Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Kill this Vampire or Is It a Zombie?

At a special City Council meeting yesterday, Dr. Noe asked whether the 10% of stormwater money designated for open space could go to finance some projects around the city. He suggested that the money could be borrowed and paid back. Although Diana Drain wasn't mentioned, this was one of the specific projects that the Mayor wanted to address with the open space funds. The Mayor's old proposal which seemingly died on the vine and the recommendation of that proposal subsequently was rescinded by the Open Space Advisory Board.

Emma Acosta (recently I've been agreeing with her) said that voters had designated that 10% for open space and their vote should be respected. Paraphrasing Carl Robinson, he said that people vote on lots of things but it is no big deal to change that vote. The Mayor said that he might try to approach open space people again. 

Somebody kill this vampire. Or, is it a zombie that just keeps coming? To take the open space money for something for which is is not designated undermines that fund, the acquisition and preservation of open space, the stormwater utility and the Public Service Board.

Dr. Rick Bonart, a candidate for City Council District 1 and a former PSB member, suggests other ways to finance emergencies such as Diana Drain or flooding along Transmountain or I-10 and so forth:

1. If there are real emergencies John Balliew, CEO of EPWU, could pull from the O&M budget because there is elasticity there.

2. The increase in the stormwater fee should, via revenue bonds, be able to generate more that enough cash - a product of the recent rate increase.

3. Implementing a stormwater impact fee is more appropriate than diverting funds the public specifically voted on and decide to use as open space money. 

Dr. Bonart stated unequivocally: "This money [the 10% of the stormwater fee] should be used for genuine open space projects only and that's it.

By the way, HERE is the agenda for yesterday's special council meeting. The conversation drifted from the agenda to flood issues to funding issues to taking open space money. Obviously, until the Council gets the fact that voters (i.e., citizens - and, no, Mr. Robinson you cannot overturn a vote just because you don't like it) designated 10% of their stormwater fees for open space, they can't contemplate its use for something else. More importantly, until they value the preservation of open space, they will continue to contemplate using that money to finance their shortfalls.

Also by the way, there were only 2 citizens from the general public in attendance. Perhaps 30 or 40 staff members were there.

Are these special council meetings (which now seem to be more often) a means to get around public comment and participation? Another vampire. Or a zombie.

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