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Budget, Utility Tax in Front of Pinole City Council Again

Deadlines loom as council is scheduled to take up vital issues Tuesday.

Facing a July 1 deadline to pass a budget and the uncertain fate of 20 percent of city revenue on the line, the Pinole City Council will meet Tuesday to discuss pressing fiscal challenges.

The council will hold a public hearing on adoption of the 2012-13 budget and will consider its next move on how to address the pending expiration of the 8 percent utility tax at the end of this year. It also has public employee labor union negotiations on its plate.

In a series of recent previous public workshops, the council has discussed two budget possibilities. One assumes that voters will approve a November ballot measure to extend the utility tax and the other presumes the loss of about $1 million for the budget year if voters reject the tax and ensuing slashes to the budget.

Such cuts would continue the trend of recent years, in which the city has seen a drop in revenues from sales and property tax and the state's elimination of redevelopment agencies last year. There have been numerous job cuts and increases in fees for recreation, senior and child care programs in moves to make balanced budgets.

Without the tax renewal, the city is looking at erasing about 14 jobs, including police officers and firefighters. Also dependent on the tax are subsidies for the Pinole Swim Center and the city's Cable TV operations.

The council has yet to determine what rate or sunset date would apply to a utility tax extension, although some proposal is likely to be placed before voters in the Nov. 6 election.

The attached document includes the meeting agenda and staff reports.

The public portion of the meeting is expected to begin at 7 p.m., following a 5:30 p.m. closed session meeting about ongoing negotiations with public employee labor unions. The meeting will be broadcast live and streamed on the Internet by Pinole TV.

Lea Deuel June 19, 2012 at 07:09 PM
If we take any jobs away from the firemen, police officers, or the swimming pool, we are making the worst mistake of our lives. People are moving from Pinole due to the horrible schools. The only thing we have to be proud of is the protection from the firemen, police officers and the swimming pool. With the schools the way they are, and the above items on the agenda, there will not be anything left to be proud of or to keep good citizens here. Look at the big picture. This is so sad.
Redrock June 19, 2012 at 07:49 PM
This is a common tactic among public unions. In the face of shrinking revenue, the city will first offer Police and Fire to the alter of “sacrifice and economic salvation” then the city will sit back and wait for Pinole taxpayer “Joe& Josephina Six-Pack,” to fork out the money and save the day. Not this time! Let the city slash Police and Fire! Service will not get any better or any worse without them- if it does, then you [the taxpayer] will always have the option to demand and ultimately pay for extra personnel. In the meantime, the SENIOR UNION police and fire reps. will keep their jobs, and happily work the additional +25 hours in overtime per week [@time and a half] to cover the understaffing. They’ll gladly take home their +$200K annual paychecks and we’ll be just fine. We either run lean and mean and see what happens OR continue to pay exorbitant taxes to keep an unsustainable system on monetary life support. I say it’s time to pull the plug. What’s the worse that can possibly go wrong? May be an extra rape or theft.. ? A house or business may burn to the ground…? Who cares? .. As long as it isn’t my family or property.
SalthePlumber June 20, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Hey Redcrock, is it true that you invented the Circular Firing Squad? Your all or nothing theory is not without precedent. Just ask any hitch-hiker trying to get to the Las Vegas Airport :):)
Redrock June 20, 2012 at 07:43 PM
I appreciate your sense of humor Sal. I love playing devils advocate, but to be perfectly honest, the system is broken, and unless there are drastic measures [i.e. eliminate police and fire positions] residents of Pinole will never realize that their tax dollars are vital to the city and community. You never knew how much you loved something until after it has gone.. We need reform, not austerity measures, yet NO ONE on the city-admin side or Police and Fire are willing to bend or compromise. So they play the “fear and uncertainty” card and hope Pinole will vote in favor of the extension. That’s where I’ll draw the line and say… fine with me… cut it all… For the most part- if we’re all reasonable, rational and law abiding citizens, then we don’t need police and fire protection anyway. Right..? We spend our waking lives preparing for our entrance into heaven and I doubt there are any unions up there… but then again…
SalthePlumber June 21, 2012 at 03:34 AM
As I have said before, I recognize the need for $$ to run the City, but I am not confident in the Political and Administrative entities that will spend it. I am willing to part with the $$, just get some new people in there to spend it wisely... An Election is also a Turning point and not to be taken lightly. The Change comes when we the people make the Change...
W.Lowe June 21, 2012 at 06:24 AM
Good point, we have two council people { I voted for, it was a big mistake}They seem to only care about the medical plan they get for them selves and dependents.Which cost the taxepayer about $20700.00 a year. For the dependents The other 3 councilmembers do not have there dependents on there plan,,.You would think these 2 would be following the led of the other 3,and save money for the budget
x June 21, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Here is what the elected earned and received in benefits in 2011: Tim Banuelos 3,600 salary (partial year) 19,642 IN BENEFITS Phil Green 3,600 salary (partial year) !5,244 IN BENEFITS Pete Murray 11,639 salary (probably an error because 0 in benefits) Debbie Long 9,950 salary 1732 IN BENEFITS Roy Swearingen 9,714 salary 1732 IN BENEFITS Judy Lee 3,000 salary 0 BENEFITS It's time for Banuelos and Green to get off the trough and pay for their own health benefits.
x June 21, 2012 at 04:56 PM
I meant - Phil Green 15,244 in health benefits.
Lea Deuel June 21, 2012 at 07:39 PM
As I have said before, I recognize the need for $$ to run the City, but I am not confident in the Political and Administrative entities that will spend it. I am willing to part with the $$, just get some new people in there to spend it wisely... An Election is also a Turning point and not to be taken lightly. This I agree with! I still think it is important to have the three essentials : Firemen - do not cut these Policemen-keep them Pinole Swim Center Pinole Swim Center is always full.
Redrock June 22, 2012 at 02:48 AM
@Lea With all do respect and I know you have a valuable business and contribute to the welfare and community of Pinole. Let the council slash police and fire protection. NOTHING I mean NOTHING will change in light of the cutbacks. The service will be the same if not better, and every police and fire member lucky to make the cut, will be skipping to the bank with their overtime checks. They don’t care about public safety… they care about their checks and pension. Not one police and fire officer contributes to the Pinole Patch, because they are too busy fighting crime or extinguishing fires … evidently a daily occurrence in Pinole.. or maybe they are on paid vacation funded by the taxpayer. Slash and burn funding for Pinole police and fire… we’ll save thousands in revenue and no one will know the difference.
jon cyr June 22, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Redrock , Could you let me know your background ( expertise, experience in solving problems ) so I could better understand your point of view. thanks
Redrock June 22, 2012 at 09:52 PM
I would be more than happy to explain my background, but the question is what difference would that make especially if I have a valid point? Pinole Police and Fire are over bloated with guaranteed pension and overtime, and you guys could care less. Drive the fire truck to Alberstons- who is making the chile beans tonight…? The money train must come to an end. Not one Pinole Police or Firefighter has contributed to the discussion or dialog on this thread. Both institutions are raping the city financially, a “March of Dimes” PR fund raiser..? Are you kidding me? Who in Pinole is ailing and suffers from Muscular Dystrophy anyway? I want to know! The disease is about as rare as the Bubonic plague! You guys have seen your last days, and if I am going to fund your guaranteed pensions on my taxpayer dime, then I expect you to be out there- helping and not taunting the community at large. You guys should be ashamed of yourselves.
Patrick Rei June 22, 2012 at 11:03 PM
The venemous diatribe of some posters makes this forum the last place that an itelligent and respectful discussion can take place so the lack of involvement by the police and firefighters should surprise no one. If we are to fix a system that is broken then lets do so by recognizing that we as the voting citizens are the fist ones to blame. We voted for and sat idly by as our elected officials negotiated bad deal after bad deal with the union representatives. We knew for years before the meltdown that benefits were a problem but did little about it. The men and women of the police and fire departments are not the villans here. Defined benefit pensions and lifetime medical benefits are indeed unsustainable but until we focus our efforts on holding our elected officials accountable and instituting fair and balanced reforms nothing will ever change. The courts have more or less made what has already been bargained off limts to reform so we must start with changing future benefits and how the cost is shared. It's not nearly enough but it is a start.
Redrock June 23, 2012 at 12:17 AM
“Venomous Diatribe”… couldn’t wait to bust out your new thesaurus? Oh Please.
Patrick Rei June 23, 2012 at 04:48 AM
No I haven't pulled out the good book in some time, any constructive comments or discussion that actually relates to the topic at hand or are you just here to muddy the waters? I agree with you in concept but am not willing to crucify the rank and file members of our public safety departments who are not responsible for the situation we are in. Surely you can do better than that.
SalthePlumber June 23, 2012 at 05:32 PM
There is plenty of "blame" to go around, but sometimes you have to recognize what drives the big changes that are costing so much. Like Health Care Costs. Those Health premiums have beeb sky-rocketing in recent years (Anybody know why?) and affecting Everybody in a negative way, except for Insurance Companies, Doctors, Hospitals, HMO's, etc. The only viable remedy: Single-Payer, Medicare for All. Look at everything you might deem to be essential to your life in 2012 and see that we are all being squeezed. I'm talking about ; Health Care, Energy, Education, Food, Housing, Insurance, etc etc. Things have gotten very EXPENSIVE and some are reaping Extraordinary Profits. We nhave reached Predatory Capitalism and its not sustainable.
CW June 24, 2012 at 12:31 AM
I really think that Redrock's rantings are now doing him, and his "cause" no more good. I believe we've seen what he/she has to offer, and it's nothing but a bucket filled with grief, despair, blame, rants, and unhappiness. We ALL KNOW THE PROBLEM... so you don't need to repeat it any more.. NOW its time to figure out what to do about it. Redrock What are YOU doing about this problem... other that just complaining. The world is filled with Leaders and Followers... the followers are virtually always the ones that complain.... because they know nothing about how to actually DO something... When are you going to start using VERBs about what your are DOING... an not adjectives about what is wrong... LEADERS use Verbs... Followers use Adjectives... Tell us what VERBS you are going to use... not what others should do.. but what YOU are going to do... Im just here to stir YOUR pot for a while... we're all tired of your Diatribe... I agree with Pat...
Kathryn June 24, 2012 at 07:14 PM
I would recommend if there is possible illegal or unethical dealings believed at city hall that you might ask the grand jury to investigate.
M. Alegria June 27, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Hi Kathryn, I say, ask Jeff Rubin, Cindy Trego, Marcia Kalapus, Mary Horton, Mary Drazba and Will Horton, to lead the charge! They brought in a new city council that re-hired Belinda Espinosa to fix "the problem". Since I was "dead set" against renewing Belinda's contract and threatened with "recall". Now Pinole is a whole lot worst off and on the brink of bankruptcy, especially, if the UTT doesn't pass. Too bad no one from this blog goes to city council meetings or runs for office. That would be grand, and at least Pinole residents would have some options besides the incumbents (which never blog, don't you wonder why?)
Nan June 27, 2012 at 08:24 PM
To M. Alegria Should you decide to rear your head and run for a council seat, you will find plenty of bloggers. Better yet, I would like to see you in a debate. You sure couldn't hold your own 4 years ago. Anyone who understands the economy knows that Pinole is in the current financial situation for 2 reasons. One, the depression, and two, the deals you and your council mates crafted years ago; not because of any current mismanagement. The current council at least asks questions so we can be informed. We may not like the answers, but it is your own past mismanagement of policies and finances that has contributed to the budget woes. It appears that many of the solutions are tied to contracts that are non-negotiable because you gave the interim city manager the authority to enter into contracts and agreements with an evergreen clause. For those of you that don't understand what that is, it means that the employee has a lifetime contract, unless they terminate it. If the city terminates the contract, they have to pay the employee a one year severance package. So that one is on you MA, unless you were just to "uninformed" or didn't do your homework tounderstand the term "evergreen".
Nan June 27, 2012 at 08:27 PM
To Ma...continued When you sat on the council, you made decisions based upon what was good for your political future, not what was financially sound for the City. Looks like you made bad choices on both accounts. If you think you have the answers, then come August, file your papers and let the citizens hear how you can fix your past mistakes...but before you could do that you would have to admit to making any...Fat Chance!
M. Alegria June 27, 2012 at 09:33 PM
M/M Nan, Just like you, I'm an ordinary citizen who cares about our Pinole. My only hope is that new leadership emerges this election that breaks the current stranglehold and brings new ideas and change to Pinole. For whatever it's worth, the only comment I have on the "evergreen contracts" is this: if the city council mandated that our firefighters and police give up concessions on their contracts, why can't they do so with the "evergreen" contracts? Further, the City Manager and her management staff are "at will" employees and serve at the "pleasure of the city council/city manager". Therefore, these contracts are negotiable because "Pinole is in a fiscal crisis", no money and a "cause to terminate contract" (no redevelopment $$ to subsidize management's salary). Since Mayor Murray and Swearingen are running for re-election, perhaps you can ask them why they supported these "evergreen" contracts which have been renewed annually since February 2008 (I was no longer on the city council). By the way, both Mayor Murray and Mary Horton DEMANDED the lofty severance agreement for Belinda Espinosa in May 2007; the CURRENT city council has renewed her contract annually since 2008 which includes an annual salary ($175,400) and all medical benefits for 12 months upon separation (and this doesn't include vacation accrual).
SalthePlumber June 28, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Why would our Most "experienced" City Council members like Murray and Crazy Horton demand such a ridiculous contract agreement? I would hazard a guess that they consider B. Ess-pinosa to be their "Pet" employee, who is easily manipulated and therefore valuable to two of the most manipulative members of the Pinole City Council in the recent past. Just remember that B. Ess was not going to find work as a City Manager in ANY other city, except of course, in Pinole. Its all about Strange Politics and self-interest. And the residents and Taxpayers of Pinole are the LAST consideration...
Nan June 28, 2012 at 03:41 PM
To M. Alegria You have proven my point that you are not savey in contracts. There is a big difference between a labor contract and an individual contract. Employers are bound by the manner in which they negotiate and most provisions are addressed in the MOUs. Labor laws allow for the imposing of conditions if certain criteria are met. Not so with an evergreen clause. When you say the City "renewed" the annual evergreen contracts that is an oxymoron!. Evergreen contracts are perpetual in time and not renewed. Therefore, Murray and Swearingen are not in positions of voting for "renewals". (I'm starting to question your basic understanding of contract law, even in layman terms.) As it was explained a few weeks ago, the Council asked for the same concessions from the contract employees as given up by those represented by labor organizations. The evergreen contract employees agreed....they could just have easily said no. No one is disputing them as being at will employees, but terminating them comes with a hefty prices tage in the form of a years annual severance package. As far as the firing of the city manager in 2007, I have been told that up until that firing, her reviews were very good.....so what changed...was it your relationship with the Pear Street? Typically before firing someone they get a series of written warnings so they can "correct their ways". So, that begs the question that the firing may have had political undertones.
Nan June 28, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Continued....as you are well aware, her salary is far below her peers in neighboring cities, and as explained when she was rehired, it was at the same salary and contract that she left with. So, Ms Alegria, just because you say it doesn't make it true. While you are concerned, I don't believe that your concerns are about the community. Some people make their arguments trying to make others look bad....that is you. You can't defend your positions, so you trying to muddy the waters by throwing out half truths and out-and-out lies...think before you blog...it might come back to bite you.
M. Alegria June 29, 2012 at 06:08 AM
M/M Nan, From your remarks, you seem to be satisfied with the city council and city manager's job performance? Perhaps you should go to the city council and speak in support of a salary increase for Belinda Espinosa since her salary is well below her peers. Nan, you give me too much credit, I was only one vote on the city council. Murray, Horton and Boyle all voted to support re-negotiating the Bistro loan (remember Murray and Boyle were on the redevelopment subcommittee who made the recommendation) which was repaid in full and with interest, unlike the Tom Gozzano and Pantonni loans which the current city council voted to bail out at a cost of millions of loss revenue to Pinole taxpayers, or the $400k "grant" to Tina's Place. As a private citizen who has chosen to exercise my right to "free speech" (which obviously bothers you), and unlike you, I don't hide behind a "pseudonym".
Nan July 01, 2012 at 04:09 PM
I'm not here to comment on your right to free speech; only your need to be factual if you are trying to influence people reading this blog. For the last 2 years on the Council, or at least until Cole resigned, you had the majority of votes, which would have put you in the position of changing policy, especially as it related to the redevelopment subcommittee. You certainly exercised that majority vote to terminate the city manager. And on that topic, it is my understanding that upon her return, her contract was no different than the one she had when she was terminated my you. And nothing I have written suggests that she should be given an increase. I brought it up because you continue to talk about her "extravagant" package. I only was pointing out that it isn't so extravagant in comparison to other surrounding communities...but you know that. As to the comparison of the Bistro loan to the Gozzano and Pantonni loans, there is none. Absent of your support, the Pear Street was paid off pursuant to the contract. Both Gozzano and Pantonni were unable to perform. As the contract was written, the City was left holding the bag....terms that as part of the council, you agreed to. So if the City did not take over and pay off the loan, the bank would have come after the assets of the City, since the "Downtown Partners LLC", only had the building as its sole asset.
Nan July 01, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Continued....According to my research, Panatonni was a similar situation, however the majority of the council did remove part of Panatonni's obligations prior to their short sale. I believe that was not a unanimous vote of the council at that time. And once again you were a part of the council that approved the lease at the Tina's site and while a sitting member, you wanted the funds appropriated for restraunt use. By the way, $300,000 was alotted for improvements to Tina's. The balance was previously used for the architect, and once again these expenditures were a part of your tenure. So if in hindsite you think you made a poor decision, then say so. So while I could care less about your opinions, when you try to build upon them based upon incorrect and misleading statements, then I intend to correct them if I know otherwise. Having a different opinion based upon the same information is human nature...spinning the facts to mislead is why you were recalled and are unelectable. By the way, I am using my real name. I'm just not exposing my last name so you can contact me as you have done with others.
M. Alegria July 03, 2012 at 04:09 AM
Nan, This council has left a legacy of "bad to worst" deals over the last four years that have left our Pinole on the brink of bankruptcy. Again, I was not on the city council that bailed out Tom Gozzano, Panatonni or approved the "Tina's Place" $300K deal. These decisions by the current city council add up to over $5million of lost revenue that the taxpayers/citizens of Pinole will never see again. In response to your admission about your true identity. "Yes, I'm using my first name but I refuse to "expose" my last name." You expect those of us who read this blog to take you seriously? Like you, I'm a private citizen, and believe in "free speech". But somehow, it's ok for you and others to continue your tirade of "hate", "lies", "innuendo" and not be held "accountable"? Consider this comment the last blog in response to you or others who refuse give their "true identities".
Nan July 03, 2012 at 08:21 PM
I am not interested whether you comment or not. The bad "deals" that you reference are all a direct result of contracts that were entered into while you were on Council and legally had to be carried out or terminated based upon contractual language that you approved. I agree that others penned their names as well, but no matter how loud you yell, or become incensed, you are a big part of the financial problems the City faced today. Coupled with the depression of our economy, the best anyone could do was to keep the City a float, (not to be confused with the status-quo). Now that the state is stripping the city of any funding or residual money as earned through redevelopment, keeping the City from bankruptcy is a big deal.

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