Monday, July 30, 2007

City Council meeting July 31: PBID, Storm Drain


City Council will convene on Tuesday to discuss and decide several issues, including:

• The possibility of a suit against the city (closed session)
• A development deal with Wiseman Associates, Fifth Street Yard (closed session)
• Present Community Heroes Award to Woodland Stars
• Authorize city to vote on Storm Drain Enterprise Rate Increase
• Accept a two-year state grant to fund a traffic/DUI officer
• Enact PBID
• Approve revisions to Downtown Facade plan (Redevelopment Agency)
• Report of Economic Development Strategic plan
• Demonstration on new city Web site
• Receive report on median landscaping near mall

It should be an interesting meeting with four councilmen expected to be there. (Note: There always needs to be three votes to pass or reject issues despite the members in attendance.) What the public won't hear in the closed session are the negotiations with Wiseman to purchase the city's Fifth Street Yard. This will make a good blog in the future as I have many questions about how city properties become available and how developers are contacted. Some of them seemingly get very good deals.

Storm Drain Enterprise: The issue of the city having a right to vote will be discussed. Some will argue that it should be entirely up to citizens to tax themselves. (Sounds like the PBID.) It may all be for moot, as I've learned the state has legislated to consolidate storm drains with sewer and water systems. This means no vote will be needed in the future. However, the public affairs consultants hired by the city did contact me to take a tour, but our schedules didn't jive last week. There are two upcoming "public workshops" about the storm drain issue - Monday 7/30 and Thursday 8/2. There is a fine line between public outreach and city campaigning (which is illegal).

PBID: It's funny how the agenda reads "Hold Public Hearing; Adopt Resolution to Enact" PBID. What purpose is the public hearing if there's already a scheduled enactment? Doesn't matter. This won't be enacted. There has been a sloppy ballot process and the city shouldn't even be part of the PBID (they are counting their parking lots as property receiving PBID services for crying out loud). The Chamber of Commerce has changed their position from support to neutral because of the unfair assessment schedule and the poor structure of the PBID proposal. The Catholic Church has also changed its mind and will vote against it. Cable viewers can tune into Channel 20 to see the fireworks... or you can see them in person (its free).

Downtown Facade Improvement Plan for Main Street: This is mildly amusing considering these already-provided services cross over into the PBID. PBIDs are supposed to be for services not offered by the city. The interesting part of this will be to see what other restrictions are placed upon downtown business owners.

Economic Development Strategic Plan: Same as above. Crosses into PBID.

New city Web site: Funny... not all Woodland internet development companies received an RFP. Maybe they missed the public notice tacked onto a telephone pole.

Median Landscaping near County Fair Mall: The Realist posted about this previously. Should be interesting to see who is responsible for the landscaping.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Downtowners face special tax: PBID

The Downtown Woodland Property and Business Improvement District (PBID) is a weighted ballot proposal by the City of Woodland to assess property owners for future services.

Granted, a voluntary alliance of downtown merchants and property owners WOULD benefit from a proactive marketing strategy that is supported by communal investments. The PBID, however, is not an equitable solution for what businesses need to increase commercial activity in Historic Downtown Woodland.

The PBID was initiated by a small group of property owners and developers who, with the help of a Sacramento consulting firm and the city attorney, have crafted an assessment district that allows unequal voting privileges and ignores tenant merchants. Their premise for the PBID is based on Prop. 218 (enacted in 1996) and the Property and Business Improvement District Law (1995). I don't question the motives of that small group, however, I have great concerns about the city and its involvement.

The proposal is inherently flawed if its foundation is, indeed, Prop. 218 (which contradicts the PBID law they cite). That proposition is called the "Right to Vote on Taxes Act." It was designed and enacted for property assessment reform. The measure protects taxpayers by limiting the methods by which local governments exact revenue from taxpayers without their consent. It is now being misused to justify the imbalance of interests of a few property owners (including the city and big developers).

This is an excerpt from the PBID Master Plan: "A Board of Directors REPRESENTING THOSE WHO PAY would govern the organization responsible for providing these services." This means only the property owners (including the city and big developers), not merchants paying rent, can make decisions for the entire PBID area.

PBID votes are relative to the amount of real estate owned. This is like shares of a corporation – the owners of 51% of the company control what is spent and what is done. Merchant tenants do not have voting rights, but will undoubtedly suffer the trickle-down effects of the added taxes paid by their landlords. The biggest landholders should not be in control of the PBID, it should be decided by all business owners.

What is most interesting is that the City of Woodland is claiming certain rights since they own property within the proposed PBID. If allowed to be a voting member, the city would control 16% of the "shares." On the same note, Yolo County would have 2% of the votes. There lie some problems. The Right to Vote on Taxes Act clearly separates the government Agency from Property Ownership and Tenancies.

The city mailed ballots to all affected property owners. Absent from the ballots is the actual language of the PBID resolution – owners are required to make a special trip to the City Clerk to obtain a copy. Also, the proposal could have been made accessible by posting it on the city Web site – but it is not there. To make the situation stickier, the city will also be counting the votes.

Aside from these conflict of interest issues, the voting privileges claimed by the city would obligate them to pay an assessment of about $45,000. Does the city actually think they can get away with paying taxes with taxes? Government property, owned by the people, should not be included in the gerrymandered PBID.

Another consideration: According to Prop. 218, "No fee or charge may be imposed for a service unless that service is actually used by, or immediately available to, the owner of the property in question. Fees or charges based on potential or future use of a service are not permitted." Since marketing efforts (specifically promotions), are speculative by nature, I think the city is setting itself up for lawsuits since much of the PBID revenues are earmarked for "Economic Development" or marketing (50%). (45% is for "Parking Management and Maintenance" and 5% is for "Contingency/PBID Renewal.")

The city already provides many of the services listed in the PBID through the Redevelopment Agency and the Economic Development Strategic Plan. These base services include promotion, recruitment and signage – not to mention parking management, partnerships, landscaping and beautification. PBIDs are supposed to be for those services not already provided.

Who will benefit most from this taxation? I think it will be Downtown Resources of Sacramento who have already claimed Downtown Woodland as a client. They will undoubtedly get most of the $215,000 expected for the first year of the PBID assessments. Downtown BUSINESS owners deserve more than empty meetings, self-serving brochures and placating newsletters. And they don't need another level of city bureaucracy.

The issue is scheduled for a final vote by City Council on July 31.

D.W.I. (Driving While In-Woodland)

Ten things I hate about driving in Woodland:

10. Drivers who don't use their turn signals... anytime, anywhere, anyhow
9. Drivers waving me on in an intersection when I obviously have the right-of-way
8. Speeders in the old neighborhoods where the streets are narrow
7. Shotgun passengers who put their untrimmed, jammed toes on the dash
6. Soccer moms in their SUVs going at it on their cell phones (when they probably just left home and could have called then)
5. Ill-eqipped Bruce Willis wannabees in their big wheels (who probably need a step ladder to get into their unused 3rd and 4th wheels)
4. Drivers who block you in while trying to leave your oven-hot parking stall on Main Street
3. Trying to navigate the labyrinth of East Woodland
2. The endless gauntlet of Main Street traffic lights between West Street and the 1-5 on-ramp
1. The possibility of experiencing a drive-by

Of course, many of these could apply to Anytown, CA - - but isn't that what the "City of Trees" has become?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Yolo Recorder online



Yolo County Clerk Recorder Freddie Oakley has initiated an online document search feature on the Yolo Recorder Web site. Click on the title of this blog to access the Record Search page.

It seems you can only access real estate documents at this time, although there are other record types listed in the selection window. As a test, try typing "Woodland City" as a "Name." Leave the "Record Type" blank, then enter 1/1/2007 to today's date to access all records for this year. You can also see the activities of outside developers, but the results only list the type of record (not any parcel inormation or other details).

On other pages you can also request documents (vital records), access forms (fictitious business names, etc.) or link to passport services.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Local athletes at the top

Dustin Pedroia is a fan favorite in Boston and Steve Andrade tries to pitch his way back to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. You can keep tabs on these two Woodland baseball players by clicking the Links of Local Interest at right.

After watching Dustin on ESPN News yesterday, I began thinking of other local professional athletes who made it to the top of their sports. I started a list that I hope Woodland Journal bloggers will build upon. Yolo County has produced many talented amateurs, teaching pros and coaches, but the following only includes those who make, or made, livings as players:

Baseball
Dustin Pedroia (Woodland) - Boston Red Sox
Steve Andrade (W) - KC Royals, TB Devil Rays
Tony Torcato (W) - SF Giants
Mike Griffin (W) - NYY, CHC, SDP, BAL, CIN
Rich Chiles (Winters) - Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins

Boxing
Vicente Escobedo (W) - Super Featherweight

Track
Jill Camarena (W) - Shot Put

Basketball
Miguel Flores (W) - Fuerza Regia de Monterrey
Denise Curry (Davis) - Stade Francais

Football
Jason Fisk (D) - MN Vikings, TN Titans, SD Chargers, CL Browns, StL Rams
Fran McDermott (D) - Saskatchewan Roughriders
Craig Penrose (W) - Denver Broncos, NY Jets, Denver Gold
John Didion (W) - Washington Redskins, NO Saints

Triathlon
Dave Scott (D) - 6-time Ironman World Champion

Golf
Nick Watney (D) - PGA tour

Tennis
Scott McCain (W) - ATP tour

Do you know any other local athletes who make, or made, a living playing the sport they love? Do you have your own highlights of any of these stars?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A visit to Camp Packer Creek

The $6,000 budget item for Camp Packer Creek that Realist identified last month was earmarked as a 2006 Scholarship. After some investigation, this amount pales in comparison to the operations budget over the past several years. Other questions about the camp also remain as on 11/7/06 council adopted the city’s park improvement plan with the elimination of funds for Camp Packer Creek.

Here are the actual expenses for “Recreation” and “Maintenance” since 2000:

2000: $46,392.18 (Rec.) and $20,816.82 (Maint.) is $67,209 (participant numbers are unknown as I didn’t ask for them for ‘00)

2001: $59,175.76 (Rec) and $18,763.94 (Maint.) is $77,939.70 for “5-8 kids per week” (total participation for year not included)

2002: $57,696.04 (Rec.) and $15,859.62 (Maint.) is $73,555.66 for “5-8 kids per week up” or 33 kids total (who paid $20 each for “processing”)

2003: $54,306.17 (Rec.) and $18,756.74 (Maint.) is $73,062.91 for 26 kids total

2004: $11,843.90 (Rec.) and $34,426.12 (Maint.) is $46,270.02 for 19 kids total

2005: $9.90 (There are Rec. itemizations for $1,016.93 in salaries and $944.99 in benefits) and $17,415.65 (Maint.) is $17,425.55 for no kids (“we switched to private rentals”)

2006: $5,207.53 (Rec.) and $15,228.83 (Maint.) is $20,436.36 for no kids (“and the same this year”)

2007: $4,541.48 (Rec.) and $14,458.52 (Maint.) is $19,000 (“not yet finalized) for no kids (“non operational”)

Note: Missing from the budget are donations. According to a staff “guestimate” there were a total of 65 donations made for camp scholarships between ’00 and ’04 with no dollar amount included.

According to my calculations, since 2000 about $394,896 has been spent on Camp Packer Creek for a “guestimate” of about 144 kids. That’s about $2,742 per kid who camped for one week each (this doesn’t include the $20 processing fee that was collected from some kids, however).

Aside from the obvious financial concerns, who has been using the camp since 2005? Why was the city offering the camp to private parties after council directed them to eliminate funding for it in November? (Since the Realist linked the camp brochure to his story last month, the city has taken it off their Web site). Why doesn’t the budget include revenue generated from private parties since 2005? Why was $6000 allocated for scholarships when the kid program stopped after 2004? Who owns the facility?

You can view the documents the city was able to make available by clicking the title of this story. The issue of access to these public records is for another blog.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Elkhorn, Gateway to Yolo County


Supervisor Rexroad made available the Yolo County General Plan report for the Preferred Land Use Alternative. Within those documents is an interesting plan to develop about 100 acres at Elkhorn, about 3 miles east of Woodland. Any plan to develop agricultural land should be scrutinized, but I agree with the staff recommendation of allowing commercial-only use at this site (meaning industrial use should not be allowed).

Although in the 100-year flood plain, the proposed area is protected by levees along the Sacramento River and Yolo Bypass. In comparison, it constitutes only 4% of the new lands within the Woodland ULL. The soils are mostly non-prime, but most importantly the parcel adjoins the river and it has railroad access (connecting Woodland to West Sacramento).

These last two points would allow a creative use of the area to include, but not be limited to:

1. Sacramento River Museum and Aquarium
2. Marina with restaurants and recreational facilities
3. Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge monument
4. Hotel with conference facilites
5. Ferry service or small bridge connection to Sacramento County
6. Park and water taxi stop connecting Knights Landing and Old Sacramento

The idea for a river aquarium would be to anchor the area with a unique tourist attraction (meaning tax revenue for Yolo). The complex could include a river museum and maybe an educational fish hatchery. School trips by train would be perfect for science and history lessons. I also envision partnerships with Sacramento County and CalTrans, especially with the opportunity to enhance the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge with spires or obelisks at each end. This could really be a grand entry to Yolo County... much better than the Walgreens distribution building that welcomes travelers to Woodland.

Do you think Elkhorn should be developed? If so, how would you develop it? If not, why?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Is it any wonder...

"The New7Wonders organization is happy to announce the following 7 candidates have been elected to represent global heritage throughout history." They are: The Great Wall, China; Petra, Jordan; Christ Redeemer, Brazil; Machu Picchu, Peru; Chichén Itzá, Mexico; The Roman Colosseum, Italy; and The Taj Mahal, India.

In light of this new list, KCRA3 has also initiated a survey for California's seven wonders. "If you had to pick your favorite spots to include among the seven wonders of California, what would they be?

Now, The Woodland Journal would like to know your own Seven Wonders of Woodland. You may want to consider our previous blog about City Identifiers as you nominate. If you prefer to broaden the scope, list your ideas for the Seven Wonders of Yolo County.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Changing Of The Guard

This will be my final post.

At least for the next year. I have made other commitments and will not be able to blog for about 12 months. I do have good news though, The Woodland Journal will keep beating, just with a new author or two. That announcement will be made tomorrow, by the new author.

I want to thank you for reading my blog and commenting on things you felt were important to Woodland. I really had a great time and was able to learn a ton about Woodland. I hope you keep checking this blog out and keep discussing important issues in Woodland. I will be reading it every day. I would also like to thank the Daily Democrat for publishing a bunch of my articles and Matt Rexroad for plugging the site numerous times. It really did give me the push I needed to get the readership up to where it now is.

I will still be around, so if you ever want to email me send it to trilogyjam@yahoo.com.

On that end, good night and God Bless.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

OHV (Off Highway Vehicles)

I am writing this in response to a letter in the Democrat written by Bob Schneider and Don Morrill. The title was "Time for tough love on Off Road Vehicles".

I happen to be an avid OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) rider and participate in the AMA and also race enduros in our district. I happen to have a very different view of the situation and really must be blind, because I have never seen many of the things he describes in his letter and I doubt he has either.

Here are a few examples:

"California's traditional outdoor recreationists - hikers, bikers, campers, fishers, hunters, and horse riders - have been blasted out of too many trails and campgrounds, fishing streams and hunting tracts, by destructive dirt bikes and ATVs riding where they're not allowed."

Wow, I must live under a rock. Or I am going to secret places. I ride mountain bikes, fish and hunt and camp and I have never been bothered by a lawless motorcycle rider?? Where do these people go?

"What's needed now is a bill that toughens law enforcement on illegal riding and helps in the restoration of damaged lands, while still providing for responsible off-road recreation"

This is already in place. Hundreds of hours of labor are put in to restore the land before and after every race.

"The stories on Cache Creek are telling. One of the gravel mining companies actually had to stop work because illegal ORV riders were firing high-powered rifles. It is lawless and needs to be brought"

WOW. Sounds like the Wild Wild West! I have never seen an OHV rider with a gun strapped on their back, shooting aimlessly in the air. Honestly, the worst thing I have ever seen was a guy riding a dirt bike with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

"The explosion in illegal ORV use in our state has had ugly, growing impacts on our parks and wildlife. In many places dirt bikes and ATVs have disrupted or totally displaced traditional outdoor recreation. And, in an increasing number of communities, illegal riding is terrorizing private property owners".

Again, I would disagree, I have never seen this or heard about it from any private property owners??

"But there is no denying that ORVs can damage soils, streams and fisheries, and - when they go where they're not supposed to - the meadows, forests and deserts where many more of California's families go to hike, bike, camp, fish, and hunt."

This statement must be saying that hunting and fishing is much better for our wildlife and fisheries.

I really do not have a problem with cracking down on illegal activities, but at least make the new bill have some rewards for those of us doing it the right way. These new bills, which may be aimed at the illegal riders always cause problems for those of us obeying the laws. We lose a ton riding areas every year, which soon will cause more people to ride in illegal areas if there is no where to ride.

Update: Supervisor Matt Rexroad has also responded to this letter as well on his blog. You can see his thoughts here: www.rexroad.com

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Guess Where??

Anyone have a guess where this is?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Scooter Libby Free

I usually do not make it a point to be very partisan on issues that I talk about on this blog. This one kills me though. Democrats are all upset that Libby got his sentence reversed, but his conviction still stands.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's decision showed the president "condones criminal conduct."

Hmmmm. That is a great statement. Ms. Pelosi must suffer from short term memory. If my memory serves me correct, President Bill Clinton pardoned a ton of criminals. 396 convicted criminals to be exact. One was his drug using brother.

Here is the government link to view them all, including the charges.

Get off your podium Nancy and think about your endorsement for Senator Clinton when you are at the ballot box. Her husband must also condone criminal conduct. There's a thought for you.

Here is another statement:

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald disputed the president's assertion that the prison term was excessive. Libby was sentenced under the same laws as other criminals, Fitzgerald said. "It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals," the prosecutor said.

Of course the bar is equal when Clinton Pardons people I'm sure.

My point is, this is a presidential power, I did not complain about it when Clinton Pardoned those people (until now) and I am not going to complain about it when Bush pardons people.

It is your right to complain about it, but at least complain about both parties.