I attended the city council meeting last night.
It was a packed house, many people from Sun City Core showed up because of the Blue Ribbon Committee was going to be discussed. This is the committee to determine if council members should be elected by district or at large, among other things.
Words of Inspiration
Pastor Tim Lovegrove of Grace Bible Church was scheduled to give some words of inspiration, but instead Pastor Eric True, also of the same church, spoke instead. Both Lovegrove and True have a blog.
Announcements of New Personnel
City Manager Wentz announced the hiring of Bob Cartwright, into Public Works and Safety. Bob lives in Sun City.
Police Chief McIlvane announced the hiring of Dan Feltenberger (sp) as lieutenant. Dan has been in the RivCo Sheriff Department for a long time.
Trauma Intervention Program
This is a private organization that offers assistance to local governments in the form of helping victims of trauma cope with their ordeals. Two people stepped up to the podium to describe their services. Their goal of coming here was basically to sell their services to Menifee.
A lady named "Gina" spoke and described their service as "filling in the gaps where no else can help". An example they gave is where a parent dies at home, leaving a traumatized child behind. The service provides a counselor that helps the child deal with the trauma until a social worker can take over.
They have working dogs that help provide an added level of comfort and companionship. They said these dogs are effective at calming people down enough to where they can feel comfortable about talking.
Anyways, they want $0.12 for every resident in Menifee, per year, but said they are willing to negotiate. If you figure on 60,000 to 70,000 residents, that works out to $7,200 to $8,400 per year. Probably not bad, but it's very unclear to me how often these "fill in gap" circumstances actually exist out there. None of the council members had anything to say.
Scouting Day in Menifee
The city council issued a proclamation announcing February 8th, 2009 as Menifee's official "Scouting Day". They had several boy scouts line up in front of the audience while councilmember Denver read the proclamation.
I don't know if Denver actually mentioned anything on how we as residents of Menifee can celebrate this day. State and federal governments actually publish recommendations on how citizens can celebrate days like Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
My guess is that parents ought to take their kids out into the mountains and woods, do some hiking, fishing, and camping. But I don't think Menifee has places for these activities. The closest I can think of is Kabian Park, which is technically outside of Menifee.
This the comment session for non-agenda items, but as you'll see most people wanted to comment on the Blue Ribbon Committee. Council member Mann broke in about halfway through the session and asked the Mayor to enforce a strict policy of allowing only non-agenda related comments, but said that he would be willing to tolerate the situation for now....
Barbara Spencer, spoke on behalf of the Menifee Valley Historical Society thanking members of the council for accepting their offer to give them a tour of the historical points of interest throughout the city, noted that the council accepted it as a business engagement, and asked them to consider it a social engagement instead.
Glen Daniels, of Romoland, spoke about the Blue Ribbon Committee, asking who are the members to serve on this committee, making the point that the council has "discriminatory power", suggesting the council can pick the people that will recommend an outcome favorable to the council. Daniels went on to ask "Who is pulling the strings". He then said he did his own survey, responding to councilmember Mann's survey, of a few dozen people who seemed to be in support of districts.
Annette Samples, asked about the recent "Mayor's Conference" in Sacramento, where all five councilmembers flew up there to take part in an event hosted by the California League of Cities. She questioned the cost of airplane tickets and other travel expenses to send them there when we're in a recession. "Think about your decision" is what she said. The Mayor responded back that their primary goal was to lobby some $5 million in vehicle license fees, which they ultimately got.
Greg August, of Sun City, said he voted against cityhood, and voted for districts. He asked if the Mayor would have still called the voters "misinformed" if they had voted for "at large". He went on to say that he did some research on the California League of Cities website, and found there's actually a trend towards cities moving to district elections, and that the last two cities to incorporate (Menifee, Wildomar), voted for districts. He ended by saying, "I know what I voted for, I read the ballot, did you?"
James Rzepka, replied that, "I was truly aware of what I voted for", and went on to say that found it to be a slap in the face of democracy.
Ruth Goulet, asked about the budget. She wants an update on where the finances are within the city, considering how bad the budget is at the state and federal levels. City Manager Wentz responded that he would give some numbers during his report to the city later in the evening.
John Smelser, said he voted for cityhood, and voted for districts. "I am really angry at you" he said very sternly. "Stop referring to me as stupid, ignorant, uninformed, and uneducated just because I voted for districts".
Richard Anthony, of Sun City for 8 years, commended the Sheriff's Department noting that since cityhood went into effect there's far more cop cars patrolling the city. Asked the city council to look into expanding the Sun City Crime Watch.
Opinion: or how about the whole City of Menifee crime watch?Dave Galey, 23 years living in Menifee, commended voters for choosing "Menifee" as the official name instead of "Menifee Valley", and said he supports districts. He lives in a rural area of Menifee.
Patricia Collins, Quail Valley resident for 32 years. Said she owns two lots, and wants to combine it into one to reduce her tax liability. She wanted to know if she should go to the city on this, or the county.
Rita Peters, spoke about AB885, a bill in the state legislature that would require homeowners with septic tanks to get their tanks certified once a year. She noted that Quail Valley currently has a moratorium against septic tank certification, and wants the city council to write a letter to the Governator reminding him that Quail Valley has special circumstances. She noted that the council has only until February 9 to get such a letter sent.
Anne Pica, issued a demand to the city council to abide by the results of Measure G. She noted that Wildomar has already begun the process of drawing district boundaries. She said she "guarantees" that she'll start a petition to recall the entire council. "We put you in office, and we can take you out", she left with.
Katherine Flores, complained to the city council about their insistence to override Measure G. "I didn't vote for you guys, and then you're telling me that I don't know what I'm voting for just because I'm an average person". "We need you to straighten out, or get out!"
Mayor Edgerton then chimed in saying "I will never underestimate the intelligence of voters". He recounted his experience sitting on the Long Beach City Council, where he was voted in through a district structure. He said due to the large population of the city, voters grew skeptical of the district structure because of special interests, He said "I sincerely apologize if anyone misunderstood me".
Carol Walker, of Sun City, said she voted against cityhood because she feared Sun City would not have adequate representation. She supports districts.
Bill Zeidlik, spoke about a variety of matters, summarizing them mostly. One thing he said was that he wants more information about agendized matters on the city's website. He also shared his viewpoints about the districting issue, citing differences in legalese, and with the way people live in the real world, and how they perceive government officials.
Helen Merrit, said she's all for districts, and wants the council to abide by the vote of the people. She said, "I don't think that's asking for too much".
Chuck Reutter, cited a meeting he and several cityhood opponents had with then Mayor-elect Edgerton last July, where they offered to bury the hatchet, if the city council would agree to listen to their concerns. Chuck seemed to suggest that the Mayor has reneged on that meeting. Chuck also cited a story involving electronic voting machines, and where the county board of supervisors assembled a blue ribbon committee to study these machines against what some voter groups had been complaining about. He said the committee advised the Supervisors that these voters groups are correct, but that the Supervisors decided to ignore the committee. It sounds like he's suggesting the city council will ignore their blue ribbon committee if they recommend districts.
Grant Yoders, pointed out that the room we were assembled in is limited to 35 people and that we're clearly way over that. He pointed out that the Mayor's "State of the City" address scheduled for later this month requires a $35.00 admission fee, and asks why only a special priviledge few get to listen to it, and not whole the city. No one on the council answered that question, however councilmember Denver said that they're producing a CD of the meeting that will air on Mediacom and Verizon. He didn't say that copies of the CD will be distributed to the people.
Louis Mazei, said he voted for cityhood, and for "at large". He feels it's important to have a blue ribbon committee because he's concerned that he'll not have the ability to vote for all five councilmembers. He said his home is in Sun City, but not Sun City Core, and that if we have districts his councilmember will likely serve the Core's interest, and not his.
Opinion: Mazei has thus far been the only person to speak at a council meeting in favor of changing to an at-large representation. Here on Menifee 24/7 there have been many commenters supporting "at-large", but none of them have bothered to speak at a council meeting. Meanwhile, there have been many "district" supporters who have spoken at these council meetings. As you'll read later on, this fact became a deciding factor in the Mayor's ultimate decision.Rita Peters, got to speak twice during this session, this time saying the council made a mistake by saying the voters were misinformed when they chose districts. She told the Mayor, "The more you write, the deeper in mess you get". She also said, "All of you guys are in bed together", and "how dare you put a blue ribbon committee together".
A couple of matters on the agenda dealt with land owners wanting to subdivide their properties. One wanted to subdivide into four single family properties, another wanted to subdivide into two. Both were approved.
Opinion: These subdivision requests have been on the agenda in past meetings, and I'm guessing we'll continue to see more of them. I'm wondering if the poor economy is behind it all.Motte Town Center
This is a mixed-used project consisting of industrial, retail, and condominiums. It's located in northern Menifee, bounded by Antelope Rd, McLaughlin Rd, and Dawson Rd, just south of the new power plant. The council approved the tentative map, meaning the developer can move forward with the project.
This is an existing discount food store located in Romoland, on the corner of Highway 74 and Sherman Rd, just a couple blocks east of the I-215. This store had suffered from some code violations assessed by the county, causing it to get closed down. The owner had made all the required improvements, and is now requesting the city give the owner its blessing to reopen. And it was approved.
Blue Ribbon Committee
Councilmember Kuenzi stated that she had conversations with several members of the community, which seemingly encouraged her to move forward on this plan. She said that there's a lot of unanswered questions on how this city should be governed. She cited examples like how a mayor should be chosen, either by appointed from the council, or a separate election. She also noted the various financial ramifications on having districts versus at-large.
She said the blue ribbon committee would be residents of the city. Residents would submit their applications, and that another committee would review these applications and conduct interviews, and ultimately they'd pick the people that sits on the blue ribbon committee.
Kuenzi gave a figure of $20,000 as the maximum amount this committee would spend. That figure may include hiring a consultant. The committee would have to provide their recommendations by no later than May 19, 2009.
Councilmember Mann pointed out that the Committee Committee, which is the ad hoc committee staffed by Kuenzi and Twyman to determine what committees should exist in the city, should determine which residents can sit on the blue ribbon committee.
Mann asked the City Manager how much would a special election cost, should the blue ribbon committee decide if a second "Measure G" election should be held. Wentz said it would cost Menifee about $35,000 to $40,000.
Councilmember Denver said that residents could understand districts much better if they could see actual district boundaries, and that this blue ribbon committee could draw up those boundaries.
Mayor Edgerton then chimed in and through a lot of explanation, and personal reflection, changed his mind, opting to vote against this blue ribbon committee, and even going further to offer a motion to table the blue ribbon committee. That is, he knew he would be out voted 4-to-1 on establishing the blue ribbon committee, so therefore offered a motion in retaliation to delay the blue ribbon committee until a later date.
Edgerton's explanation for changing his mind was that after all the council meetings, there was no public "mandate" for overriding the outcome of Measure G, no mandate to create a blue ribbon committee. That is, despite all of his published essays, and all of the council quotes in newspapers, not a single member of the public had asked the council to override Measure G. The mayor noted there was only one resident (Louis Mazei) who ever addressed the council with his support for changing to at-large, and that one resident's voice was certainly no mandate.
As he explained his change of mind, I could watch Kuenzi's facial expression switch from calm, to concern, to the point where she was itching to grab the microphone. Finally she responded to the Mayor by saying that there were several more public comments that were waiting to be heard in this particular agenda item. The Mayor obliged, and asked for public comments....
Wayne Guglielmo, was called up, but never answered.
Joe Daugherty, said he was chairman of the cityhood incorporation committee, and that he owns a business in Sun City Core. He said several of his customers had asked about districts, and that many of them didn't know much about it, and wanted to get more information. He also described a possible scenario where districts could be drawn in such a way that one or more districts would not be represented by a current councilmember.
Anne Pica, asked the City Manager how they came up with the $35,000 figure for the special election. I can't recall what the City Manager said.
James Rzepka, addressed the mayor saying, "I think you may be having second thoughts, I certainly hope so." He went on to say that this blue ribbon committee should be used specifically for creating the districts, and not deciding on getting rid of districts.
Pete Petersen, said, "I think it's very sad to see all this controversy. Let's listen to all the people".
Carmelita Ruud, said she's proud of Menifee, and lived here for 31 years. She believes that knowledge is very important, and supports the blue ribbon committee. She said, "The outburst we had before is uncalled for".
Katie Keys, a 38 year resident of Romoland, said she feels the voters have spoken, however still supports the blue ribbon committee.
Steven McCarty, cited that there was only a 200 vote difference between districts and at-large, and that such a close vote ought to have additional discussion.
Opinion: There was only a 45 vote difference between John Denver and Dean Deines. Therefore shouldn't there also be a second election between those two?Bill Zeidlik, noted that there is no official population count in Menifee. There are various figures ranging from 60,000 to as much as 85,000. Estimating these figures is difficult because families in Menifee can average about 4 to 5 per household, to about 1-2 in Sun City. He noted that in Wildomar, the city already studied the opinions of their residents and found that most actually did understand the districts versus at-large issue pretty well. However, Wildomar found that districts have different meaning and purpose to different people.
Ruth Goulet, said "I think we should have an election on cityhood over again, because I think you'll be really suprised".
John Smelser, from Heritage Lake, said he voted for districts, but that the voters specifically elected these five councilmembers, and therefore the opinions of the councilmembers should be respected. He went on to say that we should spend as much money as necessary to determine what's the best government for Menifee.
At this point, the councilmembers began their comments...
Scott Mann, said he intended to vote for this blue ribbon committee, citing that everything that has been said in these council meetings is in fact democracy in action. He noted some 13,000 voters in Menifee who didn't vote on Measure G, and that they deserved to have better information, and be allowed to have their voices heard.
Fred Twyman, pointed out the "fallacy" of the editorial published in The Californian, saying it misinterpreted Mayor Edgerton, that he didn't believe the voters were misinformed, or unaware of what they were voting for. Twyman also went on to say The Californian didn't bother publishing any material for the voters regarding the pros and cons of districts versus at-large, which voters needed to make up their minds.
Mayor Edgerton, continued on with his explanation of why he's changing his mind, and voting against the blue ribbon committee. He cited the cost of a special election (though other councilmembers chimed in saying it's not definite that there will be one), and stressed in louder voice, that "the desire should come from the people".
He said something interesting here, that the districts are not going to affect Mann and Denver, "Mann and Denver are not going to be affected anyways", were his words. Which perhaps puts him on record verifying what many of us suspected all along, that this district issue is all about councilmembers trying to protect their future reelection bids.
He went on to say that "perception is reality", noting that he doesn't want the residents thinking that the council is "trying to steamroll them". By this time I could hear emotion crackling in his voice, his face turning a deeper shade of red. And then he made the following statements in another stern voice, "I want to see a reaction from the people". "This community has been informed". "If we're going to have a special election, we should see a strong demand from the people". "We're going to be spending money on this committee".
Opinion: I have to commend Edgerton for swallowing a tough pill, by siding with the will of the people, setting aside the risk of drawing himself out of a reelection bid, and coming to a point many of us have tried to make, that none of the residents ever questioned the results of Measure G. No one asked for a second election. It was the council that created the controversy. Edgerton acknowledged this in saying that "we should see a strong demand from the people".After Edgerton spoke, the other councilmembers tried to reason with him saying that a blue ribbon committee will simply give the council additional information, and that motioning to table the issue made no sense.
Edgerton nonetheless motioned to table the discussion on the blue ribbon committee, but no one else seconded.
Kuenzi made a motion to create the blue ribbon committee. I can't recall who seconded it. But in the end, it was a 4-to-1 vote, with Edgerton voting no. That drew a round of applause from district supporters.
I assume details will come out later on how residents can apply to be on this committee.
Award of Contract for Audio/Visual and Sound Equipment for City Hall
I didn't quite hear the details of this, as I was still writing down notes from the blue ribbon committee. But it was a unanimous vote in favor.
All Star Super Storage Freeway Sign
This item was removed from the agenda by the applicant.
The issue on the agenda for the council to create a new ordinance that would place a temporary moratorium against any new hookah lounges. Apparently, there's a business that wants to open up a hookah lounge in Menifee. The city doesn't currently have any ordinances that limit or regulate these establishments. Because hookah lounges are seen as shady businesses, the council wanted to create this temporary moratorium to give them enough time to create these regulations.
Edgerton asked for clarification on what hookah lounges are, not quite understanding what all the hubbub was about. Interestingly, the City Attorney gave a very detailed explanation, but never really said that there was anything negative about them. Edgerton was further confused why we're talking about hookah lounges. Councilmember Mann chimed in saying that in his past Naval life, he's been to 30+ different countries where they have hookah lounges, and did his best to paint a negative light, without actually sounding biased against them.
It was interesting to hear them talk because no one wanted to go on record taking a negatively biased opinion, but tried their best to cast it in a negative light to help the Mayor understand. In the end, the council voted 5-0 in favor of the moratorium.
City Manager Report
George Wentz' report focused on the city budget. He noted that in 2008 the city spent $993,000, which is still under the allocated budget of $1,300,000 for expenditures. He went on to describe the allocated expenditures for 2009, as well as the anticipated income, but I'm sorry to say I didn't capture these numbers. However, I did hear him say that our expected net for 2009 is about $5 million in reserves. He said that's an amazing accomplishment in a first year city.
The visioning meeting that was cancelled last week is scheduled for this Saturday, Feb 7, from 9:00am to 3:00pm, the location to be determined, but sounds like it may be the same room as tonight's city council meeting.