Thursday, August 9, 2018

• City Council Meeting August 2018

The highlights of the meeting include: 

• The approval of the proposed one additional cent sales tax increase for the November ballot. (now it's up to you to decide)

• There are only four candidates (for three seats) for this year's city council elections. (unless someone shows up at the last minute)

• The city was given an award by WRCOG (Western Riverside Council of Governments) and Wildomar has made the next step in buying our street lights from the power company.
Mayor Ben Benoit displays the "Gold Award" plaque presented by WRCOG.
But the big impact of the meeting came from the seven Briarwood neighbors that spoke during public comments about the effects of a nearby homeless encampment on their neighborhood. (Briarwood is east of Kaiser off of Prielipp Rd)


• Becky Frederick mentioned that the troubles began about a year and a half ago. They've since started a neighborhood watch, have an active facebook page to communicate with each other, cameras, and residents that walk their pets in the early morning hours to shew away suspicious people. She added, "but we really need help in our Briarwood community."
• Kim McKinney talked about homeless guys harassing people at the hospital waiting room and in the Albertsons shopping area as if they owned the place.
• Paul Shield shared a story about a guy trying to enter his front door in the middle of the night (see edited video below).
• Chelsea Bachinski shared a compelling story about encountering the man from the attempted break-in, mentioned above, then called the police. The upshot of her story is that the Wildomar Police didn't get back to her for several hours, and by that time, the issue had been [somewhat] resolved by the Murrieta Police.

She added, "I don't know if it's going to take someone to be killed or to be attacked, but I'm a small individual that could possibly get hurt on my way to work (she starts very early in the morning) and I don't want that to happen."
• James Jucoa 20 plus year resident, told of how his mother-in-law's car had been stolen, then later found at the homeless encampment. In the car, they found stolen goods, credit cards, purses, drugs and she still hasn't had her car returned.
• Danielle Pedroso her mother was the victim of the car theft mentioned above, and she works at a dental office in the Albertsons shopping center. She talked about the homeless problem there, where they will often be sleeping in front of the office door. The account of how a homeless guy was washing himself in the flower bed near her place of business was galling, to say the least. 

She also related a story about some very suspicious, and dangerous looking, homeless people that had 

been at Denny's while she was there.
Councilmember Marsha Swanson jumped in, already apprised of the situation, and assured Danielle that Denny's management was working with Wildomar Police to prevent a recurrence.
• Colleen Wisdom told the council about the theft of tools from her husband's truck, and how the lock to the gate to her backyard was missing and the gate left open... which was worrisome since she has a pool. (the reason the padlock was not secured was to allow the pest guy access to the backyard that day)


At this point, Mayor Benoit broke with protocol and responded to the speakers. (For those that don't know, there are statewide rules that prevent discussion of matters that are NOT on the agenda commonly known as The Brown Act).
• "[Sadly] you're not the only group that has come in and complained about that particular camp, the industrial park just to the west of you, along the freeway, has also come in and explained to us that they are seeing rising theft and tracking it back to the same homeless encampment by the hospital." 

"That property owner has not been the most cooperative. We've had issues getting him to sign some letters to say "homeless people cannot be here" [...] he hasn't signed those letters to my understanding."

"He has also not been trimming the trees like some of you've asked. He'll tell you that he's not allowed to trim the trees. There are limits to the tree trimming because it is an environmentally sensitive area, unfortunately [...] of course they (the homeless) are down there trashing the area. You can't win with some of these state laws."

• "I want to come out and meet with you guys. Maybe an HOA meeting, I'd be happy to come, we'll bring Dan Anne, our police chief back there, along (pointing to where he was sitting in the audience)."

"We have a Coffee with the Mayor [event] and Dan Anne [too]; we just had one a couple of weeks ago and we have another one coming up. I encourage you to come there too."
— Wildomar Mayor, Ben Benoit
Wildomar Rap opinion time

Coffees are nice, but The Bean can't accommodate very many people. There are about 15,000 registered voters in the city, and if only one or two percent show up. That would be 150 to 300 people. Even one-quarter of one percent would be about 35 people. 

Yes, it can be a logistics nightmare to put together and fully advertise a town hall meeting, but that is the proper forum to discuss the homeless issue if you want public input.

Like it's been stated before, this issue is well beyond the scope of our city. It's a problem that has been created in the last few years by poorly thought out legislation and propositions. 

The kicker was Prop 47 which was allowed to have the absurd nicknamed The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. What a joke, it should have been called, The Destruction of Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. That gem passed with a 59-41 margin. 

I don't blame our officials for a problem that other people created. I see this as a difficult situation that will (most likely) only get worse before it gets better, but they need to remain on top of this and be seen as being proactive, even if most of it will only be for show.

These issues need to be headlines in a city-based newsletter, and discussed at town hall meetings, as well as be included in social media administered by the city.
I encourage you to watch the 22 minute video to get a feel for what the Briarwood community has been dealing with.
The only other meaty issue (Item 2.1) was the final approval of the additional one-cent local sales tax ballot proposal. 

For some reason, I thought it was going to be a long and drawn out matter, but it was over and done with... including public comments (2) and council discussion, in under 15 minutes. That item picks up at the 21:00 mark of the video below.

Public Comments: 
• Monty Goddard discussed his tepid support for the tax increase and that even with the increase, we won't be able to address [all] the needs of the city.

• Joseph Morabito (me), candidate for city council, supported putting the measure on the ballot, and encourages the voters to approve it... but understands if the voters are sick of tax increases and choose to vote it down. That if the city needs an increase in revenue, why continue to block the commerce of a legal commodity (cannabis)?

The only comment from the city council on the item came from Tim Walker. He talked about being a conservative, "I don't like taxes". That encouraging commerce and businesses in town was, "the way to do a city".  Then touched on differences between the county and Wildomar. 

Please watch the video (starting at the 30:45 mark of the video), I'm not really sure what his point was as he seemed to touch on many things. In the end, he was for putting the question on the ballot.
"I'm not a one cent guy, never have been, never will be, but this is a fact that the city has to take on and it's got to be the voters that decide it. My personal opinion is that I don't like taxes."

"I said from the get go, the only way you're going to make a city thrive, is by commerce, commercial businesses. But the people in our audience here, and people in this area sue everything. Stall everything, and cause nothing but grief in the city."

"Then everybody comes to us and says, "why can't you do this, why can't you do that?" well, there's your reason right there. If we're not fighting the lawsuit —perfect example, the Subway on Bundy Canyon. One business in a big complex. One! Because he fought that fight for a year, and still ended up paying for something that didn't even need to be done. It's over and over again in the city (the lawsuits)."

"All we can do as a city is make it easy for businesses to get here and get started and produce income, that's how you raise tax money."

"When it comes to the sheriff's, yeah, Riverside County has one to whatever —whatever the ratio is, of course they have that, but they have a lot of money too, besides what we have. [...] To compare us with the county, [that has] billions of dollars, and a small city with not so much, and fighting the fight, and fighting to get people to open here (businesses), to get commerce going, and collect income. That's how you do a city."
— Wildomar City Councilmember Tim Walker
Wildomar Rap opinion time

Tim, when it comes to your points about the city getting sued all the time... yes, welcome to cityhood. 

Pro Tip: ALL CITIES GET SUED at least as often as Wildomar does. If defending lawsuits is enough to derail a city from fully functioning, that should be a clear indication that the long ago naysayers of cityhood may have had a point after all... but we're here now.

Allow me to suggest that we add "We always get sued" to the list of things that none of us in town EVER want to hear again. The other key comment that needs to be sent to the showers is, "Governor Brown stole $12M from us." Those statements are about as pertinent as saying "Ralph Garr hit a home run in batting practice" (something that occurred in 1977).

Councilmember Walker wasn't part of the WIN committee, so maybe he doesn't remember their claims that becoming a city wouldn't come with tax increases.

That's why Monty Goddard was discussing the dismal ratios of sworn officers to residents in the city, and then comparing them to what unincorporated areas have in 2018. 

I believe his numbers were: 

In the county, they have 0.75 officers for every 1000 residents, and Wildomar has 0.54 officers for every 1000 residents.

Since no one on the council disputed Mr. Goddard's numbers, I take it that they are as solid as the rock of Gibraltar.
The video below is (HOPEFULLY) the last that I'll have to upload to keep my pledge of posting all the meetings until the city starts live streaming them... that's supposed to be in September... we shall see.
The other items on the agenda were things covered in previous planning commission meetings. The new sign that Inland Valley Hospital will be getting, and how the city will be dealing with EOTs (extension of time requests from developers). 
During the City Manager update, three things were shared. 
1) There will be an adult coloring group at the library on September 4th.
Come one, come all!

2) Astronomy Night is coming up: August 18th, at Marna O'Brien Park.
3) City Clerk Debbie Lee announced that there are only a total of four candidates that have qualified for the three city council seats (districts 1,3 and 5). 

The city clerk will be available tomorrow (August 10th) to accommodate any latecomers. Just remember, you're going to need to get 20 valid signatures to qualify, and if you're still considering a run, you're cutting it very close.

If there are no further candidates, that means Ben Benoit (District 1) and Marsha Swanson (District 5) will not face a challenger. That's really pathetic when you also throw in that Bridgette Moore didn't face a challenger in 2016, and for all intents and purposes, neither did Dustin Nigg in 2016. Why is there such deep apathy here?

It appears that the only contest will be in District 3.
 the matchup will be 
upstart challenger
Joseph Morabito
vs
longtime incumbent
Tim Walker
On your marks, get set, GO!
I have to give the smile edge to Tim, and his ability to balance his glasses on his head, but I think my beard gets the nod over his. Plus, check out my industrial strength forehead, not to mention that it's hard to go wrong with a lovebird as a sidekick.

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One last note: Wildomar Marketplace will be this Saturday, August 11th, from 9am to 2pm. There was some doubt as to whether or not this was going to happen in Wildomar (something about ordinances) but due to the efforts of city councilmember Bridgette Moore, she was able to keep it in town; nice work. 

Now time to get that ordinance done, so something so basic doesn't have to be fraught full of grief along the way. 

UPDATE
Due to the fires, the Wildomar Marketplace had to cancel for August 11th. The next scheduled Wildomar Marketplace will be October 13th.
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