Interestingly, this special city council meeting didn’t involve any motions or votes. Instead, at the request of our city manager, city staff posted about 70 projects up on various large sheets of paper around council chambers. Then the city manager gave elected officials colored dot stickers to place alongside the projects we thought were city priorities.
The catch was that we were only given 4 dot stickers to chose 4 priorities out of 70 projects. You’ll find a complete list of these projects, as well as information on growing our city staff as requested by our city manager, here.
- Redevelopment issues
- Coronado Cays berm (waterways) maintenance & repair
- Senior Center renovation
- NPDES permits.
Here’s why I made those choices:
Redevelopment issues. We are burdened with $328,000,000.00 total redevelopment debt as self-reported by our city officials for this current six-month reporting period and approved by city council. Get the facts about our self-reported redevelopment debt on our ROPS 3 here. ROPS stands for “recognized obligated payment schedule,” which is a bureaucratic way to say “redevelopment debt.”
Approximately $61,000,000.00 worth of loans from our general fund to the now defunct Coronado redevelopment agency are reasonably a loss according to redevelopment experts as well as our city staff. Read the actual denial letter dated 13 October 2012 from the state finance department here.
San Diego County took back approximately $2,400,000.00 in June 2012 in a mechanism called a “true up.”
The state of California took back approximately $3,200,000.00 in December 2012 from out ow income housing fund “set aside” through a mechanism called a “claw back.”
There is another $6,846,416.00, or approximately $7,000,000.00, that the state is going to take back, or require to be withheld, according to page two of the state Department of Finance letter dated 1 April 2013. Read the actual letter here.
If you add up the above numbers, that’s a total of $73,700,000.00, or approximately $74,000,000.00 that our city is in the hole due to the end of redevelopment. That’s a significant negative impact that has far-reaching effects on our city finances, including our city budget.
Our city can’t afford to remain in denial about this $74 million redevelopment debt bite out of our budget. There’s too much work to be done addressing our financial woes. Only the most dedicated and least productive blinder-wearers are still in denial about the end of redevelopment in Coronado.
During our special city council meeting I recognized that our staff has stated, both on and off the public record, that they spend a great deal of time dealing with redevelopment issues since redevelopment ended on 1 February 2012. I thanked them for their work. It’s a big deal. The end of redevelopment has deep, far-reaching, long-term negative effects on our city finances, including our current and future budgets.
Coronado Cays berms. Two separate courts have mandated that the responsibility to fix and maintain the Cays berms in those waterways falls on the city. Therefore, this is a priority, especially since the longer the city waits to address the berms, the worse the situation will grow and the more expensive the costs will be.
You may remember that past city councils and current elected officials stonewalled our neighbors in the Cays on this issue and forced the Cays homeowners to sue our city in order to get a legal ruling on the city’s responsibility for the berms. The trial court ruled in favor of the Cays homeowners, stating that the evidence shows that the city is responsible. Present and past elected officials then voted 4-1 — with myself dissenting — to appeal the trial court’s ruling. Naturally, the city lost at the appellate court level, too. The reason is that the evidence shows that the city is responsible for the berms.
As I consistently maintained, the facts and the law prove that the city is responsible for the Cays berms. This prolonged litigation wasted city tax dollars and Cays homeowners dollars, too. If you live in the Cays, you paid twice for the litigation because your Cays homeowners dollars were used to file and carry out the initial action at the trial court level . . . and your property tax dollars were wasted by your elected officials — except for me — to defend against the Cays homeowners lawsuit. It was a tremendous waste of public funds and a quintessential example of city government waste.
Senior Center renovation. This is long, long overdue. Back around 1985 when the Coronado redevelopment agency, called the Coronado Community Development Agency (CDA), came into existence, our Senior Center was listed as one of the original blighted city properties in need of urban redevelopment. Nearly 3 decades later, the Senior Center stands un-renovated. It’s unfair to our Seniors.
NPDES permits. NPDES stands for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System through which our city must comply with the federal Clean Water Act. This is one of my areas of legal expertise. If we fail to comply with recent changes, we’ll subject our city taxpayers to expensive fines as punishment. According to city staff last year, compliance will cost our taxpayers an additional $250,000.00 in this coming fiscal year and an additional $120,000.00 every year thereafter. These costs are significant increases that put additional stress on our city budget.
Special Council Meeting Wrap Up. Even though I singled out the above four city projects during this exercise, that doesn’t mean that I expect or desire our city to stop working on the other projects. To me, working in city government means keeping up with multiple priorities in the best interests of our residents and local business owners while getting fair value for our taxpayers by spending public funds in a cost-efficient manner.
Finally, during this special council meeting a very emotional mayor and city council blocked my calm and business-like attempt to get accurate financial information on the state of the pool cooperative fee model involving the school pool (called the BBMAC and located on CUSD grounds) and our city pool (called the community pool and located within our community center next to city hall).
Coronado community pool with rainbow.
Strangely, we haven’t had an update on the proposed cooperative pool fee model, which council put into effect years ago. By a council vote of 4-1 with myself dissenting, our mayor and council punished community pool users by doubling community pool fees for the clearly stated purpose of helping out the financially struggling school pool. It was stated by the majority of four elected officials that the higher fees at the school pool was the reason that it was losing vast amounts of money. Their answer was to double the community pool fees. Coronado taxpayers have a right to know if council’s decision about public funds was a success or a failure because our elected officials are accountable for their decisions and actions.
By way of background, you may recall that the vote of 4-1, with myself dissenting, resulted in our recreation director and assistant city manager forming a committee with school pool and CUSD officials and spending our city resources to meet in order to help the school pool. Therefore, in the interest of government transparency it was necessary and proper for me to make my request for our city staff — recreation director and assistant city manager — to follow up during a council meeting and advise us of the status of their efforts. An update on this public finance matter at a public meeting is long, long overdue.
For more on the community pool-school pool cooperative fee model during this special council meeting, see my 8 April 2013 post here.