CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 2/21/2023
Summary of this Recap:
Summary of this Recap: In this recap we cover Dr. Mammone’s Memorial service; information about how and what is discussed in Closed Sessions of City Council meetings; three proclamations; the Balloon Ordinance; Site improvements at Aliso Beach; operation and use of South County Beaches; revised Fund Balance for 2021-22;
Memorial Service for Dr. Mammone:
GW: Last Friday I attended the celebration of Dr. Mammone’s life held at the Festival of the Arts. It was a full house---standing room only. I sat with some of the health care colleagues who had worked with him in Laguna Beach, Upland, and as far back as his lifeguard service in Los Angeles. The stories I heard about this man’s compassion, humor, and dedication to caring for his patients underscored the tragic loss of this good man to his family, many friends, colleagues, and our community.
We’ve had a second stabbing that occurred last week on 3rd and Virginia Way, but this time we don’t have any suspects. I’d like to recommend that we expand the donations to the Laguna Police and Community Foundation to include leads on the assailants/would-be murderer as well as leads on the vandalism of our City Manager’s property. We want to send a clear signal that we view attacks on human life seriously in addition to heinous acts of vandalism.
A Refresher on City Council Closed Sessions and the Brown Act:
GW: A lot of you have probably noticed that the Brown Act gets mentioned frequently at City Council (CC) meetings, particularly about closed door sessions and “what can’t be discussed.” This admonition to closed door silence might have given you the impression that the Brown Act was created to keep you, a member of the public, away from City decisions or business.
On the contrary, The Brown Act was NOT created to hide City information and decisions from the public but “to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed...” as stated in Section 54950. Rather, The Brown Act reserves only four topics for closed door discussion at the discretion of Council: real estate transactions; personnel issues; labor negotiations; and, litigation or significant threat of litigation. Once a topic has been “heard” by any CC member in closed session, they are prohibited from speaking about what was discussed in public.
The criteria for “significance” as regards litigation means just what you might guess—significant exposure to litigation against the City in the opinion of the entire Council (“the legislative body”) and their legal counsel. A statement that someone is going to use “all legal means” tossed out during open session public comments at the February 7 CC meeting doesn’t meet the standard of “significant”. We’ve all heard similar words during public comments at innumerable CC meetings. The City would be spending a lot on attorney fees if each such comment resulted in a closed session meeting.
In this particular case regarding a public records request about a traffic stop of the City Manager for in-hand cell phone use while driving, it seemed odd to move this request to closed session due to verbal public comments without Council receiving any written documents that these comments met the significant litigation standards of the closed session Brown Act.
Rather than participating in a closed-door discussion of this topic without written evidence, I chose not to participate as I want the records to see the light of day in open session. The goal should be to clear the City Manager’s name, and the only way to do that is to release the records.
Proclamation Declaring February
as Black History Month in Laguna Beach
GW: Black History month serves as a reminder of the contributions Black Americans have made to our country. I recommend reading a biography about Fredrick Douglass, a former slave who became perhaps the greatest orator of his time, an abolitionist who travelled non-stop for years to speak on the evils of slavery and also founded a widely read newspaper. Reading this book will give you a greater understanding of Black history before, during, and after the Civil War. The book pictured below is available at your our local bookstore or Amazon.
#1 Proclamation Recognizing the Montage for its 20th Anniversary (No vote needed)
GW: It took about 12 years to get this project built and it’s been a great asset to the community since then and continues to be to this day. Alan Furstman, one of the founders of the Montage Group, was present to accept the proclamation. Congratulations and best wishes for another 20th years!
# 2 Proclamation Recognizing Lagunatics 30th Anniversary (No vote needed)
GW: Lagunatics is a musical theater group whose specialty is creating musical reviews that satirize local politics, locals and all manner of things Laguna. If you haven’t been to one of their shows, you are missing out on some great entertainment, fun and laughter. I love the first WHEREAS in the Proclamation: “Whereas scientific research has shown that the ability to laugh – especially at ourselves – is essential to human happiness” That about sums up the Lagunatics Mission Statement.
# 3 Resolution Standing in Solidarity with the City Manager and Condemning Acts of Bullying, Harassment, and Vandalism Against any Person: Passed 5-0
GW: The vandalism of the City Manager’s property with smearing of what has recently been found to be fish emulsion was disgusting and not representative of our community. I and the rest of the Council condemned this act of vandalism, and support our Police and City Manager with discovering the perpetrator of this heinous act.
It was shocking to hear that someone would do this to the City Manager’s home. It was equally as shocking at the 2/7 Council meeting to hear the City Manager publicly accuse by name four women residents for bullying and harassing her without providing any evidence. Public smears of someone’s character by a City official against residents are as revolting as physical smears of property---particularly if they are perceived as being retaliation for a public records request. We condemn all acts of bullying and harassment (in addition to vandalism) against any person.
See the City Manager’s comments here: https://www.georgeweisscitycouncil.org/dupuisrespondstotrafficrecords020723
#8 Second Reading of Ordinance Banning the Sale, Distribution, and Use of Balloons: Passed 5-0 (below copied from Recap of January 24th, 2023)
GW: Background: Ann Marie Girtz, a member of the Environmental and Sustainability Committee, initiated this measure in 2022 and the Emergency Disaster Preparedness Committee endorsed bringing it to Council. I worked with Mayor Bob Whalen to develop the agenda item, and Jeremy Frimond wrote the Ordinance with the help of City Staff. Good job all around!
Why do this: “Lighter than Air” mylar balloons when released have been known to cause damage to electric utility equipment that can ignite a fire. Mylar and latex balloons whether “lighter than air” or not are also an environmental hazard to marine life, birds, and our surrounding green and blue belts.
Council unanimously decided to ban the sale and distribution of these items in the City, and prohibit the use of all balloons on public property to address this problem. “Lighter than air” balloons of all types can still be purchased and brought into private homes and hotels, with the exception of The Ranch which has not allowed balloons for over four years. Bravo to The Ranch!
What is Next: The City will work on an education and exit plan so businesses who sell balloons, have a chance to shift and the public have time to do so as well. The ordinance takes effect on January 1, 2024.
Thanks to all the local organizations and businesses like Surfrider; Coast Keepers; Laguna Beach Bluebelt; Laguna Canyon Foundation; Project O; Sierra Club; Pacific Marine Mammal Center; Hobie Surf Shop; The Ranch; Tuvalu; and, Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching for their letters of support and public comments.
#10 Updated State and Federal Legislative Platform: Passed 5-0
GW: As a member of the California League of Cities, the City and Council provide input on legislation, positive or negative, when called upon. This platform buttresses the City’s positions on issues important to Laguna residents, such as housing, open space, penalties for selling drugs like Fentanyl, solar power, infrastructure, transportation and much more. Staff member Fauna Shrago, with assistance from Jeremy Frimond, revised this platform to reflect the City’s current positions.
# 15-16 Site Improvements for Aliso Beach Parking Lot and Operations in South Laguna Beaches and Parks: Passed 5-0
GW: On March 1st the City will take control of all S. Laguna Beaches and adjacent parks. The County is providing $22 Million for ongoing maintenance. Two issues of importance to residents and the wave riding/skim boarding community came up: First, parking was addressed by (rightfully) allowing resident use of the Shoppers Parking Permit at both the inland and ocean parking lots. Second, skim boarders lobbied for keeping the existing County rules in place which allow for skimming anywhere on the S. County Beaches. An exception was made for Aliso Beach, which would only have a specific section of the beach devoted to skim boarding. This seemed like a good compromise as there was no data presented by the City that showed the current rules were a problem. Why fix something that is working? Council will be reviewing how well these decisions have worked in the fall of 2023.
#17 Revised Fund Balance for 2021-22: Passed 5-0
GW: The good news is that the City has a surplus of $17 million coming into the mid- year budget for review. I’m sure the City and Council members will find ways of spending this money. Let’s spend it frugally on projects that benefit residents.
----------------------------- Addendum to City Council Recap, February 21, 2023 -------------------------
#18 – Update on Solar Panel Installation Assessment at City Facilities and Enrollment in S. Cal. Regional Energy Network. Passed 5-0
GW: Back in July, 2021 City Council unanimously agreed to allocate $100,000 for a solar panel feasibility study of City owned buildings and property. It has taken 19 months to provide a possible site, the Act 5 Parking Lot. Installing solar panels like the ones you see at most Kaiser Permanente Hospital parking lots would provide 20% of the City’s current electrical power needs.
Tuesday Council voted to move forward to enroll in the SCE Net Energy Metering program (NEM) which gives us the opportunity to get credit at retail rates for excess electrical power we send to SCE. The deadline to enroll in this SCE program was April, 2023. Why did City Council received this information at the last minute when the deadline was published by SCE many months ago. In the end Council determined that we should also add the Senior Center to the program.
The conclusion of the Staff Report stated that the installing solar panels at Act 5 would remove about 500 metric tons of carbon over its 20-year lifetime, or the equivalent of 58K pounds of coal burned or 58K gallons of gas consumed. This is also equivalent to the carbon sequestered by 8,600 tree seedlings grown for 10 years. Courtesy: Asst. to City Manager, Jeremy Friemond
The initial cost is estimated to be $3.4 million but the cost savings over 25 years is a whopping $9.5 million. Minus the initial investment. If we had the opportunity to install solar panels that would generate enough electricity for the City’s use that would cost us $17 million in today’s money and the savings would be $47 million over 25 years, if we could have qualified for SCE's program.
We need to reduce the use of fossil fuels to create electricity and solar is one of the best ways to do that and saves money too. An additional benefit, if we added battery storage is that it will make critical City facilities resilient, reducing the risk of electrical outages.
So. Cal Regional Energy Network: Passed 5-0
GW: This is a non-profit, Los Angeles based organization funded by electric utility taxes. It's mission is to assist municipalities and agencies to be more energy efficient. By joining S.Cal REN the City will be getting free energy audits of city buildings. Conservation is always the best and lowest cost method of saving energy and money. Thanks to Tim Hayes of the Environmental and Sustainability Committee for bringing this forward.
Read the Staff Report here: https://lagunabeachcity.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=1968&meta_id=157416
----------------------------- Addendum to City Council Recap, February 21, 2023 -------------------------
GW: Banning Ranch is a 397acre property in Newport Beach bordering on Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach. Formerly a ranch then exploited for oil it will become a nature conservancy in the coming years. The ranch has evidence of habitation by local Native Americans over 3,000 years ago. Also, habitat for the burrowing owl. See below.
See event information below:
See event information below:
Please join us on March 6th, 2023, at 4 PM and meet our featured guest speaker Terry Welsh. Terry will give a short history of the successful effort to purchase Banning Ranch and bring this important open space into public ownership.
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