Thursday, May 25, 2023

Memorial Day at the Grove

At 10am this Monday, May 29 in the Grove Park, the VFW Post 1525 and its Auxiliary and Blue Star Moms will be holding a Memorial Day ceremony.

Unfortunately I will not be able to attend but want to thank the VFW for hosting this event.  Vice Mayor Diaz will be in attendance representing Clayton.  It is vital that we honor and remember those who sacrificed for our country and our freedom.

Monday, May 22, 2023

On City Events and Car Shows

At our last meeting there was a concern raised by Councilmember Cloven regarding the Classic Car Show series that the City has been sponsoring for many years.  Apparently there was confusion as to whether or not it was a City sponsored event, and if not, why did the Car Show not pay the same fees for use of City property as other privately sponsored events. 

Given the City is the one entering into contracts with vendors (2019 electronic draft, executed copy on file with the City), the City is the one soliciting donations and collecting receipts, it is clear that the Car Shows are City sponsored events.  In fact, here are the minutes from 2015 that show the discussion around the City taking on the event.  In addition, as it is a City sponsored event, the City is the one paying invoices.  All of this should have been known to Cloven, as he was the one who signed their checks last year.

The City does not charge itself for use of its own facilities.  The attempt to draw some kind of equivalency between a City sponsored event and a privately sponsored event is baseless.  It's unfortunate that rather than look for ideas on ways the City could balance its budget, time is spent on frivolous political theater.

While Cloven should have known all of this, I could see how members of the public may have misunderstood who was putting on the Classic Car Shows.  This is because historically in an effort to document the activities that would transpire, permits were pulled for certain City sponsored events. There is no requirement to pull permits or pay city fees for City sponsored events, but because it is important that the scope of each event is clear, the existing permitting process was used as a convenience.  Later this year the City will adopt a comprehensive City Events Policy to add clarity to the overall process. 

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Thoughts on BBQ and Brews Cancellation

Recently the CBCA announced that they have cancelled their BBQ and Brews Festival for 2023. They stated in their announcement: 

"The driving factor behind the cancellation is the uncertainty of potential city fee increases, in conjunction with higher overall costs and expenses.

The CBCA has put Clayton on the map in the BBQ world and we have decided to focus our efforts and resources on 2024 to make more educated decisions regarding the venue and possible changes necessary to ensure a successful event."

This has been construed to mean that the cancellation is a result of the City is re-examining its fee structure.  While it is true that the City is in process of updating its master fee schedule, this cannot be the reason for the cancellation.  Once the event is booked, the fees for permits, closing streets, using parks, and using city services are locked in and currently that would utilize the existing fee schedule.  The current master fee schedule is on the front page of the City's website - there is zero uncertainty regarding what those fees are.  There may be several reasons why the CBCA decided to cancel their event, but citing the uncertainty of fees is unfounded.

Any organization can make an evaluation regarding whether or not an event will be worthwhile.  It is not the City that makes this determination nor is the City preventing any event from taking place using City resources.  As I described in my update on ongoing discussions with the CBCA earlier this year, after the updated Master Fee schedule is approved by the Council, we will continue discussions in order to pursue a new Master Use Agreement.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

My 5.16.23 Meeting Summary

Last night there were two significant items discussed:

- We received the annual reports for FY21 and FY22 from the Trails and Landscape Committee.  The reports had been delayed due to the Committee changing over during COVID and other staffing constraints.  The two annual reports reflected expenditures less than budget due to previous drought conditions and limited staffing during COVID.  While there remains a fund balance, much of that was projected to be used towards repair of the Cardinet Trail.  We will be discussing budget allocation for this work during the larger budget discussions throughout May and June.

- We discussed the status of the GHAD, its funding, and prioritization of work.  This is the culmination of many years of requests to determine the scope of work the GHAD should be performing, and what it should actually be doing given the resource constraints.  I wrote in greater detail about the first round of this discussion here:  

In summary, the GHAD receives approximately $50K in funding each year from assessments levied against the approximately 1400 properties in the district.  Required baseline expenses for administering the District including the cost of the levy itself are approximately $28K.  This leaves only $22K per year for all things that GHAD is responsible for.  Our GHAD General Manager indicated that it would take approximately $500K in revenues each year to adequately fund the GHAD for its activities and build a reasonable reserve.   The GHAD severely underfunded and as a result can only perform activities it can fund.

Unless the residents of the GHAD agree to an increase in assessments, this will continue to be the case and the GHAD will need to prioritize what it does, though with the current level of funding it will likely be minimal.  We asked the General Manager to come back with a few different budget proposals that contemplate prioritizing different activities and what that would entail.  That should come back later in June when we finalize the overall budget.

- There was also a meeting of the Budget and Audit Committee to go over the newly proposed master fee schedule.  The agenda with that information can be found here:  Next Monday (5/22) the Budget and Audit Committee will meet again to review the entire FY24 budget that should incorporate that information, as well as several other suggested changes from our last working session.  The lead up to this has been long, from working through investment policy, incorporating potential savings from Climatec, additional information from our solid was collection agreement, reviewing periodic pension cost fluctuation, as well as the previously mentioned Master Fee Schedule.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Upcoming Meeting 5.16.23

There are two significant items we will be discussing at our next meeting on 5.16.23:

- We will receive and discuss the FY 21 and FY22 annual report from the Trails and Landscape Committee.  This is the citizen oversight committee as provided by the parcel tax approved by voters in 2017.  Due to COVID related issues, the Committee faced challenges in meeting during some years so we are receiving multiple years of reports to catch us up.

- There will be a follow up meeting of the Oakhurst Geological Hazard Abatement District (GHAD) regarding the scope of services, cost for those services, and prioritization of activities given the limited funds of the GHAD.

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

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

My 5.2.23 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council met and discussed a few significant topics:

- Both Councilmember Cloven and Tillman asked that Council guidelines be brought back for discussion specifically around how items are placed on the agenda, and how the Mayor is selected.  In response to this request, I drafted updates to the existing Council guidelines which were discussed during the meeting.  Other than non-substantive changes for formatting and wordsmithing, several redundant items and items that may present Brown Act challenges were removed.

Councilmember Cloven expressed a desire to require that prior to anything being added to the agenda it must be raised at a public meeting in order to inform the public on what is coming in the future.  While this idea may seem reasonable in concept, this adds additional bureaucracy and constrains efficient operation of the City.  The City complies with the requirement to have agendas publicly posted at least 72 hours prior to any meeting.  In addition, I post an update on this website, as well as other social media forums, previews of what will be discussed before each meeting so the public may be informed.  

It has always been the case that agenda items can be added at the discretion of the City Manager and the Mayor.  All past Mayors have been able to utilize this ability to facilitate the smooth operations of the city, including Councilmember Cloven.  For example, at my request for this meeting, we discussed the status of prior requests for future items (Agenda item 8. (b)).  This was thematically consistent with the guidelines discussion, and since some of the requests for future meetings had to do with guidelines, it made sense to revisit those at this meeting.  Through discussion with the City manager in the planning for this meeting, we realized that having this placed alongside the other items being discussed made sense so we did so.  I did not announce that we would be doing this at a prior meeting and there was no issue raised regarding it.  If we followed Cloven's desired rule, we would not have been allowed to do so and that is less efficient.

Councilmember Cloven also wanted the guidelines to be changed such that a Councilmember who is absent during a regularly scheduled meeting would have the power to table an item scheduled for discussion.  This approach is unrealistic and unworkable.  The development of an agenda item is a process that could involve several members of City staff  and may take a significant amount of time to prepare for.  Having a single Councilmember able to table an item because they are absent is contrary to the Rules of Order that we follow, and would allow items to be pushed from discussion all together.  Requests to table items can always be made and can be accommodated if appropriate, which is the status quo. 

Councilmember Cloven expressed an interest in restricting the possession of personal devices during meetings and suggested the City could provide laptops or other electronic devices in their stead.  We already have in our guidelines restrictions on use or receipt of digital communication regarding an agenda item during meetings.  The ability to refer to informational resources, personal notes, as well as being reachable by family regarding other real life events is far more important than the nannyism reflected in this request.  It is incumbent upon each Councilmember to comport themselves in a way that is consistent with what they believe is right.

Councilmember Tillman had previously asked that a discussion of how the Mayor is selected be had.  We went over the current practice and all were comfortable with what was in place already.

Ultimately the only substantive change that was made to Council guidelines was regarding future agenda requests.  In the updated guidelines, I made clear that staff does not prepare a detailed report until directed by the City Manager or the Council as a whole.  In the past, there may have been confusion regarding what actions are taken as a result of Council requests so this addition clarifies what should already be done in practice.  I also included in the guideline the requirement that a brief written summary of a request be provided to reduce the burden on staff preparing the agenda reports.

The guidelines were updated on a vote of 3-2 with Councilmembers Cloven and Tillman voting no.

- We then discussed the outstanding Council request items and pulled various items that had already been discussed, been mooted, or were not deemed a priority from the original requestor.

- We then talked about the need to do an overall evaluation of existing contracts the City has with various groups and directed this review be performed in conjunction with the work being done by the Budget/Audit Committee.

- There was a closed session discussing our Miscellaneous employees with no reportable action.

This was our last meeting with Ron Bernal as our Interim City Manager and I want to thank him for his willingness to step up and help the city while we have been searching for a full time replacement.  His knowledge and experience have made the transition much smoother than it could have been, and he has added a great deal of value to the city in the time that he has been here.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Upcoming Meeting 5.2.23

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

- An update to the City's Investment Policy is included in the consent calendar.  This draft aligns the policy to focus on more periodic report outs, shorter duration investments, and clarifies the types of investments allowed focusing on risk mitigation.

- We will be discussing Council guidelines and procedures.  Previously both Councilmember Tillman and Cloven requested this item come back for discussion, regarding the mayoral selection, and how items are agendized, respectively.

- We will discuss the status of all prior requests that have been made by Councilmembers to determine if they are still applicable, need to be modified, and discuss overall priority

- We will discuss Councilmember Tillman's previous request to review existing vendor agreements.

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

I also wanted to draw attention to a post I made last week regarding the status of the Oakhurst Geological Hazard Abatement District (GHAD) (  In it, I detail some of the current issues facing the GHAD with some historical perspective on what has already occurred.  We will likely be discussing this further at our 5.16.23 meeting.