Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tree Trimming Contract Awarded. Status:SNAFU

Encinitas has a long history of seriously blowing real estate transactions and signing lame contracts. The details are what trip them up. This is nothing new and during the last few years citizens have been looking more closely at the city's contracts.

This time the people didn't even get a good chance to vet the new tree trimming contract, because, the city was not transparent. Again.

Good thing we don't need transparency, because we can just trust them. So much so, the council is willing to award contracts they don't even read.

Here is some video of some really troubling admissions by the city and the council admitting things were done poorly, but not asking that they be corrected before voting on THIS issue. You'll also see the city allowed a situation to develop where there was an appearance of possible impropriety.

Government officials (should) know that they are responsible for maintaining the trust of the public by not abusing their power and by insuring there is no appearance of impropriety. Yes, appearances are supposed to matter.

Do you think Encinitas did a good job of clearing up appearances of POSSIBLE impropriety?

Tony Kranz has been critiquing the tree trimming contract for several years now and offering up various recommendations based on his, expert backed, analysis of the situation. He is clearly not comfortable with the cozy relationship WCA has with Mark Hosford, and was willing to give some recommendations on how to better present the proposals, as well as elements to include in the contract.

The council approved the contract without reading it, thus the council didn't make sure Tony's recommendation were included (or tossed out, if they didn't like it).

Side note:
It was reported to us that the WCA rep and the lead city staffer's (Hosford) relationship is so cozy they were repeatedly driving past E-street cafe together, just before the council meeting. Circling. This is where the Cal Tree team was meeting to decide if and how to approach the city council meeting. Not a very classy move by city staff, maybe inappropriate, and was certainly taken as a form of intimidation. This might not be the case and there could be a good reason for those guys to be cruzing E-street. But...

It has been a week since Hosford has been asked to explain that behavior. So far, no explanation has been provided.

You can find and watch the whole meeting and get the thin staff report on the city website.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Driving to Bike

More biking does not automatically mean less traffic.

Bike platoon arriving in single occupancy SUVs and minivans to partake in a recreational ride along the 101.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cool Perks

Hope you didn't need any city hall services today. City hall staff have every other Friday off. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Also on the agenda

A proposal that will increase Encinitas City Manager Gus Vina's salary by 3 percent to offset his additional pension expenses is set for a vote at Wednesday night's City Council meeting. NCT

Pacific View Rezone: More Conspiracies? Oh, come on already.

I hadn't before seen the attachment, included here, sent to me by a friend; I'm very grateful to receive it and to pass it on.   I had talked about some of the information included in the attachment with our neighbors who should be at the Sept. 26 Council Meeting speaking to the Pacific View agenda item.  Sarah Garfield also wrote a great commentary opposing privatization and over-development of Pacific View which was published in the NCT.  Here's the link; it's worth reading!

Just to jog your memory, you also might be interested in reviewing the following links, through the  North County Times:

I found the links to be helpful, to me!

I also continue to feel that April Game is a "gamer," to make a play on her name.  It seems so unfair that the requests for proposals (RFPs) put out by EUSD were for redevelopment of Pacific View WITHIN THE SAME PUBLIC/SEMI-PUBLIC ZONING it now has, NOT for a rezoning to mixed use.  This seems like a "shell game," where Art Pulse, through Game, has misrepresented its financial standing in order to "beat out" the other proposals.  As you may know, John DeWald is a member of DEMA, so there's a conflict, there, in Dody Crawford's now allegedly "backing"  Art Pulse, although she before supported and helped to create Envision the View's far superior proposal (in our eyes).

It seems like the main thrust of EUSD Superintendent Timothy Baird is for rezoning.  He has negotiated with April Game, DeWald and the Board of Trustees, in closed sessions, to change the terms of the "deal," and to facilitate the rezoning under the pretense of developing an art center,  which is NOT being promoted as a true community art center, but rather a so-called "world class, mixed-use art center!"  It appears our much desired COMMUNITY art center is really being promoted under false pretenses, as a device to persuade people to go along with the rezoning. 

Art Pulse and DeWald are now claiming, after the fact of the February selection of Art Pulse's proposal  (although only 20 working days were allowed for proposals to be submitted to EUSD!) that rezoning is necessary, after all,  for financing, for funding the art center.  Were it to be rezoned, and PRIVATIZED, there would be NOTHING to prevent Art Pulse from determining, at some future date, after the rezone,  that it has to convert some (or all) of the so-called art "classrooms," to residential condo units.

Also, should Art Pulse fail, financially, and not be able to make payments on its debt, the school district could take back the property, already rezoned for mixed use development! We don't appreciate these ploys, and I'm sure that's not what is intended, by Council, or the EUSD Board of Trustees, either, whom I'm sure are operating in good faith as stewards "for the children." 

We should not put short term profit before the long term gain of our irreplaceable donated asset.  Pacific View should remain in the public domain, should remain public/semi-public, and should not be privatized by a change to a higher density, mixed-use zoning, which would negatively impact the neighbors, forever change our community character, and rob us of a part of our heritage!  We absolutely support struggling artists, a community art center and the children, make no mistake.

Lynn Marr

From the attachement:

On the 2009 IRS form 990-EZ (Short Form Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax), April Game is documented as Executive Director of the San Diego Fine Art Society. Her income for that year (from the SDFAS) is listed as $12,015 for 60 hours per week, an hourly salary of approximately $3.50. 

At some point during 2009, Henry Moon (who is listed on the Board of Directors for the San Diego Fine Art Society) provided a loan to the organization in the amount of $92,684. This loan is documented on 2009 Form 990-EZ, Schedule L, Part II, but does not appear on the original 2009 IRS for 990-EZ. 

Excluding the $92,684 loan from Henry Moon, the 2009 IRS form 990-EZ lists the indebtedness of the San Diego Fine Art Society at $113,314. In the red. Debt. Minus. 

We all know how bad the economy has been and the 2010 IRS Form 990-EZ (received by the IRS on January 9, 2012) lists the San Diego Fine Art Society's indebtedness at $663,616. 

In 2010, April Game's salary as ecretary for the organization is listed at $64,038. If the xecutive irector to ecretary was a promotion, April Game received a raise of while the organization’s debt increased more than a half million dollars. 

How does that work? A 400% salary increase while the organization’s indebtedness goes from $113,314 to $663,616. It sounds like fiction, doesn’t it? 

It gets worse. For 2010, the San Diego Fine Art Society's total program service expenses are listed as $246,448. Beginning the year with a debt of $113,314, the organization documents its total support from public sources as $1,537. Yes, times have been tough. 

But included on 2010 IRS Schedule L (Transactions With Interested Persons), two loans to the San Diego Fine Art Society are listed. 

The source of one of the two loans listed on this document is April Game. The amount is $236. A nice gesture (considering the raise). The source of the other loan is listed as Henry Moon. The amount is $664,010. Both loans are documented as "Operational Support." 

Henry must be a heck of a nice guy. Especially after the SDFAS’s tough year—when they only took in $1,537 in total support from public sources. Maybe he just wanted to help with “other expenses.”
2010 IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ (Supplemental Information to Form 990 or 990-EZ) provides a list of "other expenses." Among the items on this list are the following: 

Artist Artwork for Events $6,129 PR and Marketing $123 Advertising $36,156
Supplies $37,814

Business Gifts $1,116
Development and Education $16,152 Travel and Meetings $71,833

These are not misprints.
Please read the minutes from the February 15, 2012 Encinitas Union School District’s Board meeting. After reading the minutes, would somebody please help me understand what (exactly) is going on here? Why was the proposal from Art Pulse (April Game, Executive Director) selected? 

Jim Babwe

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cardiff TC Council Encinitas Candidate Forum Play-by-Play

We got several kooky correspondents in the Cardiff town hall tonight, for the Encinitas city council candidates forum.

Opening bids:
Bryan Ziegler and Peter Schuh are Eastwooding...

Dig the Brophy pony tail...

Uh oh, Kevin Forrester Eastwooding too...

Brophy big on Encinitas Ranch Golf Course scam...

Emphatically said in response to question that he never sent out hit pieces or slate mailers in 2010....

CN: Uh oh what about the Lincoln club mailer?

Women's Christian Temperance Union is packing the forum with multiple questions on downtown bars

vt: Don't we need more bars to pay for the better-than-in-the-private-sector pensions and salaries?

More later or in the comments.

What about the multi-million dollar give away on the Mossey dealership? The 35% retroactive pension spike that's not fully being paid for? What about lying to the public about getting behind on road maintenance and trying to cover up their own reports (and other analysis still being withheld) that says so? How about the delays to the Hall park and the lies about its cost and having enough money to build it?

QE3 Good for Politicians Who Like Borrowing

Bigger context post:
Now that we've had a few days to process what has happened I'm sure voters now realize that last week held a hefty sign post for the future of our nation.

It was really good news for people, companies, and governments who are deeply leveraged and in debt! They are stoked. Cities are super stoked. Prudent savers, not so much. People who will have a hard time absorbing higher costs for things like food, not so much.

What happened? The FED admitted that QE1 and QE2 did not do the trick. We just needed more QE! We needed to print more money (sorta). Here is a leftish leaning PBS Marketplace clip explaining how grandma blew it by saving. It is really short.

A similar take in a blog post by the super extreme, fantasy thinking, closed minded-doesn't allow other views (except when people deliberate in her comment section or submit posts to her for publication), by W.C.Varones can be found here

Then there is this report, which reminds us that there are business cycles and structural changes to economies. Long-term growth in prosperity comes from innovations that make our economy more productive and efficient. It is not magic, nor granted to Americans because we just deserve it.

We also deserve a cool park with soccer fields, dog parks, and skate zones. The city council will vote on borrowing $8 million tomorrow night, for the Hall park, without giving the public access to the real cost of borrowing, even when they asked the city really really nicely for those numbers. There's never been a better time to borrow, borrow, borrow. Its still a great time to hide hide hide information from the voters and taxpayers.

Maybe the Saudis will save us and pump oil faster to cut fuel cost inflation.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Get out the Vote

I sure hope the Honey Boo Boo family goes to the polls this November.

And, all of those people who spend 1000 times more watching Honey Boo Boo than learning about what is happening in the world around 'em, them too. Just say'n.

 It would be even more cosmic if all those people who had no intention or motivation to vote found out on election day that their friends voted, and that manipulated them to go out to the polls and vote too. I'm sure those voters are the super informed voters, who would never do anything like vote for someone just because they have a cool name (e.g. James Bond).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Honorary Leucadian

"Activist", "obstructionist", visionary defender of California's soul.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

City Improves its Contracting Practices, err, sort of

The city has handed out its lucrative tree trimming contract to the same contractor, without competition for just about ever. Two years ago some pesky residents, and a council candidate who is for open government contracting, highlighted the problem using the tree trimming contract as an example.

Side note: There are way more services and vendors the city hires in questionable ways, but just about nobody asks the questions and only 4 ask and follow up. Only one is a council candidate.  

Tomorrow, the council is asked to approve awarding West Coast Arborists another contract. Yes, these are the guys that cut down the wrong trees and seem to like to do a lot of billable busy work.

Yes sir, the city is carrying out a "competitive" process this time for the big contract. Unfortunately, it comes off as a total bogus charade. On the plus side, the city is getting a little less obvious about being phony. They are working harder at it

Now you have to look a little deeper at the substance of what they are doing. The scoring and requirements for the tree contract sure the hell looks like the specifications were written for a specific contractor in mind and at least 3 arborists think the whole thing stinks.

Here is the RFP. Have a read for yourself. Ask your friendly neighborhood council candidate what they think about the city's business practices and what they've done to improve it.


Saturday, September 08, 2012

Not so sleepy anymore

Encinitas was once a sleepy beach town where surfers, growers, old-timers, and professionals escaping urban San Diego set down roots.  A laid back place to hang out and raise a family.

A friend who owns one of our town's 101 bars, has embraced our town's new hustle and bustle, and influx creating a vibrant downtown. Especially after dark. He likes to say, "people really like to drink" and the more people there are, the more fun we can all have.

Recently, this bar owner has been driving around an expensive car.

Downtown's character transformation hasn't been fun for many residents. Here is what one had to say:

Are these people afraid of change? Here is what Jack Frost thinks of Encinitas:

Now we got people stabbing each other at Dstreet B&G.

We haven't asked our bar owner friend if he drives his new car or his old car when he goes to work at night.   

Monday, September 03, 2012

It doesn't go away by not talking about it

The Ticking Pension Bomb On May 15, 2012, Encinitas Treasurer Jay Lembach presented the City’s pension status to the City Council. He stated that pensions are underfunded by $16.2 million. That statement is false.

It turns out Lembach’s $16.2 M figure represents only one of the City’s four pension plans: “miscellaneous employees.” He excluded the plans for firefighters, lifeguards, and San Dieguito Water District employees. Firefighters are among the City’s most highly paid and pensioned employees. To exclude their underfunded pensions from the City’s reported total is willful deception. The “miscellaneous employees” plan had assets of $36.5 M and liabilities of $61.7 M when Lembach reported its status.

To most people, 61.7 minus 36.5 equals 25.2, not 16.2. Lembach’s questionable math apparently assumes the $36.5 M in the account is really worth $45.5 M. At best this is a fantasy valuation that produces $9 M out of thin air. In his report, Lembach neither discloses nor explains why he used hypothetical rather than real assets.

An independent analysis by Charlie McDermott of the Encinitas Taxpayers Association shows the total unfunded pension liability is closer to $70 M — and growing. McDermott calculated the $70 M figure using the California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s (CalPERS) future-return assumptions. He believes, and we agree, that the CalPERS assumptions are excessively optimistic. More realistic assumptions for return on investments would push the shortfall to well over $100 M. For some perspective on that amount, $100 M is more than the combined bond debt the City has assumed to buy the Hall property, to build the park on the property, and to build the library and fire stations.

On several occasions, Encinitas citizens have publicly asked the City Council for honesty and transparency regarding the City’s unfunded pension liabilities. Mayor Jerome Stocks has repeatedly shrugged off these requests, with flippant remarks to the effect that CalPERS, not the City, is responsible for the calculations, and that the City just pays the CalPERS monthly bills. Stocks’ public position on the pension trouble is the equivalent of our repeatedly making minimum monthly payments on our credit card, ignoring the large and growing balance, and continuing our shopping sprees. The City’s combined employer and employee pension payments to CalPERS are more than $6 M annually. That’s about 11% of the budget.

The longer we put off being honest about our liabilities, the greater the eventual cost will be. – Encinitas Taxpayers Association

From the new edition of the Hoodlink.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

More Choices for Leucadians

This morning just past 7am, Starbuck parking lot was almost full, except for the clean air parking spots. Starbucks is all about sustainability.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Question of the day

From the in box:

Besides obvious "off-the-record" reasons, why does the city refuse to paint curbs red within 15 feet of a fire hydrant? I've witnessed 4 people ticketed in one hour at the corner of A St. and the 101 in front of The Lofts. There is a fire hydrant about 10' from the corner on the south side of A St., but no curb markings or signs stating that it is a violation to park within [see below]. The motorcycle deputy was less than sympathetic with any of those being ticketed, and I understand that ignorance of a law is no excuse. But the allowable distance between fire hydrant and vehicle varies from city to city (some don't have any codes for this), and not marking the roads with appropriation signage is nothing short of extortion by the city.

Pop Quiz: How many feet do you have park from a hydrant in Encinitas? Where would you find this out other than on your ticket (anybody got a link)?

Answer: Lots of people had fun sending the link 
15 feet. That's one longboard and a short board laid nose to tail.