ON THE AGENDA: CITY COUNCIL MARCH 28 MEETING
Another closed session, a wastewater continuance, a Fitness Court®, and the PAAC Mission statement highlight this week's agenda.
On the surface this seems like a fairly standard meeting...but once we dove in, we found a reference to the unpublicized public comment period for the new wastewater treatment plant, a proposal to spend approximately $170,000 on a “turn-key” fitness court without a shade structure and a political advocacy group lobbying Council to support a bill that overturns the State’s sanctuary policies for undocumented workers.
The public has multiple opportunities to comment at every Council meeting. Please use the opportunity of Council meetings to question your Council members on the issues affecting our City.
Public comments for all items are limited to three minutes per agenda item, but the public is entitled to fill out requests to speak on multiple items and may also speak during general public comments. To comment, pick up a green form at the desk, fill it out, and hand it to the City Clerk who is usually sitting on at the desk at the front of room on the right side. The public can also send comments via email to Council members and the City Manager and cc the City Clerk requesting that comments be read at the meeting.
As is our usual, we’ll be pointing to agenda highlights but encourage Twentynine Palms residents to read the full agenda.
#1. CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL - ANTICIPATED LITIGATION: An early start for the City Council this week at 5:30pm with a closed session. Initiation of litigation pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.9 (One Case). The Brown Act, which dictates transparency in local government agencies, allows discussion of pending litigation in closed session.
Proclamations declaring March as Women’s History Month and Irish-American Month seem a bit after the fact since this is already the end of March. But better late than never!
Agenda items 4-10: The Consent Calendar consists of several items that can be approved with one vote. Generally they are routine items, but the Council has the option to pull any item from the Consent Calendar for discussion. Despite the number of items, all public comment happens prior to the Council vote on the full list.
This meeting’s Calendar includes an approval of investment policies, and reports from Fire Department Emergency Response, Morongo Basin Ambulance and Legislative Reports.
#10 6602 Freedom Way Demolition The Staff report recommends awarding a contract to Clemons Demolition in the amount of $38,000 to demolish the structures at 6602 Freedom Way. This bid was $30,000 less than the other two bids. This action is preparation for a “future affordable housing development.”
#11 Wastewater Services - Continuance Recommendation from the Community Development Director to continue this item to May 9, 2023. This item is being continued so it is in “sync” with the wastewater treatment plant development, which, !surprise!, is currently open for public comment. The staff report mentions “The Initial Study (IS) for the WWTP is currently available for public review” but the City has yet to publicize the public review period, which opened on March 22, 2023. Docs are available for review on the City website and residents have until April 20, 2023, to submit comment.
DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS
#12. 2023 Healthy Cities Campaign Grant This is a proposal from “The National Fitness Campaign,” which, despite the name, is not a “National” campaign. Instead it’s the name of a San Francisco-based wellness consulting firm selling 38’ x 38’ “Outdoor Fitness Courts” that are trademarked “7 minute” fitness systems. The consulting firm, founded by Mitch Menaged, partners with “municipalities, schools, and sponsors across America to plan, design, and fund healthy cities of the future. By 2030, the Campaign’s goal is to fund a free outdoor Fitness Court® within a 10-minute bike ride of every American.” This Court, which Parks and Rec is proposing for Knotts Sky Park, is probably not a 10-minute bike ride for most Twentynine Palms residents.
More importantly, this ”free” Fitness Court costs "$170,000, not including a concrete pad at an additional $20,000-$27,000 for a total of $190,000 - $197,000. There is a “grant” offered by the same company that’s promoting the court that offsets cost by $30,000.
And none of these costs include a very needed shade structure if anyone is going to touch “The World’s Best Outdoor Gym” during the summer months. One of these systems was installed in La Quinta but it has a shade structure.
In summary, the staff report is essentially lifted from the marketing of a “for profit” company with the savvy to name itself “National Fitness Campaign.” It appears to be a scam that allows Cities to market themselves as “healthy.” Twentynine Palms is on the lowest rung of the California Healthy Places index. It takes more than a 38 x 38 foot pad to solve that. Is this really the best use of limited Park and Recreation funds?
#13. AB (Assembly Bill) 1708 (Muratsuchi) on Theft This item is being presented to Council with inflammatory language about rising crime and preventing repeat offenders. In fact, it is a request from Cal Cities, a political advocacy group, to support AB 1708, which amends Proposition 47, effectively overturning the State’s Sanctuary law (subject to a statewide vote). We encourage residents and Council to ignore the inflammatory language in the staff report and read the Open States analysis of the bill.
#14. East Valley Regional Steering Committee Requesting that City Council appoint a member to serve on the East Valley Steering Committee, which “is a committee of the San Bernardino County Interagency Council on Homelessness.”
#15. Fire Safety Plan This is a continuation of the 6-8 month dissolution process initially presented on the agenda at the 15 February City Council meeting.
#16. Mission Statement of the Public Arts Advisory Committee (PAAC)
Back in 2004 the PAAC was tasked with reviewing acquisitions of public sculpture. As members from that era retired, new members were added who see the PAAC as having the broader mission of envisioning and supporting literary, visual and performing arts programming. These new PAAC members are Cindy Bernard, Ryan Heffington, Kate Lee Short, Anna Stump and Kat Talley-Jones.
At the March 15 meeting, Council approved the PAAC pursuing the $150,000 Creative Corps grant. But Council has yet to approve the PAAC’s expanded mission, first submitted at the February 15 meeting.
Disclosure: Cindy Bernard is currently Chair of the Public Arts Advisory Committee, which is a part of the City of Twentynine Palms.
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