Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Upcoming Special Council Meeting 5.31.22

There is a special meeting tonight starting at 6pm with a few significant topics:

 - First reading of an ordinance updating rules around solid waste collection.  Laws recently went into effect requiring some businesses and certain multi family properties to recycle all or a portion of their organic waste and the city to implement an organic waste recycling program.  The city's program will be administered in conjunction with our franchise agreement with Republic Services.

 - We will be receiving an update from MIG, the consultant that was hired to identify community preferences for use of the city owned downtown lot.  

 - We will be receiving public comment regarding the latest draft housing element.  This is a requirement prior to the city submitting the updated housing element to the state.

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

5.17.22 Meeting Summary

Last night the only item discussed was the summer schedule and whether to cancel and meetings due to lack of quorum.  As in previous years, the Council decided to cancel the meetings immediately following the 4th of July and Labor Day (July 5 and September 6).

Monday, May 16, 2022

Upcoming Meeting 5.17.22

There is only one item being discussed at the next meeting and that is the schedule of meetings during the summer.  Typically we look at people's availability and cancel meetings during the summer if there aren't pressing matters and folks may be absent.

There are a few other items for future meetings that are not our regular 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month that I'd like to call attention to:

5/23 - Budget/Audit Committee meeting to go over first pass of next year's budget and review current year actuals.  The subcommittee meeting will not be streamed but people are welcome to attend.  It will be at 3pm.

5/31 - Special meeting to review the first draft of the updated housing element.  This meeting will be at 6pm.

There may also be a future meeting on 6/23 to discuss feedback received from the 5/21 meeting, but this one is not yet confirmed.  There may also be a meeting 6/16 but that will be as needed so not yet confirmed.

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

5.3.22 Meeting Summary - Time and Money Squandered

Last night we received the results of the survey conducted for the purpose of determining potential support for a tax measure on the November ballot.  The results of the survey were absolutely predictable - people in Clayton are overwhelmingly satisfied with the quality of life here, and simultaneously are not generally aware of the financial challenges the city currently faces, and if they learned about them they would be concerned about the impact.

The recommendations from the consultant that the city paid were also unsurprising: To not place a tax measure on the ballot right now, conduct public outreach to inform people of the current financial challenges the city faces, and target a tax increase for the November 2024 ballot.

Accordingly, the city will not be pursuing a tax measure during the November 2022 election.  And while I think this is the right outcome given the present circumstances, it's important to understand how we got here - squandering both time and money.

In July 2021, I wrote in detail regarding the financial position that the city was in.  I did this in hopes that we would spur conversation and discussion at the city.  Only through discussion could we hope to find solutions that would be sustainable, that we would be able to tap in to the approximate 80% of people that would be concerned should they actually learn about the financial challenges the city faces.  

But 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.  The next time we would talk about this would be in February 2022.  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 most obvious thing the survey is actually recommending - the city took no meaningful action to address the financial challenges it faces.  

And when the issue was discussed more widely, the figures being used were inflated to make the situation appear more dire than they actually are.  The bulk of the deficits projected were for discretionary items.  It is certain there are challenges, just not necessarily to the degree as portrayed like was done in the recent Pioneer.  Do we need to find a way to fund our streetlights?  Yes.  Do we need to bring on additional employees and the associated cost of their pensions?  Maybe not.

It wasn't only outreach that was missing in the run up to the survey being conducted.  Consider that during our goal setting session in Mar-22, the first thing discussed was the goal of a potential tax.  Shouldn't the goal be to address the structural budget shortfalls rather than jump straight to a tax?  Myopically focusing on a tax neglects the potential to reduce spending, or to increase revenue via other sources.  We should be addressing the city's excessive use of consultants, the utilization of reserves for discretionary items,  potential reductions in expense and additional sources of revenue other than a parcel tax.  Unfortunately none of these things were done and we've squandered time that we could have been doing outreach, and squandered money for consultants to conduct a survey that gave us predictable results.

All of those things that should have been done already will have to be done now given the budget for the next fiscal year must be finalized shortly.  There has been some talk about using reserves to cover shortfalls.  Like raising taxes, spending down our savings to cover our day to day operations should be a last resort and I would hope that approach would not be suggested as the first option.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Upcoming Council Meeting 5.3.22

There are a couple significant items on the agenda for our next meeting 5.3.22:

- We will receive an annual Contra Costa County Fire Protection District update from Assistant Chief Carey

- We will hear a presentation from the consultants that were recently engaged to survey Clayton voters regarding potential support of a tax measure on the November 2022 ballot and provide direction to staff on next steps.

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