Thursday, April 12, 2018

• City Council Meeting April 2018

I'm in a quandary over how to cover the April 11th city council meeting. Seriously, to steal AM/PM's tagline, there was too much good stuff. The meeting was the longest I've been to so far, ending just a handful of minutes before 10pm. (and that was without any Miss Miller or Ken Mayes participation — who'd a thunk it?)

Before it got underway, City Attorney Thomas Jex spoke on an issue I was going to bring up to the council: What's the City's position on Sanctuary State issues?

In short, though the members of the council are against SB 54 (the Sanctuary State bill), they unanimously voted not to join any existing lawsuits (Huntington Beach) regarding it. 

The reasons sited include that Huntington Beach is a Charter City, and Wildomar is not. That they have their own police department, and Wildomar contracts with the Riverside Sheriff's Department. Instead, the Council authorized the Mayor to issue a letter regarding SB 54. (Watch the brief video for all the details).

Front Row: Mayor Ben Benoit, Sydney, Sarah, Raylah and Kaydee.
Top Row: Council Members Tim Walker, Dustin Nigg, Marsha Swanson and Bridgette Moore. 
It started with presentations, and included therein were one for David Horenstein and Wildomar Square, Girl Scout Troop 2399 and their Silver Award Project (shown in this blog entry), a police department update, fire department update (with a complete history of Cal Fire), Elsinore High School dropped by, something called Reality Rally lobbied the council to put a team into their event because Lake Elsinore always wins the Temecula event, and then we got our first bit of substance with a presentation called "The Lew Edwards Report" — not to be confused with Lou Dobbs Tonight.
We all love the fire department, but somehow it would have been better slotting to have a ten minute history lesson on a night with fewer meaty agenda items.
At this point, item 3.4 (last on the agenda) was bumped up to first on the agenda. It was dealing with the results of a poll discussing two topics: cannabis and tax increases.

Before that though were the public comments on non agenda items. The first four were by residents of the North Ranch community (just off Stable Lanes Road on the north side of Clinton Keith). They were all concerned about a growing homeless encampment in that area. Please see the video link for their complete comments and a few replies by the council (it runs 11 minutes).

Some of the things that the North Ranch residents have gone through with homeless people are downright upsetting.

Other public comments included Joseph Morabito representing T-Now, Melina Velasquez giving a library report, Ernest Helm talking about the new multipurpose trail on Grand and Gary Andre thanking the city for recent work on trails, and suggesting they annex a new development that lies just outside the Wildomar boundaries. 

Item 3.4 Community Interest Survey Results
This was two pronged. The survey was asking voters how they felt about a potential one penny sales tax increase, and the other issue was how they felt about cannabis businesses in town. The two topics were intertwined.

I'm including a video that covers both ends of this topic, and I'll give some basic notes... this could easily take up reams of cyber paper to breakdown.

Part one was about a potential tax increase (one penny sales tax to be exact). First, remember that ALL such tax increases must be voted in by the public.

The results were staggeringly high in favor of passage of such a tax, even among registered Republicans which are 50% of the registered voters in the area. 
Enhance screenshot from the presentation.
On the issue of a tax increase, all the council members made it clear that they don't like additional taxes, but see them as a necessary evil when it comes to the quality of life in Wildomar. 
Many that responded to the questionnaire were "strongly opposed" on the topic of cannabis. 
The opposition carried in a four of the five districts according to the survey of 900 registered voters.
Below are some pull quotes from the council, and my commentary underneath.

This is where it feels like I'll be walking a tightrope. 

First, admittedly, I like and respect all the members of the council and consider them all to be friends on one level or another. So much so that I'm regarded as their minion, by the cantankerotti (my pet name for the half dozen or so Wildomar Haters)

Still, if I'm going to be "blogger guy", and taken seriously, I have to be able to set that aside at times when its necessary.
• I hate raising taxes, worse than anyone probably around here, I'm on a fixed income, I rely on my social security, that's what I have coming in, but I still would be willing to pay that extra one percent as a lot of the cities around us already are. I would be willing to pay that to get our streets fixed, to get the things that we need. Everyone thinks we've got this money now (the returned VLF funds) we're back where we started, we don't have anything extra. 

(Responding to my question of who is it that they represent, registered voters or everyone that lives in the city?)
And that is who we represent, or I do, is actual voters. Not people who don't vote and then come and complain about something they don't like or that isn't right.

— Marsha Swanson
Maybe it came off as a trick question, but when I asked, "Who do you represent, registered voters or everyone that lives in the city?" 

I was thinking of people like my wife. 

Grace could not register to vote before 2007, the year she became a naturalized citizen. Then there are people like my mother that is part of a religion that thinks it's their god sworn duty to NOT vote.

I'll bet that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other LEGAL immigrants here, that would love to register to vote, but aren't allowed to since they aren't citizens. Yet they are also homeowners, business owners and assets to the community.  

From a friend to a friend, are you sure you want to stick with "that is who we represent, or I do, is actual voters"?
• Yes, going forward we will receive the $2m that we're supposed to get, but that only brings us back to [...] where we started, but that doesn't bring back the $12m that the governor stole from us, that we'll never get back. That's $12m of your dollars gone forever. I am in favor of the sales tax part, number one. For number two, I don't think you can quote that Wildomar residents voted 53% yes [on Prop 64] then turn around and say that the survey we did, since the question [was to] registered voters doesn't count because you have to compare apples to apples. 

• You can go outside Wildomar and purchase your marijuana, a mile from our border. Just like other legal products, like a soccer ball, underwear or a car, because we don't sell those things in Wildomar either. Maybe one day we will, but I have to leave Wildomar and drive to another city to purchase those legal products also. 

• Wildomar residents voted for legal access, but I've always said that didn't mean they wanted it "in" Wildomar. They just wanted the right to go purchase it. 

— Bridgette Moore
Here's the thing. The types of polls taken were not apples to apples. The one dealing with a possible new tax needed to be asked of ONLY registered voters. 

The one dealing with a legal product, needed to be asked by everyone that is an adult, their voting status played no part in it, since a vote on the matter wasn't at issue. 

As for talking about people being able to drive to other areas to get soccer balls, underwear and cars, I'll bet my house against a box of week old Go-Nutz Donuts that you'd love to have a car dealership here, and also some stores that sold everyday items too. It's not a very fair comparison in my eyes. 

We need the money, and to give our tax money to other municipalities, sending shoppers to other areas, while weighing the pros and cons of an additional penny sales tax seems to be a bit incongruous to me.
• I think the moral argument to this is, one I'm a drinker and smoker. Both things are bad for me, I know that one will kill me at some point in my life. But I think it's harder for kids in high school to go get cigarettes and alcohol because its regulated. You have to go somewhere and show an ID to get it. 

I'm not negating the fact that there are parents, and other people —older people, that go to the store for those kids, and buy them stuff. I get that, it happens. But I think as a whole it's harder for kids to get those two products than it is to get marijuana, because marijuana isn't regulated. [...] I think the moral argument to that is, do I want my kids smoking marijuana? No. 

I've never done it, I've never used it, but I also want it to be harder for them to get, and for their friends to get. For that reason alone, I think it's worth considering going forward with regulating it, in some fashion, in our city. 

— Dustin Nigg
I'm still waiting for my chance to have a substantive disagreement with Dustin... and like Veronica Langworthy said, "And Dustin, you're Nigg." 😂 
She meant to say, "You're new" but it came out a bit wrong. 
• I don't know where everybody's coming up with 'we're going to have all this money'. I understand some of the other cities are going to put a tax on it. 

They're taxing square footage in order to try and get money that way. They're going around the law in order to figure out another way to tax. I get that, I see what [other] cities are doing. 

As the facts are, just what the polls show, people are saying "no" and they don't want it in our city. Doesn't mean they're not going to smoke it, doesn't mean they're not going to get it, they're still going to get it, it's recreational, doesn't matter that the federal government still says it's a bad drug and nobody should be using it. But we live in California, the land of all kinds of fun stuff, and they decided that they are just going to ignore federal law. I'm not for ignoring federal law, so I'm going to stand by that one. 

• I've asked people myself, and they've told me, "If you're going to do it, tax the crap out of it so it's miserable."

(Shifting over to the tax question)
• My super conservative —I hate taxes anyway, and after what the state has done to us with our gas tax, to ask everybody for one cent more —I get it, I understand, I wish we had more money, I mean, I'm always opposed to raising taxes, that's just against my nature. The only advantage here is that we (Wildomar) get the one cent [directly], it doesn't go there (Sacramento) first. 

• I'm not opposed to that (putting the tax issue on the ballot), I think it should be the 66% vote for that kind of a tax. Anytime there's a tax, it should be 66%, because it shouldn't be 50%+1 deciding. It's not fair to the rest of them. 

— Tim Walker
Tim, I get it, you hate taxes... so do I

In 1996 I refrained from voting on a particular tax issue in San Clemente because I had a conflict of interest. On the one hand, being the biggest dittohead of the time, hated taxes.

On the other hand, without the special tax, the softball complex I played at twice a week was going to close... and that's what happened, we closed the park with our votes. 

We all hate taxes, but taxes are the way we collect money to pay for the things we demand. Things like better roads, or more police. This is one of those "outside the box" moments, even if it's on the distasteful side. I hate taxes, but I like quality roads and infrastructure. Something has to give.

Making Wildomar jump through hoops that are beyond the requirements seems very unnecessary to me. Referring to his desire to require 2/3 vote when 50+1 Is the standard. 

As to the first quote I have of yours, yes, that's how it's done. The licensing fees are where the sure money is to be made. That and the sales tax on it. Not a special tax that looks to keep the black market intact. 

• Tim, I agree with you. The way the state set things up you don't get any money. You don't really get any money if you do all three, so I don't think it's worth knocking off all three to go after that state money. I think the only money that would be there, and what I see San Jacinto brought forward and what Hemet has brought forward is development impact fees, so that you do it by the square foot —I believe that's what the county's looking at. The county's decided to look at that option. The county's looking at moving forward, bringing back an ordinance. Whether or not they vote on it, we don't know yet. But I think as a dais, I think that's probably our best bet if we're going to do anything. [...] We wait and see what the county does and copy that ordinance.

• Those are my thoughts, I think we need some more information on the cannabis, I think we need to bring it back in a couple of months, and keep going down that path, looking at it, and again, waiting to see what the county's going to do in a few months on that. But I think the tax one, we've got to march toward November. 

—Mayor Ben Benoit
The video is an hour and thirteen minutes long, and it's interesting to hear how it went down. Also there are public comments by Gina Castanon, Joseph Morabito, Gary Andre, Bob Cashman and Veronica Langworthy.

3.1 DH Holdings GPIP
This was covered in the March planning commission meeting. 

Brief recap, a four acre piece of property directly south of The Shops at Clinton Keith (where Tacos Tijuana is located), which is on the General Plan Land Use map as commercial retail, is the spot that the developer would like to put 96 apartments — oops, they were recently upgraded to condos.
The GPIP was only about the project seen in the blue circle. The "Corporate Center" was discussed, and very interesting, but was NOT on the agenda.
This is still quite preliminary, but I figure that it may be of interest to the community to see how this type of item is handled by the council. A situation where the developer, a well liked individual in town (who happened to be the focus of the first presentation of the night), didn't get any special treatment from the council.
Mr. Mayor, that's not a great spot for a photo op....
In a nutshell, Mr. Horenstein would like to build 96 units (originally called apartments, now called condos) on just under 4 acres of land. Like I said at the meeting, "A change from "apartments" to "condos" when it's the same number of units, on the same number of acres, reminds me of the rose, under another name."

If he was listening to the council's commentary, he will thoroughly revamp the project, and —if any apartments are to be part of a larger project, they will not go four stories and will be slotted as phase 4, not phase 1. 
There was more to the meeting, MUCH MORE, but my keyboard just went on strike.

3.2 SCE presentation regarding WCE

This was originally not included in the blog. I added this video on February 9, 2020. I'm not adding any notes or opinions, just making it available if anyone is interested.
•                •                •

"The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense."

— Tom Clancy

Thank goodness Wildomar Rap doesn't have to worry about that, one way or the other.
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