax was my idea, then reducing services or both were also my idea.  But this would not be accurate in the context of the post that I made.  Instead, it was intended to start a discussion – among the Council, among staff, and among residents.  It was a question presented to be discussed.  Part of evaluating the best course of action is to talk through all viable options.   All city staff and the Council had this information, but no one else was willing to start the discussion.  I knew even raising the idea of a tax could illicit quite a negative reaction, but I’m not a politician (well, technically I am but I don’t think of it that way).  I want what’s best for our city and if there is a problem like there currently is with our financial position, the first thing we need to do is talk about it, understand the scope of the problem, and try to find potential solutions.

I did not control the agenda though, only the Mayor does that, and it wasn’t until late September 2021 that we actually discussed this issue again, and even then it was only to say that we were interested in having that discussion, and that we needed to outline overall timing if any solution were to include increased taxes.  I had requested that staff prepare a timeline should the Council wish to pursue a tax measure – I knew this process took quite a bit of time and if that was an option that was on the table, we should at least understand the requirements.  This was part of gathering accurate information to help inform any potential decision.

The next time we would talk about this would be in February 2022.  So rather than use the nearly 8 months of time since I raised the issue to discuss potential solutions and engage in outreach with our residents - the city took no meaningful action to address the financial challenges it faced.  During that same time, the city began spending.  Spending on consultants, spending on discretionary items, and spending on things that didn’t align with what I thought our priorities should be. 

In addition, when our financial position was getting discussed more widely, the information that was publicized was misleading.  Instead of a minimum level of funding increases needed for critical items ($110K and $180K in 2023 and 2024, respectively), what was published in the Pioneer (Feb 20, 2022 issue) reflected additional wishlist items that ballooned the alleged deficit to $670K and $810K in 2023 and 2024.  Presenting information in this manner was troubling.  Every dollar spent by the city is from the taxpayer and we should be extremely circumspect in how those resources are used.  Inflating what the actual need was in order to bolster the idea that increasing taxes was the only way to solve the financial challenges was misleading.

If we had taken the time from when I raised the issue to now to have serious discussion about cost savings, efficiencies, and other ways to reduce our overall expenditures, by the time we got to this point, one of two things would have happened – either we would have found a sufficient amount of savings so as to balance our budget, or we would be able to demonstrate that we had done everything possible to do so and there was no alternative other than to raise revenue.  Either way we would have been able to make the argument that we had done our due diligence.

I made this point clearly as I voted against discretionary spending again and again– it makes the argument in favor of raising revenue much weaker and difficult to support if the city can’t demonstrate it’s doing everything in its power to reduce expenses.  What this showed me is that leadership does not demonstrate a sufficient level of fiscal discipline necessary to gain the public trust.  I will not go to the taxpayer and ask them to tighten their belts unless and until the city has demonstrated that it has done the same, first.  I introduced the idea of a potential tax measure to start discussion about ways to address our fiscal challenges.  After extensive discussion and observation of the actions of the city, I am convinced that raising taxes is not an appropriate course of action.