Sunday, January 29, 2012

A more sensitive city?

For over 5 years Kevin Cummins has been suggesting using sensitivity analysis when adopting budgets or getting into any medium or long-term financial deals. This suggestion has been dismissed by the council and misunderstood by the staff.

CalPERS has now decided that is a good idea to do sensitivity analysis, after earlier dismissing the idea.

From Calpensions: For the first time, the annual California Public Employees Retirement System actuarial report last fall on state and non-teaching school pensions included a sensitivity analysis.




Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rental Lookout


Super cool young family of 3, and soon to be 4, is looking for a 2-3 bedroom place to rent in Leucadia. They are hoping for someplace with a yard for the kids to play in and to grow a small garden. They looooove Leucadia.

Anybody know of a place for rent? Email Justin at <nopopouts@gmail.com> with any tips or leave a comment below.
Letter to the UT Editor

Encinitas’ City Council did not act “foolishly” by refusing to release their roads condition report (“Encinitas’ foolishness gets proper rebuke,” Editorial, Jan. 14). Keeping documents from citizens has allowed them to repeatedly deceive the public.

We tried hard to work with the city to release key reports. Most people don’t persevere, so they ignored us. When we finally asked a judge for help, the city did two things: they changed their justification for secrecy and they played legal games, delaying and driving up the cost. They originally claimed the document was a draft document. In court, they changed their tune. They said it was better for the public to not have access to the document.

Why the change? They had lied about the document being a draft. The report had been completed, printed, dated and delivered months before I requested it. The report states the city has underfunded road maintenance by $17 million. That is a stark contrast to what the council had been telling the public about infrastructure maintenance.

It is not foolish for a dishonest official to keep incriminating documents secret. It was wrong. The city continues to hide public records from the public. They know exactly what they are doing. – Kevin Cummins, Encinitas

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Native habitat restoration this Saturday

Native habitat restoration this Saturday

We got rained out last Sat. so are trying again:

What:
Spreading mulch to get rid of annual weeds for a native habitat restoration at Moonlight Beach.

When:
Saturday, January 28, 8:30 AM- 12:30 PM

Where:
Meet at the trail entrance just up from the south-east corner of B St. (extension of Encinitas Blvd. west of Coast Highway 101) and Third St., 2 blocks west of Coast Hwy. in Encinitas.  It's just up from the sewage pump station on that corner.  There is parking on the street or in the big Moonlight Beach parking lot at the top of the hill on Third Street.

Bring:
Revised tool list: If you have a wheelbarrow, half-height trash barrel or 15 gallon planting pot (about 20 inches across by 24 inches tall), rake, or shovel, we will need extras of these.

Wear clothes suitable for gardening.  Water and oranges will be available.

Weather:
The weather forecast is for Sunny, with a high near 75.

More info:
Brad Roth, Project Manager
Cottonwood Creek Conservancy
(760) 436-2632

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Homesick Chickens Returning to Encinitas

Remember when the City said they had to pull the Beacon's improvements money and send it to Moonlight Beach for the Moonlight Beach project? They said we had to hurry and spend the millions in state grant money or loose it?

Remember when the council said there were no financial difficulties for the city and the city had "balanced" its budget and always hit its revenue projections? There are going to be more conversations like this:
The genesis of our city's position goes back years.

The city can't build Beacons improvements and now they are on the edge of not being able to build the Moonlight Beach improvements. The general public wouldn't know this except a few things forced this forward.

Maybe it is time for all multimillion dollar projects to have regular and brief project update reports posted to the city website. Did you know that after 10 years the city has only a single progress report for the Hall park? They don't give their contractors due dates or make make them submit progress reports. Not good and not best practices for a well run city. The city gets to keep $2 million if they can come up with a half million dollars.

Time for better financial planning and less happy talk, for the sake of looking good. It is time for those hard looks at the city's expenditures that candidate Gaspar promised. It is not really that hard to have found the half million dollars.

Some Beacons Upgrade History
In 2006 the LB reports the Beacons plan includes a project killing seawall.
In 2010, City's consultant states the City surprised to discover the seawall was a project killer.

Monday, January 16, 2012

MLK

MLK created waves that our nation rode toward greater justice and freedom. His tools for change were the words which conveyed national ideals of freedom of justice for all. He was not an elected official. He held the title of American Citizen. He stood up, spoke out, and relied on a grassroots democratic movement to result in the improvement of people's lives and an unwinding of a national wrong.

MLK helped catalyze the opening of many doors for Americans. To get there he had to risk doors being closed on him by some of those in power. Change often means ruffling feathers. An effort that was short of personal risk would not have sufficed or resulted in change.

In MLK's sermons he promotes loving those who stood in the way of equality. People in power are human. I don't think that means we should not acknowledge and communicate mistakes made, about to be made, or those left unaddressed by out elected leaders. I think MLK was just fine with voting out of office those people who refused to fix (or even address) problems.

MLK focused his time (at least as historically presented) on the issues. He did not focus on petty personal disputes with those who opposed the ideas he espoused.

Spend your effort and breath on the policy issues of our time. We've got the day to think about it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bike Advocacy for the 101 and Beyond

From the inbox (edited because its not clear which part was a submission):

The city of Encinitas had put out some feelers about their interest in starting a Bike Committee (commission?).  It is better for the Cycling Community if the committee is part of the city rather than a separate entity, (as in Oceanside) so, if you can get the city to be on board that is the way to get the most done.

We were trying to get interested parties together with the city.  So, if you are interested, please let me know. There is a list of Encinitas people interested and you can get everyone on board. If you don’t get anywhere with the city, then you can go ahead with it on your own.

The city traffic engineer is open to cyclists.  We have already met with him.  If he needs more voices to get changes made faster, perhaps we can find the right people to make noise to.

The City Engineer is getting ready to put a bike lane in on the north bound lane from Leucadia to La Costa.  Really it should start at Encinitas Blvd. He already received input on how it should be done.

There is a separate petition going around that a buffered bike lane should be put in on coast highway.  When the city traffic engineer asked for input from experienced cycling advocates, including SDCBC and CABO it was suggested that a buffered bike lane is not the way to go.  (Howard La Grange (Encinitas Resident) and Pete Penseyres both of the Oceanside Committee as well as Jim Baross of SDCBC were in attendance at the meeting) (We also got further input from Caltrans District 7 Bicycle Advisory Committee, Policy Chair Caltrans Understanding Bicycle Transportation course developer/teacher  )
Cyclist are forbidden to cross the buffer when they need to turn.  It is not a safer option.  You will also find separated bike paths used by dog walkers and pedestrians. In places where there is a buffer, I usually notice that the bike lane is not maintained.

A separated bike path along with a bike lane might be a way to go, but I don’t think there is space for both right now and I don’t think it’s something that can happen immediately.  There is a separated bike path in Solano beach that is rarely used by cyclists. The bike lane alongside it however is. There is also a separated bike path in Carlsbad between CVD and Tamarack that is rarely used, when I do use it I have to stop to ask dog walkers to put their dogs on a leash.  A buffered bike lane is not exactly the same as a separated bike path but, where you have to intersect with traffic there are many more safety issues. 

LB note: City commissions aren't (or shouldn't be) advocacy organizations, or are they? I've always thought of them as a group to provide analysis and options for the policymakers and  a way for the city populace as a whole to have their values indicated in the pro/con balancing of options. Commissions for particular topics should not be composed solely of content experts, but should have a membership of citizens interested in the issues and willing to do the homework. 
 
 
More from the same inbox thread:

The Encinitas Traffic Engineer would like to stripe a buffered bike lane between La Costa Ave and Leucadia Blvd on Highway 101, but he thinks that cyclists don't want such an option. I created a petition here to tell him otherwise:
http://www.change.org/petitions/city-of-encinitas-stripe-a-buffered-bicycle-lane-between-la-costa-ave-and-leucadia-blvd


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More seawalls stuff

You can't legislate what city staff values. You can change policies and endorsed practices.


This is from a letter sent to City Manager Vina from the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation.


Re: Notice of CEQA Violations: Pattern and Practice
Failure to Mitigate Impacts of Coastal Armoring

Dear Mr. Vina:
Please accept this letter on behalf of the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF).
CERF is a nonprofit environmental organization founded by surfers in North San Diego County and
active throughout California’s coastal communities. CERF was established to aggressively advocate,
including through litigation, for the protection and enhancement of coastal natural resources and the
quality of life for coastal residents.

This correspondence serves two purposes. First, it is to put the City on notice that the
Municipal Code, as drafted and implemented, constitutes a “pattern and practice” violation of the
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Second, CERF hereby requests a meeting with you,
the City Attorney, the Planning and Building Director, and a representative of the City’s Risk
Management Division to discuss CERF’s claim and possible avenues for resolution. CERF’s goal is
to provide the City an opportunity to work collaboratively with us and the community without the need
for litigation.

Specifically, Encinitas Municipal Code section 30.34.020 (Coastal Bluff Overlay Zone),
subsection (B)(9) contemplates the City development and adoption of a:
“comprehensive plan, based on the Beach Bluff Erosion Technical Report
... to address the coastal bluff recession and shoreline erosion problems in
the City. If a comprehensive plan is not submitted to, reviewed and
approved by the Coastal Commission as an amendment to the City’s Local
Coastal Program by November 17, 1996, then ....the City shall not permit
the construction of seawalls, revetments, breakwater, cribbing, or similar
structures for coastal erosion except under circumstance where an existing
principal structure is imminently threatened...” (Emphasis added).
Because the comprehensive coastal erosion plan contemplated by the Municipal Code has
not been produced, the City’s pattern and practice has been to mandate applicants wait for
emergency conditions to arise, then require them to obtain emergency permits from the California
Coastal Commission. After the “emergency” coastal armoring is fully built (often substantially larger
and more permanent than the failed structure), the City processes a Major Use Permit and Coastal
Development Permit for the as-built seawall or other coastal armoring. Because there is no proactive
planning for such coastal armoring – despite its unquestionable inevitability – every single permit that
comes forward evades CEQA review and is instead deemed exempt from CEQA pursuant to
California Public Resources Code section 15269 (Emergency Projects).

The Encinitas Planning Commission approval on January 5, 2012 of Case #09-035 MUP/CDP
(Blue Curl LLC, 1084 & 1086 Neptune Avenue, APN: 254-291-02&18) provides a very recent
example of this problem. Both CERF and the Surfrider Foundation provided multiple written
comments detailing the illegalities of approving the follow-up permits without requiring substantive
CEQA compliance – including consideration of alternatives, cumulative impacts, and mitigation. By
“tiering” off of the emergency exemption applied for the new structure’s original construction, the City
effectively fails to require: (i) a full assessment of alternatives; (ii) consideration of cumulative
impacts; or, (iii) imposition of appropriate mitigation. Statements by staff and Commissioners at that
hearing validate the critical points of this correspondence and CERF’s claim, namely: (a) this pattern
and practice of approving after-the-fact permits without substantive CEQA compliance is “the way
the City’s always done it”; and (b) if an applicant came forward and sought to obtain approval for a
seawall before an emergency condition arose, there would be no process for them to do so.
Please do not misinterpret CERF’s goals. We are not advocating for additional, proactive
seawalls throughout Encinitas. Rather, the City must recognize that its current practice fails to
provide the requisite analysis of impacts and mitigation requirements – in particular on a citywide
cumulative basis – and therefore either the comprehensive plan contemplated by the Code must be
completed or the City must require such analysis with the after-the-fact permits. The situation
currently facing the City of Encinitas is analogous to that in the City of Solana Beach over the last
15+ years. As a result of significant community involvement and numerous lawsuits, Solana Beach
is now seeking approval of a Local Coastal Program that would include, in conjunction with the rights
of bluff top homeowners to construct limited duration (80 years) emergency coastal armoring, the
ability for the City to recover “Land Lease/Recreation Fees” to mitigate for the inevitable loss of public
beach access due to the various types of coastal armoring impacts. (See attached).
This is what CERF seeks for Encinitas. At the meeting we are requesting with City Staff,
CERF would like the opportunity to provide additional detail regarding the evolution of coastal
armoring policies in Solana Beach and how Encinitas can benefit from its neighboring city’s
experiences. In light of evolving regulatory policies to deal with the very real likelihood of sea level
rise due to global climate change, it will benefit the City of Encinitas to be proactive on coastal
protection issues. The alternative, resolution through litigation, has been both expensive and
ineffective in other cities that have opted to do so only after having been ordered by the courts.
CERF is based in, and has numerous members from, the City of Encinitas. Hence, we would
greatly appreciate the opportunity to collaborate rather than litigate. I look forward to your
consideration and meaningful response.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Mixed Bag with Turko's Coverage on the Encinitas Community Park


EU posted a Turko clip about the Hall park. Turko still seems to think much of the decade long delay was because of the "NIMBY's". More like two years could be attributed to them, but close inspection makes it clear that the city was unable to build during that period with or without "NIMBYs". Turko didn't do much digging below the surface or really challenge Mayor Stocks, yet. Even so, it is becoming really tough for the Mayor to hide the real root of the problem to getting the park open. They were not able to save enough money!

But the City was able to give staff a 15% raise over the last 4 years, give staff a 35% pension increase, overpay millions for public works yard, overpay half a million for property on La Costa Avenue, overpay for the Birmingham fire station property, overpay millions for the Hall park itself, and throw away money at numerous non-competitive contracts.

The City was also able to borrow $20 million dollars to build the Hall park (and fire stations and PWY). They weren't able to hold on to enough money even after borrowing that much.

As a side note they borrowed the money WITHOUT a vote of the people. Turko got that wrong, but we informed him of this fact before he reported it incorrectly.

Turko wasn't interested in the financial and administrative history of the Hall park. We expect he will become more interested as more things come to light. This issue is another example of the city's secrecy being used to manipulate the public. Throughout the Hall park process the secrecy and clear violations of the California Public Records Act has allowed Mayor Stocks to deceive the public.



Look at the above budget adopted about the last time Turko covered the Hall park. Turko didn't ask the Mayor why the budget document showed that the city didn't plan on opening the park until beyond 2015 (they stripped out the operating expenses down to zero). Did the "NIMBY's" adopt the budget plan or the city council? The council officially planned on not opening the park until past 2015. They weren't telling their supporters this.

Don't forget that in about 2005 the city postured to sell part of the Hall park property to pay for the park development because they were strained at that point. They have been searching for money to build the park all along, even becoming so desperate as to be willing to scale back the park to get it open. Some dang NIMBYs pointed out that might violate some of the city's contracts. It seems the NIMBYs helped save the full Hall park.

[Note: that was not some minor looking into all our options event. They were going for it. A Sunshine Ordinance would help citizens clarify what is a genuine exploration of options and what is posturing to execute a predetermined plan. We need a sunshine ordinance in Encinitas.]

According to the Turko story, the City has about $9 million dollars for the park. According to leaks coming out all over city hall (PLEASE send an email for yourself to staff or the Mayor), the reason they have not gone out to bid is they can't figure out how to request a job they can afford to build with the $9million. Remember that Phase 1 has been expected to cost $20 million.

It is amazing that you can't just do all the infrastructure with that amount, but that is a big park with lots of infrastructure issues. Let's hope they don't throw away money just to get a shovel in the ground before the next election rather than value engineer the project. Remember they threw away half a million dollars just to get the library started before Dan Dalager's reelection? Let's avoid repeating that.

________________________


The city has been secretive about the details of the Hall park progress for years and violating the California Public Records Act's citizens' rights of access to keep it secret. The city wanted to keep the spin alive, so informative documentation is bad to give to the citizens. They might get confused.


When Turko really digs in he is going to figure this out. Let's hope he also addresses some of his other blabs.

Turko though the cost of the park went up recently. Many of us were TOLD the costs had dropped by Chris Hazeltine, not gone up (so the stories are inconsistent). He repeated this in the public record. If you look at the city's budget documents going back the last 5+ years and check out the capital improvement projects you can see what they were predicting for cost, and how much they had set aside for the park. They've not had the money and the few people who figured this out were told, don't worry about that and don't ask about our specific plan for financing the park, "just trust us".

I was in contact with many in the sports leagues (who's names are on Stocks, Dalager, and Gaspar mailers). They were willing to just trust them, at the time. Many have now figured it out. They city has a financial problem building the park. What they do now could be awkward, controversial, and/or very tax dollar inefficient.

They said they had enough money right before the last election, but they refused to provide ANY explanation or documentation for that cost estimate. They were asked repeatedly for explanation or documentation. We posted about some of that here: http://www.encinitastaxpayers.org/blog_2/?p=33. P and R Director Hazeltine to this day will not answer questions about how he came up with those numbers. Was it B.S. to run cover for Danny's reelection?

When should the city have gone out to bid? Certainly, long before the last election. Check out:
http://www.theleucadiablog.com/2010/10/hall-park-construction-now-behind.html
http://encinitastaxpayers.org/blog/index.php/2010/07/17/curious-hall-park-detail?blog=3

Those are the city's time lines. They are a little behind schedule I would say.


______________________


Gaspar believed the city had the money to build the park before she was elected. I've been hoping to follow up with her on this but she refused to meet or answer questions. It appeared at the time she either doesn't do her homework or was unable to interpret the city's financials. (I wanted to ask her about that before I started going public with that.) In our one meeting when she was a candidate, she was stumped when I asked her about the park's financing and appeared to have no real sense for the finances behind her number one project* in her campaign platform.


_______________________

The Impact of Jerome's Response to Turko

Years later... now its the county's fault? Many people in the community saw Jerome avoid mentioning the financial issues that they now know to be a key obstacle to opening the park. That has made them more open to believing they were played all along.


_______________________


One suggested solution to all this consternation is simple. How about if the city puts up progress reports online every couple months for big projects such as the Hall park. A lot of things in the city would not get manipulated for very long if things were in writing, with clear expectations for timetables and with supportable reasons given for not hitting those milestones.

More information for the public is good, right?


* a review of her campaigning makes it hard to conclude otherwise.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

If you go to Beacon's you will die!!!


If you go to Beacon's beach in Leucadia you will die! There are hungry sharks, no sand, super mean locals, no parking, no restrooms, no showers, the waves are giant and gnarly and the bluff trail will collapse on you.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Review urges delay in borrowing billions for bullet train

More Money for local transit, local trains, education, parks and public safety or a supercool long-distance train? 

From the Los Angeles Times:

Review urges delay in borrowing billions for bullet train

In a scathing critique that could further jeopardize political support for California's proposed $98.5-billion bullet train, a key independent review panel is recommending that state officials postpone borrowing billions of dollars to start building the first section of track this year.

The full story can be viewed at: http://www.latimes.com/la-me-bullet-train-report-20120104,0,1663582.story?track=latiphoneapp


Monday, January 02, 2012

Bar Leucadian Events

More local culture.

Mattson 2, Todd Day Wait and Edify - Wednesday, January 4th

@ Bar Leucadian 1542 N Coast Hwy 101 in Leucadia

Local surf jazz phenoms Mattson 2 start first at 9 PM sharp, followed by travelin' folk troubadour Todd Day Wait then sweet wax spun by Edify.

No Kooks, No Cover.

Rad local bands every Wednesday night at Bar Leucadian as part of our Big Wednesdays series. Check ruthlesshippies.blogspot.com for full January line up and other cool FREE events made possible by ruthless hippies.





Sunday, January 01, 2012

Brown Act Clarified

In this week's Coast News there is a letter that is a little fuzzy on Mayor Stocks' responses. These two incidents are topics of the letter (not yet on the Coast News website).

The Brown Act DOES allow for responses to non-agenda items.

From the Attorney General: ...subject to rules or procedures of the legislative body, may provide a reference to staff or other resources or factual information, request staff to report back to the body at a subsequent meeting concerning any matter, or take action to direct staff to place a matter of business on a future agenda. (§ 54954.2(a).)
The second video looks like a he said versus he said that he said situation. So, that makes it tough. On the other hand, is the council that vindictive. There is lots of examples that make it clear that the council has room for personal growth.

Would the potential for vindictive behavior be as great if less of the city's deliberations were out in the public's view? Clearly not. The backroom discussions among the council make it easier to execute decisions that are more about petty personal battles than the public's interest. Directions given to the city management in the backroom make it possible. The council has frequent backroom meetings with city management.

They've added Muir to the council mix. His willingness to participate in the destruction of public records that would have either vindicated him or shown collusion with Dr. L on the warnings she sent to Steve Meiche about his family's safety and freedom if he continued looking into the fire fighter incidents  should create a bit of concern that the tide is not turning in the right direction. The retaliation goes way beyond what has already been posted.

I'm hopeful that if the rules on the way the council interacts with the city management requires more transparency that the threat of retaliation will subside, regardless of who is on the council. 

The first video is the most interesting. It is clear to many people who spend a lot of time watching various issues at city hall that many important decisions happen behind closed doors. They are made either with no public meeting or if there is a public meeting the decision was made among the council majority prior to the actual meeting.

Years ago, there were leaks coming out of city hall that Jerome was pressuring the city's management to push through the strip club permits in the backroom, long before the New Encinitas crowd figured it out and rallied hard on the streets and in the media. They felt the need to spend a lot of time and energy to lobby the council. That says something.

Jerome's response to Joan was not a violation of the Brown Act. This Barth, Gaspar, Houlihan action was a much more clear overstepping of the Brown Act safe zone. Jerome did not take any action or instigate any action. He was briefly conveying the facts in the matter. He seems to be in the safe zone. If he was being honest, he deserves the option to respond.

Was he being honest? Were the leaks by people who did not want to be named untrue? They never stepped forward, but with the real threat of vindictive retaliation for being open with the people, it is hard to weigh the request for anonymity in the assessment of credibility.

What we know is in the end Jerome acted to get rid of the strip club. Was Jerome being honest in his comment to Joan? The public record is consistent with what he said.

[The City regularly manipulates the pubic record and access to the public record in obvious attempts to manipulate the public.]

We may never know for sure because so much of the council's interactions with city management happens behind closed doors. Jerome was meeting with city management during the period insiders were saying Jerome was pushing for the strip club. We also know that the City WILL LIE when they think they nobody will find out.

We probably will never have a good way to really know what Stocks was telling staff in his backroom meetings about the strip club.

It is good to remember that the council members are suppose to be our representatives. That means they aren't suppose to have special powers to get stuff done at city hall, as individuals. They are not city staff. They are  policy makers and provide high level administrative oversight, as a group.

So, if they aren't powerful as individuals, what is the purpose and PUBLIC benefit of all the secret meetings the council members hold with city staff?

SANDAG's $350 Million Price Tag for the SBX

Huffington Post thought it was important to ask SANDAG, why pay more for the toll road? {read it here} The way the article reads, the federal government might get its principal back from its loan made to the public-private for-profit enterprise called the South Bay Expressway. Maybe. No mention about it getting interest back or what the opportunity loss will be, especially in the face of inflation. "The bank lenders on the project will all lose money, but the federal government, which saw its initial $140 million loan to the company running the toll road chopped down to $94.2 million during the bankruptcy period" Maybe the loan shouldn't have been so chopped if the toll road was actually worth the $345 million SANDAG paid, instead of the $287 million the owners said it was worth, in court filings.