Thursday, July 28, 2016

• No Tax Increase Talk From Wildomar

Wildomar has long had budget constraints, and those that are up on things understand that our city has been deprived of roughly $2 million per yer by Governor Brown's decision to take away VLF funds (Vehicle License Fees) several years ago that every other city gets (except the four newest cities in Riverside County). 

Yet we're still faced with the same reality of rising costs for public safety, at about a 7% per year clip, as our neighboring cities.

We've recently seen Hemet attempt to pass a 1% sales tax increase with a ballot measure. 

Since it was a special purpose tax it required a 2/3 majority to pass. It fell about 4% short.
But that election result didn't deter them, it just got them looking to put a general tax increase on the ballot this time... which happens to only need a 50% vote to pass.

Let me digress for a moment

Wouldn't it make more sense that if one of the two tax types were to only take a simple majority to pass, it be the Special Purpose tax, that has narrow parameters... and the General tax, that just goes into the general budget, be the one that would take a super majority 

I was at a public meeting recently where there was a legislative update portion. It was there that a Temecula city councilmember spoke glowingly of the new 1% sales tax increase they just approved for the ballot.

That's with an existing surplus of $21 million from what I heard.  

Here's a link to a recent Press Enterprise editorial that mentions both Hemet and Temecula's city council putting such measures on the 2016 November ballot.

BTW, adding one cent to the existing sales tax is NOT a 1% increase. Currently the sales tax in Temecula is 8%. Adding a full percentage point is actually an increase of 12.5%.
 Click image to visit online calculator.

Temecula has paid many thousands of their taxpayer's dollars to a polling firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates, also known as FM3, to help ensure tax increases are a viable option for their city to pursue.
 Also looking to raise taxes is Menifee, by the same 12.5%, but they'd tell you it's 1%, since it would only be an additional penny per dollar.

So I sent out an email to all five of the city council members of Wildomar with the following question:

 WR  You've seen that several surrounding communities are looking to place tax increase measures on the ballot to shore up their budgets. Wildomar is facing the same issues with ever increasing costs for first-responders. Has there been talk of a tax increase here, and if not, do you see one on the horizon? If so, or even if not, what would the steps be before such a thing would be voted on by the council?

Mayor Bridgette Moore

Our efforts are, and have been, focused on recovering our $2million General Fund recurring revenues that the State took from us, starting in July 2011.  

Hopefully, the legislation to restore our annual funding will be approved soon or at least when the Governor is replaced in January 2019.  

The other cities, proposing sales tax increases, are trying to maintain their current service levels for pubic safety and basic services because the property tax revenues from residential development does not cover the cost of services.  
In Wildomar, we have taken the necessary steps to assure that new development does not have a negative fiscal impact on our General Fund. 

Could the residents of Wildomar benefit from a sales tax increase?  Of course! Currently, the city sales tax revenue is about $1.3 million per year. 

It all comes down to, what kind of a community do you want and are our citizens willing to pay for?

IF there was to be discussion on a sales tax increase, it would be put on a future agenda item.  The public would be invited to attend and give their input.

Mayor Pro-Tem Tim Walker

No, there is no plan to make a special tax to cover the shortfall. I have always said to increase revenue through the commercial enterprises. Making it easier for businesses to come here and get established.  That's my plan. Living within our means is what I have to do and making cuts is always the first option. 

Councilmember Marsha Swanson

I am, and have always been, against raising tax. If I am working and don't make enough money to pay my bills I have several choices.  Spend less, ask my boss for a raise, or get a second job. I always think personally I can do with less.  The citizens may not want to do with less and that is their choice to make.  

I have not heard of anyone with the city or council talking about asking the citizens to raise taxes.

The comments from the other two councilmembers didn't arrive in time for publication, but I'll happily add them to this blog once I get them.
Nice to know that our elected officials are
not looking to raise our taxes.
There is a candidate for city council, Dustin Nigg, that is running in district 2 (The Farm) and I thought it would be good to get his input on this too. 

Since he's not on the council, I had to reword the question a bit.

 WR  You've seen that several surrounding communities are looking to place tax increase measures on the ballot to shore up their budgets. Wildomar is facing the same issues with ever increasing costs for first responders. Do you have a position on tax increases as a candidate for city council?

Dustin Nigg, candidate 2nd district

As a conservative I tend to flinch when additional taxes are mentioned because I believe that there are other avenues to broach before discussing tax increases.  Questions I would ask myself would be 

1. Are we doing enough to facilitate a growth in business for our city?  The idea is to bring businesses to our community which thereby creates jobs and money in our city.

2. Is there any wasteful spending in the current budget? Can we use money that is allocated elsewhere?

3. How does this benefit our community and is it important to our citizens?

I feel that public safety is important to our community and is an important issue for our citizens but I would be hesitant to support any increase in tax until I was satisfied that we as representatives of our community had done EVERYTHING possible to find a way to fix the problem without a new tax measure.

I've extended an invitation to Dustin to be part of a "Better Know A Candidate" blog, as I also have with incumbent Councilmember Bob Cashman. 

If all goes well, those should be coming online in late September, early October as we get closer to election day.

•        •        •

The future should be important to you. That's where you'll spend the rest of your life.

—Grandma from Family Circus, Bil Keene

Wildomar Rap looks to the heavens, shoots for the stars but knows that terra firma is the place to keep one's feet.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

• Trails Subcommittee Meeting July 2016

I don't make a lot of the subcommittee meetings and this was the first Trails Subcommittee meeting I've attended. 

It started at 3:00pm and I was sure it was going to be opened and closed within half an hour, but life is always full of surprises.

I'd checked the agenda and it had 4 basic items on it. 

Hint, all were dealing with trails.

The only one that was newsworthy was item 4, which was an update on the Grand Avenue Project.

Artist rendering of Grand Avenue after the project is complete.

This project is still on schedule and after the meeting I asked Public Works Director/City Engineer Dan York about it.

They hope to encumber the monies by the end of December and work should be starting in the first quarter of 2017. 

A traffic signal at the middle school is still part of the project, funding not coming from the city, and the roundabout at Sheila and Grand is still part of the project.

So what made a ho hum Trails Subcommittee last 90+ minutes? 

Public Comments of course.

Now don't get me wrong, public comments are the backbone of our democracy. What isn't the backbone of our democracy is the same people speaking on every topic. 

Some with borrowed time - upping their filibusters to 6 minutes.

You know, most of the city council is adept with email, and you can very easily get your views to them ahead of time... but I'm guessing that would take half the fun out of it.

The only thing missing from this matinee of horror was Wildomar's renowned warbler, Miss Miller. Had she attended, the meeting could have eclipsed two hours and with nary a difference for the trouble.

As it was, the constant cat calls from the audience more than made up for her absence. They must think they are smarter than the elected officials and the educated professionals too. 

The funny thing is that none of them, well almost none of them, ever think to actually represent the city from the other side of the dais. 

Is it because they'd have NO CHANCE at ever winning, or being appointed? Or is it that they love the power of wagging their finger in other people's faces? Who knows, who cares.

Though subcommittee meetings are less formal than regularly scheduled city council, and planning commission meetings, is it too much to ask for at least a modicum of decorum from the peanut gallery in the future?

My favorite part of the meeting was when a public speaker would go up to speak, and demonstrate that they weren't listening in the first place. 

One instance had a former trail czar think that bike lanes had been proposed on the Justin Hunt Memorial Trail.

Which had Dan York remind those in attendance, "No one ever mentioned, or intimated, that the Justin Hunt Memorial Trail was going to be anything more than a multipurpose trail; the bikes will stay on grand avenue."
The Justin Hunt Memorial Trail is behind the development known as Windstone Ranch.

The same guy then lamented that if the trails aren't wide enough in spots that the city would probably get sued in the future. 

Which led to this response from Subcommittee Chairman Tim Walker, "If it comes down to people sueing I'll tell you one thing right now, this city council —or at least I will vote— to close some of the trails that [have] pinch points. If I'm afraid that people are going to sue [us] on a pinch point because they went from ten feet down to seven, because that's all we had, and it was a trail and it was designated a trail, I will vote to close the thing, and it'll be that simple."

Another example of this was when a person went up to the podium to ask who was going to pay to maintain a future set of parks that are due to come in with some anticipated developments off of McVicar. 
4.6 and 6.6 acre future parks that will also work as trailheads.

Had that person been listening to Dan York's presentation, they would have heard him say that it was going to be taken care of by CFDs (Community Facilities Districts) with each development paying the city to maintain them. 

Although I don't think the staff would agree with me, I found it to be very entertaining... and the air conditioning was set lower than I have at home so it was a win-win no matter how silly it got.
•        •        •

Fate is the friend of the good, the guide of the wise, the tyrant of the foolish, the enemy of the bad.

—William R. Alger, 1822-1905

Wildomar Rap enjoys the process of spending monies more than encumbering them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

• Better Know A Candidate: Tim Sheridan

I don't usually stray too far from Wildomar for blog topics, but Tim Sheridan is running for the congressional seat that covers Wildomar, and his team reached out to me so here we are. 

From the start I'll tell you that this blog isn't going to focus on partisan political issues, looking to set up some type of gotcha moment. 

Democrat Candidate Tim Sheridan.
Most people already have their minds made up when it comes to politics, and there's no point in me bringing up such things in an argumentative way. 

I'll include links to his website at the bottom of the blog if you're interested in his official biography, and stances on the issues.

We sat down for about 45 minutes and chatted, his field director Maha Rizvi, joined us. 

I had made a list of questions, some just fun softballs, and others that brushed him back off the plate a bit (there's me, always looking to get a baseball reference in there).

After you've read this you're going to say, "But where were all the follow up questions? How come you didn't hold Sheridan's feet to the fire on some of his responses?"

My answer is that I'm not Mike Wallace, and Wildomar Rap isn't 60 Minutes looking to trap the candidate by painting him into a corner. 

Tim Sheridan is happy to speak to the voters, and I'm sure he'd make time for you if you ask for it.
 WR  How did you arrive in this area?
 TS  I grew up in upstate New York, and it was cold a lot of the time, and as soon as I had an opportunity to move to California I did. I lived up in Northern California first, then moved down here to Southern California in 2002 and I lived in Menifee for about 11 years. In 2012 my wife and I found a new home in Lake Elsinore, that we just fell in love with, and that's where we've lived ever since.

 WR  It takes a certain desire to serve the community as an elected official, what is your past community involvement?
 TS  My whole life really has been about trying to help people. I work for a union. My job is a job where I help people keep their jobs. I help them get through whatever issue they may be going through at work to make sure they can keep paying the mortgage, feed their families, things along those lines.

It's a natural transition from working in that type of environment to seeking public office. I'm a firm believer that house of representatives member should be actively involved in the community. 
Tim Sheridan with supporters.

 WR  You're feeling a bit peckish in the mid afternoon. Your two options are a slice of pizza or a Snickers bar, which do you choose?
 TS  (After a brief chuckle) I'll say this, since I started campaigning in the middle of 2013, I've put on a few pounds, and it is so interesting because you go to events people are glad you're there and they want to feed you. I was pretty bad about it, and I ate a lot of sugar. In February or March of this year I just tried to stop the sugar. So if you'd have asked me that question prior to February, I would have said, "Snickers Bar, or Reese's cups." Since then I've gotten better, and I probably wouldn't choose the pizza [either], I'd probably have a banana or something.

 WR  What political issues, that are generally considered to be GOP stances, do you find yourself agreeing with?
 TS  That's a good question. One of the things that the GOP talks a lot about, I don't know if they put it into practice as much as they should, but I am a firm believer that we need to take care of our military personnel. 

 WR  Conversely, what political issues that are generally considered to be supported by the Democrats, do you find yourself less enthusiastic about? 
 TS  (After a pensive pause) 
I could see that nothing jumped to the fore of his mind on this, so I attempted to rephrase the question. I used Rand Paul as an example of how he was "less enthusiastic" about many of the GOP's positions, including military overseas.
 That's hard a hard question to answer.
 WR  We can come back to it, it's not intended to be a set up thing.
 TS  Let me think about that, because that is a good question.
During an answer about immigration (below) he hearkened back to this question.

 WR  What do you consider your strong suit?
 TS  I think the strongest suit for me is I'm a hard worker. I'm running for congress right now and I'm working full time on this race. I get up at five in the morning and then work to about 8:30am. Then I do my regular job until about 4:00pm. [From there] I work on the campaign until 10:00pm. I think that's my greatest strength, hard working.

 Maha added,
"And he's a people person."

 WR  On a similar note, what would your wife's answer be to the previous question about you?
 TS  (After a brief laugh) She would say the same thing. My wife thinks I'm a very hard worker. I think that she would also say that I work too hard, and I'm not home as much as she would like me to be home.

 WR  What was your favorite subject in school?
 TS  (Without hesitation) History. Not even a question, I love history. They called it social studies when I was in school, but I loved it, and I still do. I'm a history buff. Especially American history and presidential history.

 WR  Aside from the obvious partisan differences, what do you see as the biggest differences between you and [incumbent] Ken Calvert?
 TS  I think the biggest difference between he and I, as evidenced by what I've done in the campaign, to be very active in the community. Mr. Calvert is not active in the community. He shows up on occasion for things, but he's not someone who spends enough time, frankly, in my view, in the community. 

I think that's the biggest difference between Mr. Calvert and I, is that I'm going to be much more accessible to the people. I don't have a problem sitting in front of somebody who disagrees with me and listening to what they have to say. I'm happy to talk to people about anything. So I think that's probably the biggest difference.

 WR  You're at a public event that has two music stages, but you only have time to go to one. Do you go to the blue grass stage or the doo wop stage?
 TS  I say the doo wop stage, probably. I do like blue grass too. 

At this point I discovered that Tim and I were born in the same year and he was talking about a band I didn't know by name. Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds. He was hoping I knew them, but I drew a blank. However, after I got home I looked them up and I remember a couple of their songs. Classic AM hits. I was never good at knowing the names of bands.

 WR  This might be a tougher one. My wife is a naturalized citizen. When we got married in Canada, she was stopped at the border and she wasn't allowed to immigrate for six months until we got the paperwork in order. She paid all the fees and waited in all the lines. Why should people that disregarded the laws of the USA be rewarded with a pathway to citizenship?
 TS  That's a good question, I think that the most basic answer is that it would be virtually impossible for us to take action to send people away. Assuming there are 11,000,000 [undocumented] people here, we as a country would have a hard time finding them, going through whatever process that we need to go through to send them home, or wherever they came from. 

Number one, we would run into a problem where some of them —probably a vast majority of them have family here already. So if somebody came here 15 years ago when they were 15 years old, now they're 30, it's not unlikely that they got married and have a child —and that child of course is now an American citizen, that's the first practical effect, that I think that people have to take into account. 

Number two, the majority of folks who are here, and are undocumented, have jobs, they're working. I don't know that the economy would benefit if we all of a sudden we sent everybody home. 

Number three, this is a country of immigrants. We're all immigrants in some way. The way that undocumented people got here was not the best way, but they are contributing. I think that is something that has to be taken into account. 

I think that one of the myths that is out there is that folks that are here, and undocumented, are using up resources. The truth is that most of those folks, likely, are paid less than minimum wage to do, what is arguably, difficult jobs... and aren't paying [income] taxes. If everybody was made so that they could work legally, that would actually raise everybody's income, because people (employers) wouldn't be able to pay undocumented people less than what they should be being paid. 

Plus if they paid them what they were supposed to be being paid, then they would pay taxes and that would ultimately benefit the government. 

After Tim's answer here, I clarified my question by saying that my opinions on illegal immigration have evolved over the years. I told him that I voted for 187 back in 1994, and that was a good vote. It made sense then, but it's a totally different landscape today.

What might have been tenable in 1994 isn't anymore; that's why I asked about "pathway to citizenship". I can see a pathway to legal residency, where they can be here forever, but I don't agree that they (those that broke the laws to get here) should be allowed to vote. Which is what comes with citizenship. 
 TS  I don't know that the answer for me changes there. Again, whether it's a pathway to citizenship or a pathway to legal residency, it's just impractical to send them back. I think if they had a pathway to legal residency, and they could work legally, they would start paying [income] taxes, and that would benefit everybody.

It's interesting that you clarified [the question]. The US Chamber of Commerce supports a pathway to citizenship or legal residency, and that's an area that's very often supported by Republicans. So that could also be an answer to one of your earlier questions about is there an area where I support a republican ideal. I support what the US Chamber of Commerce believes about immigration. 

 WR  SoCal is close to many areas, would you say you're more of a beach, mountain or desert person?
 TS  (No hesitation) Desert! My wife's a beach person, she loves the beach. I like the beach too, but I like the heat; I grew up in Syracuse [NY]. 

 WR  What do you see as the biggest concerns for the nation?
 TS  I think that terrorism is something that is huge, and we certainly have to remain vigilant about it, but other than that, I think that dealing with social security is an issue we're going to have to address. There are so many people in this country that are so reliant on social security and three times over the course of the last eight years there has not been an increase in social security. 

The reason for that is because the government uses a CPI (Consumer Price Index) called CPI-W, which is based on urban wage earners salaries, to determine whether or not people on social security should get an increase. 

There's a new CPI been developed called CPI-E, the E stands for elderly, and that takes into account what is generally more expensive for older Americans, that is healthcare issues. 

We need to change the CPI from W to E. 

That's the first thing, the second thing that I think is vital is the student loan debt problem. Do you realize there is $1.3 trillion in student loan debt in this country right now? It covers about 43 million borrowers, and what happens is that kids come out of school and they've got $30,000 of debt that they're paying, generally, more than 4% [interest] on.

It just strangleholds them. They can't buy a new car, they don't go out to eat as often, they can't buy new jeans, and every time they can't buy a new car or can't go out to a restaurant, the people who sell the cars or own [and work in] the restaurants, and the jean manufacturers lose an opportunity to participate in the economy too because they're not getting that money [from commerce].

That money instead is going to the banks or it's going to the federal government. Did you realize that the government is making money on student loans? It's unconscionable in my view.

Those are two economic issues, that are dealing with folks that are older and folks that are younger [that I'm concerned about]. 

Below is a video link of Tim Sheridan, in a prepared campaign ad, speaking on the minimum wage from 2014.

We had a brief chat about the political spectrum where I described myself as center-left, though I have many hard right stances on specific issues.

 WR  How do you describe yourself politically?
 TS  I'm left, there's just no doubt about that. 

 WR  You've mentioned Bernie Sanders a couple of times, so would you say you're [more] in his area or more like Clinton?
 TS  It depends on the issue. I'm a firm believer that social security should not be privatized and that we need to increase social security, and that's a far left position. 

But I'm not a pacifist. If the United States is attacked we need to take the appropriate actions. But at the same time, if we do that we need to take care of our veterans. 

 WR  Assuming you win in November, tell me about how you see your first term as a rookie congressman.
 TS  The thing that people will see in my first term in the house is that my focus will be in the district. I have pledged that when I need to be in DC, I'll be there. When I'm not in DC, I'll be here in the district working. I will not take any congressional junkets, either paid for by taxpayers or corporations —no congressional junkets at all. I'm either going to be in DC or I'm going to be in the district, except for two weeks when I promised my wife to take our vacation —which will not be taxpayer paid. 

I just think that this district is yearning for somebody who brings the House of Representatives here, and I will show up in art association meetings, I'll show up at city council meetings, I will show up to concerts in the park, we'll walk in parades, we'll talk to people, we'll have an office, we'll have office hours, that's where the focus is going to be. 

There's a practical effect for that. 

Number one, I think that's what this district needs, but number two —especially when you're a rookie in the house, I'm not going to get an appropriations subcommittee chairmanship, it's just not going to happen, and I recognize that. I think that what I can do is bring the congress here, to the district, to a greater extent than what we've had since Calvert's been our member.

As I said at the top of this blog, my intention wasn't to get into an argument with Tim Sheridan about issue we don't see eye to eye on. 

My intention was to give those interested, another look at him. Like in a televised football game where they go to the reverse angle replay. It's the same play, same subject, just a different POV.
Joseph Morabito and Tim Sheridan imitating the classic Minnesota Twins logo. The nice part about NOT being a partisan is that you can be on good terms with  people from either party. 

Take a look at that height difference. It's not so much that I'm a shrimp, but I'm obviously several inches short of six feet tall. Next time I'll have to stand on a can of soda if they don't have a booster seat for me.
In the three times that I've encountered Tim Sheridan in person, with the first time at a candidates forum in Tuscany Hills (though I didn't speak with him), at Wildomar's 8th birthday party at Marna O'Brien park, and at this conversation, I've found him to be a genuinely good person with sincere convictions and represents himself well.

We all know how voting works. 

There are partisan voters that are only interested in voting straight down the ticket (whichever it is). Then there are those that vote based on the candidate(s) or a particular issue.  

Whichever your motivation, do your research into the candidates.
Here is a link to the official Tim Sheridan campaign site.

I don't anticipate chatting with incumbent Ken Calvert, but here is a link to his campaign page if you'd like to read up on his views.

•        •        •

"There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it behooves us all not to talk about the rest of us."

—Robert Louis Stevenson, 1815-1894

Wildomar Rap reminds you that it's generally better to be the behoover rather than the behoovee.

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