Thursday, October 30, 2014

A little background on where our City Manager learned the ropes

Stockton, California:
Beginning in the 1990s, the city and employee unions negotiated such high salaries and benefits that pay packages were more than 25% above what other cities were offering, said Kathy Miller, a Stockton city councilwoman.

Police and firefighters could retire at 50, while other city employees could retire at 55. All employees received free medical care in retirement with plans that didn’t require co-pays.

There were bonuses “for almost everything imaginable,” Miller had explained in a video she created in 2012 to explain why the city had been forced to seek bankruptcy protection. “If you drove the front of a fire truck, if you drove the back of a fire truck, if you got a degree or certificate, even if it was for something that had nothing to with your job.

“Stockton employees made pension spiking into an art form, using overtime and add pays in their final working years to secure much larger pensions for the rest of their lives.”
[Gus] Vina began working with the city of Sacramento as budget manager in July 1999, coming from the city of Stockton, where he had worked for a decade.
With a resume like that, it's no wonder our City Council was "giddy" to hire him!

Stockton, of course, isn't a highly desirable Southern California beach town, and so didn't have the option of getting out of its pension and debt problems via massive development. So we've got that going for us.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Could Lerch actually win?

He's finally running a serious campaign, and with the conservative off-year electorate and the Democratic schism, could Alan Lerchbacker actually win the council seat?  What seemed impossible a month ago is now entering the realm of remote, but real, possibility.

Lerchbacker is lining up endorsements and running a serious advertising campaign.  If he'd started six months earlier and gotten involved in local issues, he'd likely be the favorite right now.

UPDATE: Brian Brady has some good vote breakdown analysis over at SDRostra.

Tony Kranz gets the job done for Encinitas

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Swap Meet!

Since many art center functions are specifically prohibited by Pacific View's zoning, our diligent council subcommittee has come up with another idea that will surely enhance the cultural and artistic life of Encinitas and add vibrancy to downtown: a swap meet!

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Leichtag - Jewish Federation connection

Several commenters have made an issue of Tony Kranz having accepted a free $5000 trip to Israel from the Jewish Federation of San Diego, then having voted to allow the Leichtag Foundation to use its agriculturally-zoned land for non-agricultural general office use. The rule change likely saved Leichtag tens of thousands of dollars per year in commercial office space rental.

Without some connection between Leichtag and the Jewish Federation, this would be a non-story. One Jewish non-profit doesn't necessarily have anything to do with another.

However, it appears that Leichtag and the JF are quite interconnected. The Jewish Federation operates out of the offices of the Jewish Community Foundation San Diego at 4950 Murphy Canyon Road.  Essentially, the JF is the networking umbrella organization, while the JCF is the charitable fund.

The Leichtag Foundation is one of the primary funds listed as a part of the JCF.

The JCF has two staff members listed as working with Leichtag, one of whom is an executive there.

Obviously, laws regarding the improper financial influence of public officials are meaningless if gifts can be given to politicians from nominally separate, but clearly related organizations, before a politician votes to give substantial financial benefits to a group.

We'd say Kranz should have disclosed and recused at the time of the Leichtag vote.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Shaffer flip-flops on Encinitas' financial health

In February of this year, we praised Council Member Lisa Shaffer for being the first city insider to admit that the city was in bad financial condition. Shaffer wrote at the time:
One issue I feel strongly about is pavement management - we have chronically underfunded road maintenance, and unfortunately, the draft CIP budget did not offer any improvements. We have been spending about $1.3 million/year and it would take about $2.8 million/year to maintain a constant quality level and prevent continued decline (which only leads to more expensive repairs later).
But now that it is election season and Kristin Gaspar has raised the same issue, Shaffer has done a complete 180. Shaffer's latest newsletter:
Despite the reality that there is more money than previously expected, Kristin Gaspar still claimed that we cannot afford Pacific View because we are underfunding "core services." It's just not true. We put more money into road maintenance than ever, fully funded our reserves, and have a healthy capital improvement fund.
"We put more money into road maintenance than ever." More money being the $2.8 million that you said in February was necessary to prevent continued decline? Or quite a bit less than that? We recall the final budget figure being $2.0 million, or less than half the necessary increase. Please correct us if we are wrong.

What's worse is the multi-year backlog of street safety improvements. As Al Rodbell pointed out in his recent resignation from the Traffic and Public Safety Commission, the city has many street safety improvement projects waiting to be done simply because of a lack of funds. Will children have to be killed before this city council makes it a priority to spend the necessary funds for neighborhood traffic calming and improvements at dangerous intersections?

And if Encinitas is in such fine financial shape, why did Shaffer and her friends try to hire propagandist Catherine Lew of Lew Edwards to push a sales tax increase?

Encinitas Beacon has more:
At this week's council meeting resident Mark Wisniewski dramatically highlighted Encinitas inability to maintain basic services. During a 3 minute address, he showed the pride of the communities he visited this summer, by showing photographs of well-tended public parks and gardens, he described as "community and civic pride" with "grounds cultivated and very few weeds".

With seriousness he showed a photo of Cottonwood Creek Park and the Veteran Memorial that he described as "barren soil and weeds" He showed a picture of the Memorial plaque that reads "the unfinished walls of the memorial represent the unfinished lives of those who perished in the line of duty" and his last photo showed a tattered and neglected flag flying over the memorial. He then donated a new flag to the city, so Encinitas might possess civic pride.

In her weekly newsletter council member Shaffer chose not to thank Mr. Wisniewski for his gift but to instead promote her endorsed candidates for office and to claim city finances are in good shape. While she is entitled to her opinions, the facts about the city's finances paint a different story.

Encinitas is $47 million behind in road repairs, and at this week's council meeting yet another resident asked the council when the city would fix his road. The city is $6 million behind in building maintenance and Mr. Wisniewski might find it of interest to know that money that might have been used to maintain the memorial was taken by Ms. Shaffer and Mr. Kranz to plug finance holes. Then there is the $7 million the council took from funded projects like rail crossings and open-space aquisitions with no plan to pay it back.
Funny what election season does to politicians' perspectives.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Former Councilman Dennis Holz endorses Cameron and Graboi

From the Inbox:
I saw that one or more newspapers listing contributions to the local candidates mentioned my name as a contributor to Tony Kranz for Mayor. The implication would be that I am supporting him. I am not. The contribution was made early on (to support anyone but Kristin Gaspar), before I knew Sheila Cameron was running.

I support Sheila Cameron for Mayor and Julie Graboi for Councilperson. I do so because they are the two who have clearly and publically stated their positions on the issues, and I know they will follow through.

I am concerned about the upcoming density increase in the proposed housing plan and the ongoing drunken public safety and nuisance activities in old Encinitas.

Based on the current Council’s opposition to Prop A (requiring a public vote on density increases) I cannot assume any will go to the wall to prevent overbuilding and thus traffic gridlock in our City (this includes Kranz).

While 2 councilmembers supported a downtown ordinance to govern the alcohol outlets’ participation in the destruction of downtown community character, Tony Kranz has failed to follow through on positions he took before his election. For those who support him for his work on Pacific View (I agree), he will still be on the council to head up the follow through whether he is mayor or not.

I acknowledge that Blakespear is an articulate person with a winning personality running on a feel good issue (urban agriculture). Unfortunately she has not taken a clear position on the hard issues: saying she will review staff information and make a decision at that time, to me is a slippery way to avoid commitment and public scrutiny. Of course, Lerchbacker and Gaspar’s pro-business guise is simply a cover for over-development and traffic gridlock.

Cameron and Graboi are clear about where they stand. They support the citizens and our quality of life, not based on general platitudes but by specific commitment to “yes or no statements” on the issues. Sheila has called for the removal of the City Attorney and Manager who are the hangover from the build or bust days of Stocks/Bond/Gaspar. The current City Administrative Power Structure does not support the ideology of the citizens or even the current council. Sheila’s position is critical to the change needed.

The City, with new creative intelligent administrative and legal leadership from within and the right council elected, can thread its way through the state imposed mandates to come up with a unique and appropriate response for our city, rather than simply caving in to the status quo.

I will vote for Cameron and Graboi.

Dennis Holz