I am very proud that the Oakley City Council voted unanimously against a fee increase on city owned parcels and essentially told an unelected board from San Francisco “no way”. Although the votes will likely not change the overall countywide election and its symbolic, it’s a nice message to send to Oakley residents.
Mayor Kevin Romick’s quote in the Contra Costa Times is absolutely correct that sometimes you have to stand up to the unelected bureaucrats who come up with ideas that handicap city budgets.
I will keep my conspiracy theories to myself about how the City staff was able to vote (see staff report) on behalf of the city or why this had to be a special meeting. In the end, the proper action (see video: 36 minutes) was taken and that is all that matters.
Kudos to the City Council!
Special Meeting Recap
Montgomery stated during the meeting that he voted on behalf of the city, but there is time to retract those votes based on the council’s wishes. He explained that other cities had staff vote on their behalf, some cities votes yes, some voted no while Antioch did an interesting thing and did not vote in order to let the parcel owners decide.
“The City is anxious to find new revenue,” stated Montgomery in reference to be able to pay for compliance of this legislation. In Montgomery’s defense, the language is large enough to be a book.
Montgomery explained to the council there are 30-40 parcels in Oakley but that some did not meet the qualifications and were not subject to the fee. He then stated that their votes on the parcels would likely not sway the overall vote.
“What does this return to source do? What does it exactly bring to Oakley?” asked Councilman Jim Frazier.
City Engineer Jason Vogan explained that it is essentially requirement after requirement as part of the legislation. It increases documentation and inspections, capturing trash, new development controls, track treatment flow as a few examples. He went onto further explain this legislation is not perfect, its complex and we find things out as we go.
He continued to state that the $800,000 to run the program is just an estimate and it could be more and will be more in the future because of the increases. The city is not told how to spend the revenue, but that it must comply. Failure to comply is a $10,000 + fee fine per day.
“Sounds like it’s an administrative cost… and not doing anything for clean water. I’m not hearing any benefit,” said Frazier.
Mr. Vogan replied that there will be new careers and positions created by this. When asked if Oakley has the staff now, Mr. Montgomery explained that people will need to be hired—likely contracted out.
“This is additional staff time,” said Councilwoman Pat Anderson. “I hate unfunded mandates.”
She went onto say that she hated being told what to do and then figuring out how to pay for it but seemed okay with the outcome for clean water.
“This is for a good reason. I do believe the outcome is a good thing. We don’t know the true outcome and won’t know for at least three years. This is a leap of faith,” said Anderson.
Councilman Randy Pope took a nice stance explaining that he does not like unelected officials on boards making policy and passing regulations. He stated that it’s unconstitutional under California Law—probably the best statement of the afternoon! He urged the council to vote down this fee stating that he did not like this from the beginning to end.
Frazier and Pope appeared on the same page.
“This seems liked a double taxation. If estimate doesn’t work, it seems like we are on the hook for more,” explained Frazier. “We can’t in good faith say we need more but you may pay more later. We are not completing the goal of clean water, we are paying for reports. I want to see something accomplished.”
Vice Mayor Carol Rios brought up an excellent point asking whether or not this board of consultants in San Francisco can be contracted out as consultants on this program, claiming she “has a hunch”.
“It’s very possible. Within a year after serving on the board hey could serve,” explained Montgomery.
Rios requested that if this passes, we work with other cities to ensure as part of this program that no one on the board that was responsible for creating this program and fee would be allowed to consult on this program.
“A lot of this has to do with long term employment,” stated Rios.
Mayor Kevin Romick asked who pays for this shortfall we will soon experience in which Montgomery replied the general fund. Montgomery explained they are developing the budget now and should be available by May—at that point, this will be a line item every year going forward. For a couple of years, they project an annual cost of about $800k but it will soon increase.
Montgomery appeared to be urging the council to vote yes for the city parcels.
“We are at the greatest risk due to future development. We have to ensure we cross our T’s and dot our I’s, compared to other communities that are already developed,” explained Montgomery.
It was brought up by a number of council members that by spending general fund money on this program, it could impact public safety or other programs.
Mayor Romick explained that when he and Carol Rios went to the mayors meeting, that as the concern of every other city at the meeting that you are taking funds that pay police offers and other pogroms to do paperwork for this program.
Council voted 5-0 against “2012 Community Clean Water Initiative.”