CITY COUNCIL RECAP: MAY 9
A change in mayor selection and preliminary budget presentations
CLOSED SESSION ANNOUNCEMENT
The closed session was a Public Employee Performance Evaluation of City Manager Frank Luckino. Per Mayor McArthur Wright, “We did the City Manager's evaluation and it came out pretty good, he’s gonna be around for a little bit.”
AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS
These were 1) Presentation to Women of Color Global for their participation in the Cash for Trash and Recycling Program, 2) Proclamation recognizing May 2023 as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and 3) Proclamation recognizing May 2023 as Mental Health Awareness Month.
#5-9 and #11-14. The Council voted to approve these consent calendar items 5-0. This included #9, Appropriation Limit FY 2023-24, a calculation which establishes a limit on general fund spending per Proposition 4 passed in 1979, which we recently outlined.
#10. Land Transfer Agreement. Councilman Scott asked that this item be removed from the consent calendar and voted on separately.
After brief discussion the Council voted 5-0 to approve this agreement.
This contract transfers the land needed for a transit center from the City to the Morongo Basin Transit Authority. The parcel is located near the intersection of Highway 62 and Desert Queen Avenue, across from the parking lot behind Grnd Sqrl.
The MBTA is reimbursing the City for the $254,000 acquisition cost.
Luckino advised that the MBTA doesn’t plan to develop this land for eight years, and in the meanwhile the City will make it available for overflow parking for the area. Wright added that at the MBTA meeting he recently attended the MBTA unanimously approved the agreement.
There were no public hearing items at the meeting.
DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS
#15. The Process of Selecting Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem Each Year - Future Agenda Item Request. The Council voted 5-0 to approve a simple scheme suggested by Council member Octavious Scott, where the mayoral office rotates yearly among council members numerically according to their district number, beginning with district number five, that of the current Mayor.
So for example — this year the councilperson for district 5, McArthur Wright, will remain Mayor. In 2024 the councilperson for district 1, Steve Bilderain, the current Mayor Pro Tem, will become Mayor. Then in 2025 the councilperson for district 2, currently Joel Klink, will become Mayor, and so on.
Luckino advised that if the Council favored a mayor elected at-large by the entire city, this could take two forms. The first is a strong mayor system, where “the strong mayor is like a city manager,” like the cities of Los Angeles or San Diego. Changing to a strong mayor system, elected at-large by the entire City, would require a change in the City charter, likely by ballot measure.
The second at-large mayor scheme is where the mayor is elected city-wide, but lacks city manager powers. This approach is permissible but requires an expensive demographic analysis to prove fairness: “They actually have started doing some elected mayor cities and it has been hasn't been challenged. So yeah, so it's possible.”
There was only a single public comment on this item, by local hotel owner Veno Nathraj, who favored a separate, at-large mayoral election scheme.
Confronted with the likely difficulty and expense of a radical overhaul of the Mayor position, in the end, the Council favored Scott’s simple rotation proposal.
It’s notable here that the terms for Council districts 1 and 2 run only through 2024. This means that with this change, the 2025 City Mayor position, filled by the councilperson representing District 2, will effectively be on the 2024 ballot.
#16. Preliminary 2-Year Project Phoenix Funds Budget FY 2023-24 & 2024-25
Finance Director Abigail Hernandez presented an overview of the preliminary Project Phoenix budget for 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 fiscal years. No approval or vote was required for this preliminary report.
Project Phoenix is mostly completed but there remain significant funds still unspent — including $2.06M for the project’s dedicated package treatment (i.e. wastewater treatment) plant, and a pitifully tiny $15K sum for public art:
Councilmember Daniel Mintz abstained from this item owing to a conflict of interest with Project Phoenix.
#17. Presentation of the Preliminary Two-Year Special Funds Budget for Fiscal Year 2023-24 & 2024-25
The Preliminary Special Funds Budget covers specific items that are funded through special revenue sources—such as grants, special taxes for roads and the 1.5% TOT that funds the Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID). These funds generally support capital improvements and maintenance in addition to a series of special tasks outlined in the staff report.
It seems notable how much of the Special Funds Budget relies on grants, 30% of which have “not been secured:”
Overall spending in this budget represents capital expenditures for streets, parks, safety, sewer, and other projects totaling $20.5M in 2023/2024:
Drilling into this spending, the largest category is safety, at $10.4M for 2023/2024:
Followed by sewer projects at $4.7M:
Followed in turn by street projects totaling $2.4M:
And $1.8M for parks:
The Council voted 5-0 to approve a small, $58,000 adjustment to this budget for a roller for the Public Works department. Delivery of this roller was supposed to be delayed by the manufacturer until next fiscal year but it arrived ahead of schedule.
Final approval of the General Budget will take place at the May 23 Council meeting with the final approval of the Special Funds Budget and Project Phoenix Budgets scheduled for the June 13 meeting.
FUTURE COUNCIL INITIATED ITEMS
Councilman Scott asked that City purchase of 10 lots for a self-help construction program be put on agenda.
Joel Klink asked that the $1M insurance requirement for STRs be added to a May Council agenda, but Frank reminded him that this is one of the items currently being considered by the Planning Commission in their review of 14 potential STR ordinance updates.
Joseph Carder spoke against the currently planned location of the wastewater treatment plant, and complemented the Council on their willingness to hear him out and work with him.
CITY MANAGER UPDATE
Luckino thanked the Council for his evaluation which took place during closed session, as well as thanking the City staff he works alongside.
Finally, Luckino previewed a set-aside of $50,000 in the general budget for City events, and said he was going to propose a two-member subcommittee of the City Council to vet potential events.
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