Ventura City Council Meeting
April 4, 2011
Ventura City Hall - 501 Poli Street
The General Fund Fiscal Year 2011-2012 Budget Revenue Workshop. Jay Panzika reported on a workshop on revenue options for next year's budget. A month ago [ March 7, 2011 ] a budget workshop was brought to the council with the request to bring forward additional items to close the budget revenue gap. At that meeting it was revealed that the current budget shortfall is still considered significant at $420,000.
Some of what is now being considered ~ New Taxes or Fees Requiring Voter Approval, showing: (1) Increase rates of lighting district – (1.1) To fund current $420,000 shortfall – (2) Create a Real Property Transfer tax (3) Increase sales tax. Additionally ~ New Fees, showing: (1) Annual Alarm Registration fee – (2) Admissions Tax – (3) Crash Tax – (4) Mortgage Foreclosure tax. Other Potential ~ Business, showing: (1) Greater Yield from Existing Resources – (1.1) Fund an effort to enforce business license compliance – (1.2) Audit TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) compliance – (1.3) Step up enforcement of existing licensing laws.
To View a listing of the agenda items for this council meeting, go to www.cityofventura.net/meeting/city-council-meeting-41.
Mayor Fulton brought the meeting to order with a call of the roll. Deputy Mayor Tracy was asked to lead the council and guests in the Pledge of Allegiance.
It was announced that the regular Council meeting scheduled for April 18 will be held on Tuesday, April 19 instead, due to the fact that April 18 is the first day of Passover.
Special Presentations and Announcements – First Monday. The monthly Volunteer Ventura award is given to the community motivator who makes an extraordinary contribution to the community as an individual. Countless hours were spent at the Elks Lodge No. 1430 by June Geiger, Community Motivator for April, 2011. Ms. Geiger’s volunteering efforts at the Elk's club are carried out with tireless energy in order to help those in need. As a young adult she found ways to be of service, including helping others as and nurses aide. The mayor handed June the plaque designating her as the Community Motivator of the Month.
City Council Communications – Council Member Monahan noted that well-known furniture store owner Bud Thomas passed away as did well-known union organizer Paul Massey, whose funeral was this past Saturday. It was requested that the meeting be closed in memory of Mr. Thomas and Mr. Massey.
Council Member Morehouse spoke on the Ventura Boys and Girls Club Power-One Breakfast event last Thursday, which was emceed by Sheriff Jeff Dean. Also in attendance was County Supervisor Steve Bennett. A recap of their past year’s activities was an interesting portion of the breakfast meeting. Contributions to the Ventura Boys and Girls Club was encouraged by the councilman.
Council Member Weir mentioned that the Ventura Boys and Girls Club has a new thrift store on the Avenue. A success on Saturday at the community garden was mentioned where the public helped to prepare the garden for spring planting. It is possible to look on the city website for an entry called the Cornucopia Community Garden which will warmly welcome new members.
The mayor mentioned that last Saturday marked the opening of the State of California Women's Bowling Championship, hosted this year by Ventura County, where 2400 women bowlers will appear at Buena Lanes and Brunswick Lanes in Simi Valley at various times throughout the tournament which will run until the end of May.
Council Member Andrews spoke asking to mark the date for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) walk, on April 30, held one Saturday per year, at the Promenade on the beach. Beginning at 10:00 a.m., the event helps to raise funds for the alliance. You can join a team or walk as an individual.
Council Member Monahan brought up the fact that from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 22, the 18th Annual Boys and Girls Club Garden Party event will be held at the Sheraton Hotel in Ventura.
The mayor said that the Chamber’s Young Professionals group is participating in the Taste of Ventura, this Friday evening at the Ventura County Fairgrounds beginning at 6:00 p.m., and that anyone not a member of the Young Professionals can sign up with a membership fee of “several hundred,” becoming eligible to purchase a $20 ticket to the event.
Regional Boards, Commissions and Committees – Council Member Andrews reported on the recently completed Regional Events Partnership of the 21st Century in Washington DC. The effort was to obtain more business to the Naval Base Ventura County through the annual Capitol Hill pilgrimage. The new Congress has insisted that there will be no earmarks in the new budget and funds for local events will be difficult to obtain. There were 13 meetings along with participation by the staff chief of the Armed Services Committee, the staff chief of the Appropriations Committee and Adm. Archesal representing the Naval Air arm along with the chief of Testing and Evaluation, saying that the base is a very important asset as a national testing center for Naval systems. They also met with the National Forest Service in their attempt to help with the possibility of wildfires in Ventura County. The councilman also said that we have retained the budget that has been originally proposed for the base, believing that items could be brought forward into the current fiscal year.
Council Member Weir, as the city’s Council liaison to the Ventura Music Festival Board, noted that the music Festival fundraising auction this past Saturday was very successful. Proceeds support the annual Music Festival held here in Ventura at the end of April – beginning of May time frame. Previous season’s posters are currently on display in City Hall.
Public Communications – Steve Schleder spoke, saying that the City of Ventura was asked in October to mark the graves of 70 U.S. Veterans who are buried in Cemetery Park. The city did in fact locate and mark these veterans’ graves, with the speaker noting further that the observance of Ching Ming will occur at noon on the 23rd of this month at the cemetery, with a Taoist priest conducting the ceremony. The city has been asked to mark the graves of those former residents of Chinese descent who are buried there, resulting in a request by the city for payment of $400 as a condition of locating the graves. The public is invited, with the speaker saying that it would be appropriate for a city council member to attend, but that with the appearance of discrimination being shown by the city against the Chinese, the extension of that invitation may be revoked. A gruesome photograph taken from an incident during the Iraq War was shown – the hanging remains of an American from a bridge after being mutilated. Mr. Schleder compared this to the disgrace and desecration of American citizens who are still interred beneath the sod in Cemetery Park.
John Jones spoke on the 2011 St. Baldricks fundraiser where $20,000 was raised. Some shaved their heads, noting also that local firefighters came through in a big way. The St. Baltricks foundation at a press release announced the national Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week from April 3 through April 9. The needs of the young patient group are such that one in five children diagnosed with cancer will not survive. He spoke of Julia H., a young cancer patient diagnosed with AML who has recovered sufficiently to return to school and become active in spreading the word over the needs of those who suffer with childhood cancer.
Helen Yunker stated that in 30 years of having her property rights stolen from her, she is within her rights to inform the council of confiscatory measures that are being used by the city on older properties. Penalties are being charged not for dangerous or safe conditions, but for things other than safety, and that there are issues to be solved. City Manager Cole lives in a house that was built in 1929, according to the speaker, who suggested that the city manager's high salary would preclude the possibility of raising concerns over the nonconformance issue as it might apply to his particular residence. The Pierpont community improvement renovation district issues were completed in 1974. At the time, Staff said to the council – [para] “We support and suggest that our enforcement efforts are always low-key so as not to alarm the area by sending out notices to each property owner. A visitation will be conducted on a block by block basis, with notations being made on violations at that time.” The speaker was asked to clarify as to the situation today, and whether or not the grandfathering situation is still being honored. The speaker said that in 1982 another code enforcement program was initiated in the Pierpont area. It included the city spying on people by going into yards and peering into windows. The speaker produced a flyer depicting people looking through the fence to see what was going on in private residences. The speaker said that one must either fight for their rights or lose them.
Camille Harris stated that earlier the collaborative was only given 10 minutes to give of the results of their year’s worth of work – a background on why there were six recommendations made. Compliance was referenced – a remedy for hard times. A legalization program for nonconforming properties was justified through knowledge of the law, even as laws change over our lifetimes.
The Ten Commandments – These laws don’t change! Then there was Learning to Drive a Car – “we all have to learn the rules” – featuring Elvis.
The Saturday Evening Post, showing: The Man of the House, “Mr. Fix-It” following “how-to” instructions on his latest home improvement project. The speaker said that she had been unaware of the requirement for permits at her own home and having not been aware of this since three years ago. There were changes to the codes – over 100 changes to the codes has meant that many Venturans are unaware of conditions that have an impact at the individual citizen level. A legalization plan for nonconforming properties is needed, the speaker said.
Grant Marcus spoke regarding the health care issue which he discussed last month, prompting also the comment that he himself had been caught between health care plans after being diagnosed with cancer. He went from a simple incision to maximum dose chemotherapy. This would not have been necessary if we had health care for all, said the speaker. Unable to obtain care for himself, he was disabled, thinking only of the worst. In his messaging he equated life with liberty and health. He claimed that 44,000 people die annually without health care, it being the seventh leading cause of death and caused mostly by cancer. The WHO has said that we have doubled the infant mortality rate. SB 810, health care for all in California, is up for consideration. It was stated that we should know our obligations as city council members to help provide adequate healthcare to everyone in California. Rather than for an elite group of shareholders, health care should be for all, according to the speaker. It was his concern that further cuts to Medicare and Medicaid will have a disastrous effect on the health of all Californians.
Adam Randall spoke saying that he was one of four partners in a new business called Squashed Grapes. He said that they had the opportunity in 2010 to move to Ventura from Camarillo – that they went through the steps to get the permits including ABC Sellers Permit, and were told that the cost of a new CUP was $7300 and will be assessed to the new business. The speaker questioned this practice noting that a very small business of 1600 ft.² is being asked to pay the same fee as Fresh and Easy, stating further that the size and scope of the businesses are not comparable. He asked if the business specifics could be adjusted so that small business is not shouldering the burden of such large fees. It was noted that the city planners office is not in a position to help, and that a turn to the council would seem to be his only hope. Council Member Monahan asked when throughout the process were they told of the requirement for an ABC license. The ABC said that the business needed to be assessed a new license at the same time the CUP, forcing the partners back to the city planning office. The councilman asked if of alcoholic beverages would be served. The ABC said that if they are pouring wine even for wine tasting they would need the license. It was revealed that the business did not require a CUP in the city of Camarillo.
The mayor stated that the fee charged for CUP is based on the amount of time necessary to process the permit and not the size of the business. Jeff Flake was in the hallway as noted by the Mayor. Council Member Brennan also noted that it was Staff time rather than the size of the business. It was stated again that Camarillo did not require an ABC license because they were not selling the wine from opened containers. The wine tasting was free in order to assist in making a selection. The councilman said that the rules and regulations with the ABC have changed.
CONSENT ITEMS – The Minutes of the Meetings of March 9 and 14th – the Monthly Report – the Award of Contract for 1st Floor City Hall – the Market Street Area Water Line and Sewer Replacement – the Well Water Agreement with Ivy Lawn Memorial Cemetery, and the Changed Council Assignments Designating Deputy Mayor Tracy as liaison to the auto center. It was asked if any items were to be pulled either for motion or discussion – Council Member Morehouse moved that the Consent Agenda be approved. With no further discussion the city clerk called the roll – with Council Member Morehouse abstaining from the vote on the minutes from the special meeting of March 9, with Council Member Andrews abstaining from the vote on the minutes of the 14th, and with Council Member Monahan also abstaining from the vote on the minutes if the 14th. The motion passed.
Most Recent Background, showing: (1) January 2011; Council approved an RFP for consultants services for strategic planning process – (2) February 2011; Consultant interviews with panel of community members – (3) March 2011; Library Advisory Commission approved consultant scope of services
It was during February 2011, according to the speaker, that Santiago Consulting Services was unanimously chosen as the top candidate by a panel of nine community members.
Strategic Plan Timeline, showing: (1) April 2011; Hire consultant, initial analysis and meeting with steering committee – (2) May 2011; Community engagement and draft service plan report presented – (3) June 2011; Town Hall meeting and report out to City Council re: service delivery options analysis
Strategic Plan Timeline (Cont’d) showing: (1) July/August 2011: develop strategic plan pending Council direction. Community outreach and plan review – (2) September 2011; Draft strategic plan submitted. Steering Committee review – (3) October 2011; Final plan submitted for acceptance by City Council
Steering Committee, First meeting Wednesday, April 13, 5:00 p.m. Topping Room EP Foster Library, showing: (1) Broad community representation – (2) Three members of Library Advisory Commission – VUSD, Ventura College, Community councils, VC Library Services, SBFOL, Business community, SEIU, Library patrons
Santiago Library Consulting, showing: (1) Mary Ellen and Raymond Santiago, Principals – (2) based in Miami with over 30 years experience – (3) Highly recommended as experts in the field – (4) Recently completed by Golf Coast Libraries Project, Bill and Melinda Gates foundation – (5) Unanimously selected by interview panel.
Mary Ellen has 30 years of service in the library services business. The speaker said that they are extremely knowledgeable about changes in trends and technologies in the library sector and with relations to library services. They are successful in community outreach efforts.
Funding, showing: (1) Funding is available to support the plan through with only Westside Library Contribution trust account, a fund with one time money that may be used to support library planning in Ventura.
Recommended Action, showing: (1) Authorize the city manager to execute an agreement with Santiago Library Consulting to conduct a library strategic plan in an amount not to exceed $70,000
Ms. Steele stated that the library advisory commission looked at the timeline and said to the council that rather than bringing to the council a recommendation on who will be brought before the council that a strategic plan would be developed prior.
Council Member Brennan spoke thanking Ms. Steele for bringing it to Council’s attention that the plan would be more in line with the MOU. A rush through the process would not be the most advantageous, he said, asking about the strategic plan and whether it should be slowed or used with more community input and less open to a “rush to judgment” mentality.
The mayor interjected saying that the Memorandum Of Understanding between the city and members of the County Library Agency could be dissolved (as early as 10:30 a.m. next morning) and/or via by request from the County Board of Supervisors. The mayor said that we continue to negotiate with the county as this was brought before the council earlier, with the Board of Supervisors being of the mind to dissolve the MOU. Six-month notices were required by the city being submitted to the county agency, the supervisor’s board and the County Assessor for tax purposes prior to January 1. If we want our library property tax money in 2012 to go to somewhere other than to the County Library system, this would mean that with the MOU in place, the city could observe the June 30 deadline. With the MOU dissolved, the city is bound by January 1 and no longer by June 30.
Ms. Steele said that it changes the timeline, with emphasis being on community activities, noting that the time required for assembling focus groups and the other elements of the plan, will require a time that would include October as the finishing date. It was asked to bring forward the scope of work. which calls for a series of community wide meetings during the approval process. Analysis of current delivery services for meeting the June deadline said that they were committed to bringing the report forward to City Council but that more time was needed to vette the items, noting that a better product can be delivered if extended until October.
Council Member Brennan thanked the speaker for that explanation and agreed that a better product could be produced with a timeline adjustment.
City manager Cole agreed with the conditions that have been raised meeting also more information on (1) the fact that Council has been tasked to flesh out the details of our interface with other cities in the county. It was noted that the old system has not worked for some years under the MOU, noting that staff report but doesn't indicate a rush to judgment either but would rather have things unfold in a more organized manner – socks first, then shoes. It's not in the staff report that we have been placed on notice expecting the college to call into question the status of Wright Library. The long-term lease with the college asking to use the building as a library. It has not been made clear that the college would cancel the lease nor does the city contemplate surrendering the lease until clarity has been obtained. When and how we would end the lease must be explained to the public as well as understood by the council.
Council Member Andrews spoke asking the mayor if he was grounding the issue of whether or not the county can abrogate the MOU simply from action taken by the County library Commission. The mayor replied that this was true and that such action has already been taken at the meeting in February. The city attorney has also confirmed the legaliy of such action. When Mr. Andrews asked for the vote outcome, the mayor said that the vote was unanimous with Ventura in absence. Neither was it thought that Ventura's presence would have in any way changed the outcome. The issue is very much thought of as a fait accompli by others regardless of what the City of Ventura believes.
Public communications – Peter Turley stated that his opinion on the Ventura County library situation was helped to be shaped by the Women's Forum at Channel Islands University, saying that as this being the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he would have supported public libraries. Any agreement with Santiago according to the speaker should be scrutinized by the public as to their business model. He stated that Santiago just recently took over the Camarillo Public Library, instituting rules detrimental to library patrons. The mayor interjected, saying that LSSI, a different company, is operating the Camarillo Library system.
Dickey Petita said he was against any privatization of libraries, noting that the funds from the Westside Library Contribution Trust fund will be used and that those $70,000 should be used for the Westside children and their residents. $70,000 should be taken out of the general fund instead of the Westside Trust.
David Atkins, a longtime user of the library, wished to thank the council for the time in a long process. He thanked the commission for bringing recommendations forward. It was his hope that we not put our shoes on before our socks. We should see how this process plays out over six months and then review the results.
Martine Taylor spoke saying that she loves the public library and loves the town. As a frequent library patron she notes that there are children present, and a lot of people with mental health issues along with people who are elderly. She is against privatization, but wished to urge the council to think the problem through. She would support a process of going through the consultant process. There are strong reasons to wait, she said. We can watch what happened to Camarillo. It was her wish to take notes of that which is happening to other cities. If the choice is to privatize we might do it smarter by learning from the experiences of others. She noted there is a change in the way that people obtain information. She noted the e-books and e-readers. The electronic media is more accessible to some than to others.
Grant Marcus spoke saying that he was a patron of the library. He claimed to be a life long member of the community and appreciates the city's effort in improving our lives. He stated that privatization seemed to be the answer to everything, noting also that this is basically untrue. He said that we need to be careful about Santiago who dealt with libraries in Florida during the Katrina era. He thought perhaps the Katrina experience would reveal a lot.
Camille Harris said that the Chinese symbol for crisis and opportunity are identical. In economic hard times it seems like a black and white: stay with the county or go private. How about we run our own library or how about we share resources with the Ventura Unified School District. It was felt that VUSD has funds for a neighborhood library and that this could be considered. Community buy-in is necessary, Camille said.
Council Member Morehouse spoke noting that the public's concerns about privatization is understandable along with the council's concern. It was his reiteration to say that this is a study. Santiago is not the operator of libraries, and that they had been vetted. The councilman noted that NPR is running a piece concerning libraries. Buildings may not be the thing to do, said the councilman. I-Pads and Kindles are available. The council will be looking at different delivery service models in the interim and that additional time would be quite understandable. The councilman moved that the city manager execute the agreement with Santiago the motion was seconded. Council Member Andrews indicated his support.
Council Member Andrews also said that there is urgency for the issue and that kicking the can down the road is not the answer, but that pressing forward with deliberation is necessary. By the time we get to June there will be some reasonable idea of options and what they are from a financial perspective, he said. Speaking to Chairperson Steele, Mr. Andrews agreed that there will be other issues to be studied. Our advisory commission and staff should be focused on securing and restoring the services we have lost. Only then, said the councilman, can we discuss where we would like to be in 10 or 20 years. The way to deal with the losses in the immediate future would mean to help stem those losses first. The county, moving in laterally, has abrogated its responsibilities and will now assume control over policy and budgets. According to the councilman, this is not what he thought our citizens would agree to. He wanted to see the consultation work done and claimed that he would support.
Council Member Weir spoke saying that she's been reading on ancient Egypt. Ancient Alexandria 2300 years ago is where we discovered that libraries were centers of learning and culture. But time and the essence of a library will not change just because we have computers, according to the councilwoman. Her claim was that the historical purpose for libraries is exciting as the center of the community. It was her notation also that identifying funding will be essential. It was her desire to get moving and to “make it happen.” The staff report says that the consultant will report back to the council with models and that this is to happen in June.
The scope of work, according to the mayor, would call for the presentation of models and would not be necessary to be stated separately. The maker of the motion agreed that this is what is being proposed. It was stated that the consultant will report back in June with a report on delivery models. The Board of Supervisors has not met as of this moment according to the speaker and the MOU has not yet been dissolved. It was not thought that the scope needed to be changed as a factor of what the present course of action should be.
In response to the question Chairwoman Steele offered clarification to City Manager Cole, saying, “don't make a decision.” City Manager Cole said that such advice would be different from what Staff is given in what the report says. There are of our rioting of use the rioting of the use according to Mr. Cole. An interim report should be delivered in June. If the council desires information in June in order to make a decision, it was not necessary to ways the entire issue until October. She Cole would rather have entertained the idea that without an artificial deadline driving toward June, why would you need to arrive at the decision before
The mayor said there are a finite number of service models which will be known by June – this with a differing view from Mr. Cole who indicated that there are two views ~ one long term and one short term.
Mr. Cole spoke again saying that there could be seven different opinions. The staff must be driven by the council's decision, and that if there are parts to the motion that are expected to be included, it must be so stated by the council members at the time of the motion.
The mayor said that the motion is to approve with the scope of action as stated with the report of delivery models in June, which we could either do something about or not.
Deputy Mayor Tracy claimed to be in agreement with Mr. Cole by spending $70,000 for a consultation study. The short timeframe, according to the report, states that the short timeframe may not be conducive to an optimal outcome if what happens at the board of supervisors would mean that more information will be available either now or in June. His claim was to move forward now with an artificial deadline would not be wise. He claimed that he would not be able to support the motion as it stands.
The maker of the motion, Mr. Morehouse. asked Denise whether the consultant felt strongly that they could follow the timeline and could come to the council in June with a delivery option. Again the scope of service said that the service plan report be brought to the city council on the June 20 meeting. It was not stated that the consultant should provide a recommendation. The city council’s and the city's options were within the scope of services.
Council Member Morehouse said that the V-C Board of Supervisors is about to “change the game.” He wondered if a “relief valve” should be included in the motion. It was his wish to keep June in play with the knowledge that things could go awry after the supervisors meeting. Mr. Cole thought it would make sense to specifically spell that out. It was again Mr. Cole's view that the council should expressed its views in more specific details such as ~ are you concerned about the number of hours that the library is open ~ are you concerned about the range of access to materials ~ are you concerned with the innovative approaches to programming, because “it's not going to jump out on the page,” until such issues are clarified. It was Mr. Cole's view that it will be premature to decide in June which path to choose, but it will be important to decide where you want to go.
Council Member Morehouse wished to include in the motion the pivotal point of what happens to the supervisors meeting, and should we act in a way that would take some of that pressure off. The delivery by June, which is built into the contract, would be enough to say that we don't need to try and cross a line that has not been reached. There will be citizens groups to help the council decide what the future of library services in Ventura ought to be. He wished to let the motion stand.
The mayor has stated the possibility of choosing a second alternative on page 4 of the report which means not to include and stay with a recommended motion which is onscreen.
Council Member Monahan urged a vote. Council Member Weir with her light on noted that on page 16 reports and presentations says that a draft service plan will be brought back in June. A draft of the service plan delivery options, according to staff, would not be bringing back the draft plan but rather a list of options. With this being clarified Council Member Weir said she will support the alternative. The service delivery model should probably follow the overall plan or vision. She is supporting the alternative plan.
Council Member Brennan noted that a program up and running along with the public getting aboard might mean the feeling of “a rush to judgment.” There could be an amendment to the motion on the floor rather than thumbs up or thumbs down in June.
Council Member Morehouse said that they were quoting him as “socks before shoes,” the councilman withdrew the motion, opening the floor to a new motion maker.
Deputy Mayor Tracy moved that we authorize the city manager to enter into an agreement with Santiago Consulting to come up with a plan not to exceed $70,000 and that the June interim report be eliminated with a service report at the end of the process. A second was obtained. A call of the roll followed – Council Members Andrews and Monahan voted no. The measure passed 5 to 2.
It was announced that Agenda Item No. 9 would be moved above number eight.
Council Member Monahan asked if there were cost figures available for fleshing out what is before the council. City Manager Cole mentioned five things – Section 1 is already city policy under Ventura’s General Plan, Section 2 complies with state law, Section 3 is in compliance with existing wellness policies, Section 4 is congruent with the work plan at the economic development workshop, the section 5 being of no direct cost to the city but some Staff, Council and community time involved. There'll be no dollar costs was the answer to the question.
Council Member Weir said that the HEAL campaign would be partnering with the city by helping with publicity, and could be a moneymaker in obtaining the HEAL designation. Council Member Monahan thought that what people eat in front of their TVs is their own business, and how they should live their lives or what they should eat. The council member thought that we were going too far. Council Member Monahan equivocated somewhat, however, stating that this is only based on what he heard during the conversation.
Council Member Brennan commended the other council members for bringing this forward. It was his desire to know if we were working with the wellness community in this effort. There is a program through First Five along with others that the council person said we need to start concentrating on issues at the front end by emphasizing health because diabetes and other issues are costing us grossly at the back end.
Deputy Mayor Tracy said that the reason for seeking this designation would be to help us seek grant funds for afterschool programs and other programs including meals. Children could be made more healthy by the choices we make and by doing these programs. It wasn't his desire to tell people what to eat – it was the thought that bringing the program to the fore was a good thing.
Public Communications – Robin Godfrey spoke said that it's nice to hear that Ventura is considering the HEAL initiative. We are involved in First Five by helping children to see succeed in school. Children need opportunities for early learning, said the speaker, and they need to be healthy in order to have these opportunities and they need to be supported. Three legs of the stool will help children survive ~ overweight children not being healthy. Low income school groups note that two out of every three children are overweight or obese. Problems that obesity causes affects every organ system in a child's body – depression, hormonal issues, and diabetes. It was her notation that this is changing the face of our society and that this may be the first generation ever that may not outlive their parents. Also a record number of people are now facing dialysis in later life as a remedy. We should build a culture that supports activity and health such as the HEAL initiative, said the speaker.
Jennifer Lopez stated that as a new Community Benefit Manager of Kaiser Permanente, which has partnered with the city on Operation Splash, has helped make it easier for Ventura to be more physically active. Kaiser Permanente supports healthy living programs even as it is made difficult by society. Kaiser Permanente's local community development grants are a part of the process while she noted also that no one wants to dictate what people do in front of their TVs, but that there are many people who wish to see government become more involved.
Council Communications – Council Member Brennan moved that the item be approved as presented. A second was obtained. Council Member Morehouse noted that he was a voting delegate in 2004 for the Let’s Move adoption, and wished to laud those who brought this before the council.
The mayor asked the city clerk to take the roll. All members voted yes with the exception of Council Member Monahan who voted no.
Our Strategy, showing: (1) Working to increase revenue has long been a focus of Staff and Council efforts – (2) Staff pursued a list of more than 20 measures to increase revenues prior to the onset of the recession – Some were successful and some were not
Our Strategy (cont’d), showing: (1) City staff are vigilant and following new and creative ideas and policies pursued by other cities in California and beyond – (2) We closely monitor advice and guidance on these issues from the League of California Cities and other professional organizations – (3) Recently, however…
Our Strategy (cont’d), showing: (1) We have been in a challenging retail market – (2) Chasing more “brick and mortar” retail has not worked – (3) Filling existing vacancies seems like a more prudent priority – (3.1) Wal-Mart – (3.2) North end of Mall – (3.3) New supermarkets – (3.4) Two new Fresh and Easy retail stores
Revenue Generating Ideas, showing: (1) New business and real estate – (2) New ballot initiatives – (3) new fees
New Business and Real Estate, showing: (1) Generate more retail sales – (1.1) Pursue additional auto dealerships on Olivas Park – (1.2) First to additional retail facilities on an extended Olivas Park Drive – (1.3) Give preference to retail sales tax generation by expediting retail projects through permit process – (1.4) Encourage “Buy Local”
New Business and Real Estate (cont’d), showing: (1) Focus on Economic development – (1.1) High wage, high-value jobs – (1.2) Support long-term consumer market strength of – (1.3) Encourage private sector investment – (1.4) Prosperity Council and City Economic Development team
Strategy Topics, 3/14/11, showing: (1) General Business Development – (2) High Tech – (3) Creative – (4) Green
New Business and Real Estate (cont’d), showing: (1) Greater Yield from Existing Resources – (1.1) Fund an effort to enforce business license compliance – (1.2) Audit TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) compliance – (1.3) Step up enforcement of existing licensing laws
New Business and Real Estate (cont’d), showing: (1) Lease or Sale of City Property – (1.1) Seek franchise or leases for items such as cell towers – (1.2) “Naming rights” for city facilities – (1.3) Increase lease payments for 87 acres through new lease negotiations/RFP
New Taxes or Fees requiring Voter Approval, showing: (1) Increase rates of lighting district – (1.1) To fund current $420,000 shortfall – (2) Create a Real Property Transfer tax (3) Increase sales tax
New Taxes or Fees requiring Voter Approval (cont’d), showing: (1) Increase TOT percentage – (2) Create a Parks District
New Fees, showing: (1) Annual Alarm Registration fee – (2) Admissions Tax – (3) Crash Tax – (4) Mortgage Foreclosure tax
Outside Sources, showing: (1) Grants – (1.1) Fund the staffing necessary to utilize new software and receive additional grant funds – (2) Public and Private Donations – (2.1) Solicit donations to the city, and increased the ease in which they can be received
Balancing Act, showing: (1) All of these suggestions require a balance between the revenue generated and the impact on the residents – (2) There are valid arguments for or against any new revenue – 3) The purpose of tonight’s workshop is to discuss this balance
Council Communications – City Manager Cole wished to clarify the crash tax as to whether such an unusual approach might be appropriate, but that this indicates that there is very little “low hanging fruit.” It was his contention that were there to be other options besides crash taxes, we would be hearing of them and would be following suit. If the council sees promise in any of these items, Mr. Cole stated that it would be Staff’s desire to hear of it.
The mayor asked whether or not the council should pursue any of these options. Council Member Morehouse started by saying that a thorough review and some candid discussion would be in order noting that the crash tax could be an “horrendous thing”, but that after a crash you will be extracted from a vehicle perhaps by Jaws of Life and then asked to pay a tax. The council member wished to know the costs for such things as emergency rescues from the hills, one of which occurred recently. Search and rescue is sponsored by the county, was stated by the ass’t. police chief. Someone at fault in a DUI in a crash means that recovery is already being done. 2000 crashes on an annual basis is already being dealt with and it was the chief’s thinking that additional extraction of taxes would be rather extreme.
The city attorney noted that the fire department has mentioned crash taxes popping up around the state. They are not free of legal doubt, with the city of Chico being involved in a significant lawsuit over crash taxes with the city attorney saying that it was his recommendation that the city not move forward in this fashion.
Mr. Morehouse was reminded of the recent rescue of hikers and the costs associated with a helicopter necessary to extract them. The ass’t. chief noted that costs are recouped when they are being used excessively by individuals, or in an ongoing or usual way. On the parks assessment district it was wondered by the councilman whether we would pick up extra funds through the Parks and Recreation's Partnership Community Staff members who are not present, but Mr. Cole was able to say that a Park and Recreation district is paid for out of property taxes. We would have to create one post proposition 213 and prop 218, which would require voter approval. It would mean turning over all of our responsibilities in parks and recreations to a new entity which would then be funded, freeing up dollars that we would have spent and been made available to the general fund. The criticism would be by the citizens that you are taxing us twice. A dedicated source of revenue for Parks and Recreation would be an advantage in countering the argument, according to Mr. Cole, and there would be a vigorous debate over whether an elected board would make decisions based on the property tax rolls – meaning he parcel tax quite possibly.
Council Member Morehouse went on to question the gains from vigorous business license enforcement, with Staff saying that the access to the Franchise Tax Board and access to different databases means that the business issues can be maintained and compared over time, with an over 20% increase in business license revenue being obtained by lining up companies who provide this service. The council member noted that in the final paragraphs we should urge continuing in efforts to enhance full fee cost recovery. One speaker this evening noted the discrepancy between fees based on size of businesses. The council member urged the council to hold a line on full fee cost recovery.
Council Member Brennan wished to reiterate, for the benefit of those taking notes, the city attorney’s assertion that the crash tax was a bad idea. These are being talked about by many cities. The business license aspect of the issue was seen by the councilman as a lost opportunity. Citizens are doing the best they can with what they have, and that while acknowledging there is no low-hanging fruit we would be wise to pursue the idea of utilizing third parties. It was his feeling that business licenses are not that expensive and that $75 each would be something that adds up. The TOT – the motels – is gained mostly through legitimate motels but that there are instances where no receipts are given and that lower-class motels may not be collecting the tax. It was the councilman's question as to whether or not the third-party entity could help enforce some of these shady issues.
Staff said that the city currently does not go to individual hotels to audit their receipts. These are two entities run on different loops. Any cheating that may be going on would be difficult to discover and enforce. The council member was worried about the motels on Thompson and not the big ones. It was his thought that we would have to individually look at motels and wondered if it would be realistic to begin cracking down on enforcement. The dollar revenue has not been substantial in the past but that while not comparing with the business licensed tax, Staff could be involved in anything that would help boost revenue. It was the councilman's thought that the opportunity exists for some businesses to be maintaining “two sets of books.” The councilman also thought that it would be necessary to rely on the few tipoffs that might be garnered.
Council Member Monahan spoke saying that the deputy chief was speaking of certain laws and that there are certain of them that are not enforced. The councilman said he has complaints about loud motorcycles with the deputy chief not agreeing that loud motorcycles and other small enforcement issues are ignored. It was his claim that all tickets are written for all infractions that are observed. The councilman also stated that we are one of the only cities that do not license cats. It was Mr. Monahan's thinking that we should consider this as a revenue measure.
The deputy chief said that dog owners are basically subsidizing the cost of animal control as long as owners of other types of pets do not pay. For the record it was determined that a broader range of pet licensing could be considered.
Council Member Monahan on the use of cargo containers – in particular the fact that owners of “big box” containers have a property tax associated with them, unsecured, but that is a cargo container on site and that while they are now illegal to be located on-site, it was his suggestion that a fee of $100 per year for a container, and that a permit fee from the city, in addition to making them legal would assure compliance as to the contents and other issues. Mr. Cole mentioned that because the counclman raised issue it would be considered part of the record of this meeting. We couldn't make a profit on the fee, according to Mr. Cole, but that the fee would be to support administering the law. According to Mr. Cole it would appear to be revenue raising but it would not really be more than the cost of administration. Mr. Monahan thought this a process to be considered and that department stores do use them while doing remodeling.
Deputy Mayor Tracy went on to note paragraph 3 of the staff report dealing with generating more retail sales by generating more auto dealerships. It was his observation that sales tax is a prime part of revenue generation for most cities. It was his feeling also that the auto center business should be assisted in any way possible for maintaining healthy environment. The deputy Mayor noted that Oxnard Auto Center enjoys great success with retail surrounding the center. Mr. Tracy also thought that the business licensing issue was a good one. It was also the thought that public donations should be encouraged. Canine units in law enforcement are often supported through private donations, according to Mr. Tracy.
Mr. Tracy also wished to comment on the parks district issue. It might be necessary to prioritize the decisions we provide noting that we might reach a point where we could not support all the parks in our city. Rather than cut corners on fire stations and police officers, it might be necessary to create a special district for parks. It was his thought that if we begin closing parks, the community would be more amenable toward the creation of a special parks district.
[Comment] Highly interesting perspective. “They don’t know what they’ve got ‘till it’s gone,” showing us that even pop singers like Joni Mitchell get it right now and then. Hey ~ why not just build a parking lot? This totally highlights the grandiosity, if you will, over plans like the Ventura 2005 General Plan, where it’s thought with great enthusiasm to go ahead and build “shining cities on a hill,” including “expansive” green spaces, “strollable” walkways and “alternative” transportation lanes – “boutique” neighborhoods with hideaway avenues filled with the latest in avant garde entertainment venues and five-star restaurants. The problem is that all of this requires maintenance. . .and we’re thinking about closing down parks as a solution to the cost of maintaining them? [Ed.]
Council Member Andrews wished to state that we need to provide services at the least cost and that the greatest efficiency possible. It was his thought that the city has succeeded in this area, with pension benefits being an area where there is “a lot of work to do.” It was his thought we can't solve that problem in the short term, but there are opportunities on existing programs without raising taxes. Enforcing the business license and auditing the TOT raises a compliance issue and should be dealt with. Increases in retail sales taxes through the growth of business seemed a positive approach. We should be bringing all leases up to market rates. A new effort to get the public to understand that an increase in the lighting district tax is appropriate. The lighting district should be made to understand that the city's are being asked to bear the cost. He does not support an increase in sales tax but that there is the possibility of an increase of 1% in the TOT, meaning that is found money coming from out of town.
[Comment] Well, there certainly is a lot more we can do. . .we can try recruiting staffs of grass cutters, tree trimmers, gutter sweepers and fence menders on a volunteer basis, huh. . .whad’d’ya think? And while we’re at it, why not fire fighters and law enforcers? We wonder how many people the councilman knows who will do these jobs for free. This is obviously all that will satisfy the councilman in the long run. And what did we just say about building that “shining city on the hill?” What are you going to pay people, Mr. Council Member, to maintain all the cute “tucked away” livable areas in your sterling city? Who is going to remove graffiti from all the noise reduction walls and privacy fences, and more importantly, who is going to do it on what you would call a living wage? Unfortunately, the councilman is not living in the 21st Century. Every voter needs to think about utterances such as, “with pension benefits being an area where there is a lot of work to do” as they step into a voting booth during the upcoming election cycle. [Ed.]
Council Member Andrews thought that an alarm registration fee would make sense. He would support a mortgage foreclosure tax. It's his claim that that tax has the effect of reducing the pressure is associated with foreclosure on residents. It was his claim that the mortgage holder would be forced to consider negotiating before making snap decisions. The tax that incentivizes the lender to work with the buyer results in greater retention in the home, according to the councilman. It was his contention that the foreclosing party should be bearing the brunt of some of these costs. We should also accept private donations.
Council Member Weir wished to try to summarize with a motion. She questioned about the grant programs, noting that the new computer program installation would be causing the necessity for a grant program. Grant writing is an art according to Staff. She heard support for TOT enforcement, auto center, business license compliance, renegotiating city leases, exploring private donations, along with the grant writing capability as long as it results in a net gain. She did not wish to include anything associated with taxes. The motion was to direct Staff to emphasize the six areas for revenue generation a second was obtained.
The mayor wished to speak before calling for the roll noting that he would support the motion based on the list that he would have chosen. Equity in business license funding would be one of these that he can support, noting that he ran a business from his home with no license at one point and was found by a third party. The mayor agreed in pursuing the auto center as a retail destination. The mayor said at one time we had caught up to Oxnard but that after the recession things went south. Business to business sales with the “shop local” campaign would help in this area. It didn't appear to him that the sale of city assets was is feasible. Naming opportunities with the parks as a private donation source with naming opportunities in parks and other public places would be feasible. He did not wish to go after increased taxes. On the landscaping and lighting district it would not seem that to go after $400,000 would not be worth it when in effect such measures would be widely perceived as tax increases.
The mayor went on saying that someday we could combine these measures into revenue generation efforts, but that the Ventura-Oxnard-Camarillo Tourism Improvement District (VOCTID) effort should be pursued while saying again that he was big on the business to business shop local campaign.
Council Member Morehouse spoke saying that the motion appeared to give clear direction to Staff. He wished to piggyback on some of the long term ideas such as formulating a park district – who would pursue and under what conditions would such a project be undertaken. Staff time and effort for timeframe would be on his mind, accordingly. The mayor thought that it wasn't staff time to form a district, but the politics of increasing the taxes to pay for it. A park district can be formed but many times taxpayers then turned down the funding at the polls. Staff said that the outreach part of it is beyond the city staff’s area, though they create special districts with regularity. The councilman said he would support the motion.
Council Member Monahan spoke saying that we were glad they didn't support a view tax such as they have in Port Hueneme. On the shop local, the councilman wished to know whether the city would support a policy. Staff said we have a local vendor preference which encourages people who live here to spend money in our stores. Mr. Monahan asked the city attorney about donations using it as a tax shelter. The sidewalk is damaged in front of residents that a resident may consider a donation to the city as incentive for replacing the sidewalk. The city attorney agreed that such an arrangement could be considered legal. Mr. Cole said that the Palm Springs model would serve as a way to put into one accessible place – such as a website – all of the ways that a citizen may donate funds. Lists are often made by council members and city manager, not all of which naturally rise to the top, nor can all of those that do rise to the top be handled or acted upon.
Mr. Monahan asked about underground type leasing easements, who discoveree, upon asking the city attorney whether there are methods for bringing these up to standards, that ongoing city efforts in this area have recently paid off. With all council members having spoken the mayor asked for a called the roll. All members voted yes.
With the agenda formal items being concluded there were no public communications and there was no further discussion by council members. In the member memory of Bud Thomas and Paul Massey, the meeting was adjourned.