The Menifee City Council met tonight, effectively the first official city council meeting, not counting the inauguration ceremony.
And if the first official city council meeting was any different than the unofficial ones, it was that we saw city council members showing their political differences with each other.
Director of Finance
The evening opened with up the City Manager introducing a new member of the staff, Misty Cheng, our new director of finance. She's not a city employee, but a contractor the City Manager procured through a CPA Firm.
Matthew Gilmore, a city resident, took the podium to outline several matters, mostly in regards to road conditions. He called on the city to seek compensation from the county for providing poor roads. He noted that the concrete barriers along Newport Rd, new Haun Rd, needs to be removed as they cause traffic back ups. He also complained that the City Manager has failed to return his e-mail communication on this matter. The City Manager responded with apologies for not returning his e-mail. He said that the barriers are there to prevent drivers from making "double turns", and that he's already scheduled to meet with Juan Perez from the County transportation department on road improvements. The Mayor chimed in to say that we're still a new city.
Barbara Spencer, president of the Menifee Valley Historical Society, spoke to congratulate the city council members on behalf of the society, and described the society's goals and recent accomplishments. She went on to say that the society is thrilled to see that the city received a sapling from the Pechangas, and offered the city its assistance in locating a permanent place to plant it.
William Zeidlik, a Menifee resident, complained that back on October 1, when the city council adopted a series of ordinances for the new city, it adopted ordinance 2008-03 in haste. That was the ordinance that creates the city's interim planning commission, and creates protocol for administering planning decisions. Zeidlik insisted that there should have been a 30-day public comment period on this matter, and that there was none to his knowledge. He therefore called on the council to allow for a public discussion with the City Manager and his financial consultant, Gary Thompson. He also asked why there haven't been any discussion on creating council member districts. He demanded the city to create focus groups, and he cited that lawsuits have been filed in Wildomar, regarding similar matters.
Todd Parmenter, a radiology technician at Menifee Valley Medical Center, called on the city council to communicate with the board members of Valley Health System, and urge them to invest more of its money into its employees. Todd explained that VHS is gutting patient care at MVMC by laying off 41 caregivers and now planning to shut down its skilled nursing facility. In the mean time, he said VHS has spent millions of dollars in aesthetics, such as new carpet and paint. He said the employees at MVMC are going on a one-day strike on Monday, October 13. The Mayor responded by saying that Valley Health System is not connected with the city, and that there's nothing they can do about it.
Sandy Taylor, a resident of Menifee, claims that the intersection of Scott and Leon roads have become too dangerous due to increased traffic and speeders. She asked for a traffic light at that intersection. She also called for speed limits to be reduced to 35mph along Leon Rd, between Keller and Scott Rd. Councilman Twyman, who lives along Scott Rd, agreed that the traffic has become a big issue there.
Selection of Representatives to Regional Boards and Commissions
The city council talked about what boards and commissions they should apply to join, and who to nominate as their representatives. For a while, they started naming off various groups they might want to join. The council agreed that the Mayor would have the role of nominating representatives to these groups with confirmation by the council.
Public Utilities Ordinances
The city council passed an ordinance granting permission to Southern California Edison to do any kind of construction work it needed to do with respect to erecting power poles and running wires, and whatever it needed to do make sure Menifee has electricity. Edison obviously had this permission with the county, but needed the green light with the new city.
Ray Hicks, a represenative with Southern California Edison to explain something called "Rule 20A", which is a rule of the California Public Utilities Commission. It allocate state funds to cities for the purpose of taking down unsightly power poles and moving the lines underground. Hicks basically talked about what kind of money was available to the city for this purpose.
The city council also passed a similar ordinance granting The Gas Company similar priviledges.
Credit Cards and Employee Reimbursement Policies
The council passed an ordinance that creates policies on how the city would reimburse its employees, staff, and officials for purchases.
The policy included a passage on credit cards, which stated that council members were NOT allowed to have credit cards. Councilmember Mann spoke to have this passage removed from the policy and then rewritten allowing them to have them. He cited his experience with having to travel as part of his job noting that business credit cards make the reimbursement process so much more streamlined.
Councilmember Tywman responded that he was against revising this, opting to deny credit cards to city council members. Mayor Edgerton also lent his opposition to credit cards, bringing up a campaign process he had made during a public forum of candidates, concerning the use of public monies in this regards. Mann then replied back that he would recommend city council members not keep these cards on their persons, but only have them during official trips. Councilmember Denver also voiced his opposition to issuing credit cards, noting that every councilmember is well-to-do and doesn't need the city to buy everything for them. Edgerton finished off by saying, "It's a lot cleaner if we don't give credit cards to council members".
In the end, the council voted to adopt the policy on employee reimbursements, but carve out the part on credit cards, and discuss that matter at a later date.
Newport Road Realignment
City Manager Wentz talked about a meeting he had with Juan Perez, from the county transporation department, concerning the realignment of Newport Road, and what they had agreed upon to get it opened up.
It works like this...
- Normandy Rd (which is what existing Newport Rd will be renamed to), will continue as a two-way road, but will be officially considered a detour. This supposedly opens up some advantages in terms of procuring funds.
- The realigned Newport Rd will be one-way only, moving eastbound.
- The Goetz Road bridge will remain open for now
- Goetz Road will become one-way, southbound, from the Canyon Lake gate to Railroad Canyon Rd.
- Goetz Road, from Normandy Road on north, will continue to operate as it is, two-way.
If you're coming from Menifee, and you want to get to the I-15, you'll take Newport Rd to Berea Rd, and jump on Normandy Rd. Then turn on Goetz Rd, and go to Railroad Canyon Rd.
All this will be temporary until enough money comes into the city's coffers to expand the Goetz Rd bridge, and make all roads bi-directional.
The meeting then moved into comments from the city council members, and Mann brought up the subject of "branding Menifee". Basically, there are not many signs that noting that Menifee actually exists. For example, there are no freeway signs announcing the border of Menifee. There are no "Welcome to Menifee" signs. He noted that on Google Maps, it shows "Sun City", it shows "Quail Valley", but there's nothing with the word "Menifee" on it.
He also brought up a touchy subject, though I think he might have been misunderstood. He used the example of renaming the Sun City post office to "Menifee Post Office", as part of his branding idea. Mayor Edgerton jumped on that one saying that there's quite a few people in Sun City who would take great opposition to that. He called on his past experience as a city councilman in Long Beach, noting that it had its communities, such as Belmont Shore and Naples, and that residents there loved being called by those names.
I sat in the audience behind a couple of Sun City core residents, and when they heard Mann suggest renaming the Sun City post office to Menifee, their necks and backs straightened up at attention. And when Edgerton said his piece about leaving it alone, their heads nodded with approval.
Mann responded back that he didn't mean to suggest actually doing this, but only cited them as examples to illustrate his point of "branding Menifee". He went on to say that they could instead rename the postal annex to Menifee. Councilmember Kuenzi noted that she's looking at requesting another post office specifically for Menifee, and that could be named "Menifee".
Denver spoke out as a Realtor about using the name "Menifee" in the MLS. He said that there are certain rules about using the MLS that prevents real estate agents from identifying a piece of propoerty as "Menifee". He went on to say that in Sun City, they are prevented from listing a property as "Menifee", even though technically it is now correct to call it Menifee. But because they have to list it as "Sun City", it tends to carry a lower resale value.
In the end, the Mayor created a new "Branding Ad Hoc Committee", and appointed Twyman and Denver to it.
Denver noted that he had lunch at Red Robin a week ago, and learned that on opening day, our Red Robin had highest volume of sales of all Red Robins in the country.
City Manager Wentz added to that by saying that when Kohl's opened up on grand opening, it had the 5th highest sales of all Kohl's in the country.