RECAP: 29 Palms City Council, January 9, 2024
Fire Protection Zone 5, a Youth Council and public comment highlight the one-hour meeting
Updated 1/14/24: According to an in-person attendee the Youth Council slides were shown after a delay. They also provided Desert Trumpet with a copy of the Set Free Wonder Valley flyer distributed at the meeting, which we are attaching below along with information about their non profit status.
In a recent interview with the Desert Trail, new Mayor Steve Bilderain wished for more smiles and less negativity at Council meetings. The Mayor got his wish — the first City Council meeting of 2024 featured an agenda without controversy (mostly).
The meeting started at 5:30 with a closed session taking place outside of Council Chambers, as demonstrated by 30 minutes of video of an empty chamber. Per the agenda, the closed session was to discuss initiation of litigation.
Council is required by the Brown Act to report on the closed session once the open session begins, although historically Council has rarely met the reporting requirement. This meeting was no exception, with Mayor Bilderain starting the meeting by saying “There’s nothing to report on the closed session announcements.”
This statement does not meet the obligation to report per Brown Act requirements as, at a minimum, Council should report whether or not direction was given to the City Attorney and the nature of the direction given. Desert Trumpet sent an inquiry to City Attorney Patrick Muñoz, and we are exchanging emails regarding public disclosure for closed sessions.
Following the “report,” the Mayor read public comment from resident April Ramirez that asked a series of questions regarding the potential costs of litigation, whether Council risks being seen as a “litigious entity,” and how long the litigation would take.
PRESENTATION TO THE CITY COUNCIL
San Bernardino County Fire Chief Dan Muncey on FP-5 and Measure W. Fire Chief Muncey addressed the potential impact of Measure W, which is on the March 5 ballot. This is the third attempt to repeal FP-5, the $172 property tax assessment that underwrites the cost of fire services in several regions of the County, including Twentynine Palms. Although Muncey acknowledged that as Chief, he could educate but not advocate for or against FP-5, he went on to describe the dire impact the loss of the tax would have on services in 29. Per Muncey there were 3,226 calls from within Twentynine Palms in 2023:
I want to be very specific here in the City of Twentynine Palms. This is the only revenue we receive for fire protection. The County Fire Protection District does not get any property tax or any other fees or any other taxes. It is only FP -5 that pays for your one fire station and your paramedics.
He went on to explain that the collected funds cannot be diverted to other areas and must be spent locally. We recommend viewing Muncey’s presentation in its entirety, which begins at 38:20 on the meeting video. Desert Trumpet will have further coverage on Measure W when we analyze the ballot measures prior to the March 5 primary election.
Purchase of Polaris RZR Pro. Consent Calendar items were approved 5-0, with the potential purchase of a Polaris RZR Pro for ORV and public gathering enforcement being pulled from the calendar for discussion.
Sheriff Captain Robert Warrick of the Morongo Basin station addressed Council on the purchase indicating that the $45,000 cost was not coming from 29 Palms General Funds or the contract the City has with the Sheriff’s department. Instead the funds are paid from a Local Law Enforcement Services Account (LLESA) dedicated to equipment purchases.
The ORV is one of two Polaris vehicles being acquired, the other is for Yucca Valley. One Polaris will be housed in 29, should an appropriate location be determined. The purchase was approved 5-0.
DISCUSSION AND ACTION ITEMS
New PAAC member. Anna Stump, Chair of the Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC), presented new appointee Sara Lyons. She was approved by Council 5-0. The PAAC meets on the 3rd Wednesday of the month and the next meeting is Wednesday, January 17. The agenda is published—it’s here.
Youth Council approved. Recreation Division Manager Kary Minatrea intended to present a slide deck on why a Youth Council is advantageous for the City and the steps needed to make it a reality. Unfortunately, no one on staff was able to access the document even though it was attached to the agenda packet. Therefore we are attaching it here.
As discussed in our agenda preview, the creation of a Youth Council was requested by the public, including Thomas Elkins and Izzy Hargrove, but ended up languishing on the Future Council Initiated Items list for several months. Per Minatrea:
So why create a Youth Council? You need to be vested with knowledge and skills to be the next generation of global leaders. It allows involvement with and promotion of regular and active civic community engagement. It'll create exposure to social involvement and participation. Youth will be having a formal role in decision making. They'll have real world experiences with elected bodies. They'll be exposed to the political processes. They'll develop leadership skills, and they'll learn to increase communication skills with their adults and peers and exposure to volunteerism and giving back to the community, all of which are important for today's youth. Who benefits from a youth council? The answer is all of us.
Mayor Bilderain indicated that Council intends to fast track the creation of the Youth Council and suggested that the writing of a formal resolution, a meeting with the City Attorney and designation of a staff member take place in time for the next Council meeting on January 24, with a workshop on membership targeted for mid-February.
The Youth Council was approved 5-0.
Regional Subcommittees Approved. The appointments to regional subcommittees had one change as the Personnel subcommittee of Council consists of the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem, so new Mayor Pro Tem Klink replaced Ex-Mayor Pro Tem Bilderain, and new Mayor Bilderain replaced Ex-Mayor Wright.
PUBLIC COMMENT AND THE MAYOR’S CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
Ministerial Association Secretary Leeanne Clarke shared that the City is partnering with the Palms Bible Baptist Church1 in sponsoring a Martin Luther King, Jr. March and Prayer Bowl on Monday, January 15.
Delissa Chase referred to an incident at the Bowladium with Council member Daniel Mintz that is now resolved.
Set Free Church2 Pastor Nick Foley spoke about acquiring a property for an addiction recovery ranch facility located in Twentynine Palms and invited Council members and the public to an open house at the new facility on February 3.
Jen DeFalco expressed concern about City protocols for the homeless in cold weather and wondered if the Senior Center could be used.
New Mayor Steve Bilderain concluded the meeting with a quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “We all may have come on different ships, but we are on the same boat now.”
Upcoming City Meetings at City Hall
Planning Commission and Housing Homeless Committee, Tuesday, January 16, 5pm
Public Arts Advisory Committee (PAAC), Wednesday, January 17, 5pm
Tourism Business Improvement Board (TBID), Thursday, January 18, 3:30pm
In addition to being a member of the Ministerial Association, The Palms Baptist Church is a also member of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which believes LGBTQ+ people are “sinful”, opposes ‘gender transitions’, has recently banned women pastors and believes abortion should be abolished. It should also be noted that Council member McArthur Wright is President of the Ministerial Association, which has collaborated with the City on scheduling invocation speakers.
Set Free Wonder Valley is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which believes LGBTQ+ people are “sinful”, opposes ‘gender transitions’, has recently banned women pastors and believes abortion should be abolished. While Set Free Wonder Valley has not published the details of their Ranch facility, other Set Free Ranch facilities lack trained clinical personnel and are more accurately described as discipleship immersion camps where addiction recovery consists of multiple Bible studies a day and conversion to the conservative Christian beliefs shared by the SBC.
Attached is the flyer for the open house mentioned in Public Comment. We are not including it as promotion, but because the flyer describes the Set Free approach.
Please note that we have been unable to verify the charitable status claimed on the flyer. Searches at the California Registry of Charitable Trusts, the IRS and Guidestar do not yield a result for a Set Free Church in Wonder Valley or Twentynine Palms.
Updated January 20: Set Free Church Wonder Valley does not show up on charitable organization searches because it’s operating under a group exemption for the California Southern Baptist Convention.
Share your thoughts in the comments below. Please note that we do not allow anonymous comments. Please be sure your first and last name is on your profile prior to commenting. Anonymous comments will be deleted.
Subscribe to the Desert Trumpet—it’s free!
Share this article—it’s free too!