CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 6/21/2022
George Weiss: Councilman Bob Whalen and I met with County Librarian Julie Quillman this week and asked many questions regarding the use of the Library. It turns out patrons checked out 147,000 items in the last year, while 10,000 people attended library programs.
We asked questions about whether the size of our library is sufficient for the population of our city. It seems that we compare well with others on that score, but I will report on this in a future update.
Ms. Quillman also said that the annual costs associated with running the Laguna Beach library are $1,626,806. Our Assistant City Manager, Ken Domer, had stated that the library’s annual operating budget was approximately $800,000. I am asking Ms. Quillman to document her number from County financial records. It’s odd that the City did not contact Ms. Quillman to obtain this information.
George Weiss: I covered this item in my June 7 recap, but during the June 21 City Council meeting, the Mayor disputed my assertion that residents were not given the opportunity to provide input on the design of the Forest Avenue Promenade. If you read page one of the Staff Report, you will see that stakeholders were defined as retail store owners and manager, City Council Member and City Staff. There is no mention in the Staff Report of residents being solicited for input.
Two programs for the Promenade were approved by the City Council for further development by the consultant. These will be presented to residents in two or three sessions beginning in September 2022. This will be the first time that residents will be able to provide input on the Promenade.
The designs are not “blank slates” that residents will be able to fill in with their ideas as was incorrectly stated by the Mayor and City Manager at the June 21 Council Meeting. Regretfully, city government did not have the willingness or foresight to include residents earlier in the process.
Read the Staff Report at:
Preparations Made For General Municipal Election – Ballot Initiatives Updates
George Weiss: I don’t know why, but every year, the Council has to approve a resolution for holding elections. We did that and adopted a new resolution that should be in a candidate’s statement. Candidates should be required to state their educational degrees and work experience. It turns out that we can’t require a candidate to list this information.
Candidate statements can inspire voter confidence, but they can also be used to make pleas for donations. See this State of California 2022 governor’s race candidate’s statement:
California Proclamation—My beloved Californians, I empathize without beguilement nor prejudice how solemn my words must tender to assuage your unfeigned hardship & bereavement, cloaked in the uncertainty of loss. Our prayers & condolences illuminate many a kindred spirit with honorable presence that your noble sacrifice perpetuates our united comfort of hope. I pray our Heavenly Father will bring light to the plight of the world, ease your daily crucifixion & complete economic resurrection for our American Family—This Is The Way. Donate today on Apple Cash, Venmo, Google Pay, Cash App to 714-448-0044 or mail check/money order to address below, payable to: (name). Thank you to my parents for a lifetime of hard work and dedication to provide an opportunity to succeed.
There will be four or five ballot initiatives on the November 8 election ballot. Laguna Residents First’s ballot initiative sets commercial building height limits and parking requirements as they are now in the code and allows residents to vote on jumbo commercial development projects. (Note: I was one of the original founders of Laguna Residents First and not currently a member of the organization.)
For more details, see: www.lagunaresidentsfirst.org
The labor union Unite Here 11 is sponsoring two ballot initiatives. One sets wages and work and safety rules for hotel maids. The other targets hotels and triggers a vote by voters to approve or not approve the project if a hotel adds more than 20 rooms.
See this URL:
The city may also place a ballot initiative dealing with development. More on that in a future recap.
Finally, there will also be a ballot initiative to allow for a cannabis store in the Canyon.
Verna Rollinger’s Passing
George Weiss: Although Verna Rollinger passed away in late-May, I suspect residents may have missed reading her obituary published in the Laguna Beach Independent.
Here is a link to the article:
Verna was a friend and served our City for over thirty years as our elected City Clerk and after as a City Council member. Besides Laguna politics, dogs were Verna’s second greatest passion. She had a high level of integrity, was a committed environmentalist, political activist and a major force in Village Laguna. Her commitment to maintaining the unique charm and quality of life for all Laguna residents was indominable and has helped keep Laguna what it is today. In her memory, let us vouch to uphold the values that she so clearly demonstrated in her tireless work for our community.
Fiscal Year 2022-23 Budget And
Revisions To 2021-22 Budget
George Weiss: There were 10 separate Items to approve, including $250,000 in Community Assistance Grants, and City employee salary schedules, plus eight others. For example, expenditures for City vehicles for 2022-23 are $1,842,000. However, $950,000 of the total is for a replacement fire truck. Anyone want a used fire truck? I’m sure the vehicle dealer or manufacturer takes back old trucks and will give the City a credit on our new one. I’ll have to research this and get back to you.
It’s tough taking in all the information, numbers and complexity. The input from residents on items being considered does help Council members make the right decision. Instead of listing all the items approved, I recommend viewing the Staff Report on the City’s website, and if you have any comments, please advise me.
This record-setting budget is over $125,000,000 dollars. My biggest worry is that we are spending too much money on hiring additional employees. Over the last 20 years, not including this year, we added 15 or so employees. This year alone, we are adding over 20. Twelve or so will staff the new fire department ambulance service, while the rest will be doing Community Development work.
Compounding this increase in the number of employees, there’s also the high turnover we have experienced within Community Development over the last two years. Loss of seasoned planners has financial implications and loss of quality service for residents, contractors, architects, and developers. This critically important department has serious issues that are cause for concern.
One seasoned veteran who works to get projects through the meat grinder of City processes and inevitably long delays in getting approvals said they had over 20 projects that were subject to seriously long delays. These inefficiencies cost serious money for residents and everyone related to these projects.
There is some daylight ahead: Software by Intergov (https://intergovsolutions.com/) and Bluebeam, (https://www.bluebeam.com/solutions/revu) that’s now being implemented will provide a platform for digital architectural, engineering and construction plans. Bluebeam will create improved collaboration, plus make plan reviews easier, secure and available to all parties simultaneously. Both software packages should improve individual and work group efficiency.
Ordinance Considered To Prohibit The Sale And Use Of Lighter Than Air Mylar Balloons
George Weiss: There are hundreds of power outages each year in California caused by lighter than air Mylar balloons. These balloons and other lighter than air balloons pollute our environment and are a hazard to sea life. Balloons swallowed by marine mammals have caused intestinal blockages and death. Balloons are released, usually unintentionally, at parties and other events and make their way to the ocean or get trapped by trees.
A dozen people spoke at the City Council meeting regarding this issue, and all but two were in support of a ban on all lighter than air balloons. Organizations like the Marine Mammal Center, Project O, Laguna Beach Bluebelt, Surfrider, and Laguna Ocean Foundation voiced their support.
The Council voted to direct City Staff to research and provide two options. One would be a ban on all lighter than air balloons. The second would ban only Mylar balloons. I will alert readers of the date for the next hearing on this item.