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Reminder: Newark City Council meeting tonight

By baguirre
Wednesday, August 5th, 2009 at 2:44 pm in Newark.

In case you missed the memo or forgot, there is a Newark City Council meeting tonight (7:30 p.m., Newark City Hall, 37101 Newark Blvd.) to further discuss the proposed Utility Users Tax, which is on the November ballot. Looks like the city is softening it’s stance on the length of the proposed tax. Initially they wanted to implement it for 20 years if it passed, now they are looking at just six years. This proposed change, which the council will have to approve, is being made due in part to opposition from community members, Assistant City Manager Dennis Jones said earlier this week.

If you can’t make it to the meeting, you can follow the happenings via my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/benaguirrejr  I’ll do my best to provide updates throughout the meeting. There will be a story the following day.

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • Margaret

    Newark shortened the proposed utility tax from 20 years to 6 because of community outcry. What the council did not share at the meeting was the fact that federal stimulus funding to the tune of nearly $700K will go the anti-drug programs. Nearly $600K for at-risk kids and after school programs. And $1,800,000 for programs like Head Start and other programs for children This funding goes to the school district so I guess the city won’t need UUT funds for these programs. Why should the police department spend their precious funds for programs the school district will fund?

    Utility User Taxes go into the city’s general fund to be spent at the discretion of the mayor and city council. The taxes are not required to be spent on so-called “vital services” unless you consider things like land use planning, payroll and personnel services in that category.

  • Lou Vandelay

    Thanks for the update. Good deal getting the term of the tax shortened; I think it’s a good step and, if the city still needs additional funds after six years, we can look at alternatives to meet those needs at that time. However, Margaret, are you saying that payroll and personnel are not vital services for local government?

    Regarding stimulus funds, since you said “This funding goes to the school district”, do I understand that it was NUSD that applied for and received stimulus funds, not the City of Newark? I’ve heard a bit about the stim money Fremont got, but not much about if Newark received any.

  • Margaret

    Lou, According to Matt’s article on Stark’s stimulus money, Newark high school received $150,000 for DARE and likewise programs, and $29,000 for after school recreation. Newark police received $96,600. Newark received $173,000 for programs to reduce energy consumption. Newark Unified received $1,855,000 for programs such as Head Start and $536,000 for programs to assist at-risk kids.

    Newark’s proposed UUT askes for funding for police anti-gang/drug prevention programs. If the school district has funding for DARE programs why would the police department need extra funding for the same thing?

    The general fund in Newark could also be used for such things as building a golf course in Area 4 and a performing arts center in Area 2. Both things we cannot afford and do not need. Both things the city continues to plan for.

  • Margaret

    For more information send email to nonewarktax@yahoo.com

  • Lou Vandelay

    Thanks for the break-down on the stimulus money; I don’t recall seeing Matt’s article. I share your concern about the possibility that income from the utility tax could go to fund projects rather than essential services. Have you inquired at the City if that is what they intend to do?

    Also thanks for the “no newark tax” contact; I joined a while back and receive messages, but when I’ve sent questions to that address I don’t get a reply.

  • Margaret

    Try it again. There are no received messages that haven’t been read and a response sent.

    nonewarktax@yahoo.com

  • Margaret

    Lou, League of California Cities says many cities have indicated that UUT revenue are used to partially offset increases in their energy bills. Other cities with UUT use some of the tax monies for land use planning services, payroll, personnel, information systems and related support services.

    Upfront the city will say the money will go to so-called vital city services. But at public meetings regarding the city’s Housing Element update and meeting concerning the delayed EIR for Areas 3 and 4, city staff has insisted that Area 4 be planned for a championship golf course and executive housing.

    With no developer funds for a golf course and executive housing, we have been told it will be the responsibility of the city to build the golf course and related amenities such as a clubhouse, restaurant and so forth.

    Newark has already received federal stimulus funds for many of the proposed projects listed on the ballot measure. Check out the Argus article on fed monies listed for Pete Stark’s district. Newark might receive more money for programs in 2010.

    UUT monies will be gravy for Newark to use at the discretion of the mayor and city council. UUT goes into the city’s general fund.

  • anon

    “General fund” = “general fun” for City Council.

    If the proposed tax goes to the General Fund – be very wary – -

    Any proposed taxes should be explicit as to their use. The “general fund” is a notoriously black hole account where all kinds of accounting trade offs can result from your tax monies being used for all kinds of purposes.

    IF the tax proposal is specific – uses other than the purpose voted on and approved by electorate should require a re-approval by voters.

  • Gus Morrison

    Anon, Unfortunately, under the state of governance today in California, a tax for “general” purposes, non specific purposes, requires a majority vote to pass. A tax for a specific purpose (special tax) requires a 2/3 vote to pass. You probably won’t see very many special taxes put on the ballot unless the issue to be funded is tremendously popular.

    And, Newark, as do most cities today, has serious financial problems. Sales tax in three years dropped from $13 million to less than $10 million in a budget of around $42 million or so (from my memory, could be off a bit.) In addition, drive down Central or Stevenson in Newark and look at the number of buildings with “Available” or “For Lease” signs on them. It is a huge number. And, while the property tax stays pretty constant whether the building is occupied or not, there is no sales tax generated from empty buildings and no employees shopping or eating in Neark.

    I’m not a big fan of creative finance for government, but all cities are hamstrung by rules written by anti-government activists and most are struggling to provide basic services. Most cities spend 2/3 or so of their budget on public safety. I know Fremont spends 90% of their operating budget on safety and maintenance. Cutting either is difficult and, probably in the long run, even more expensive.

  • Margaret

    Gus, Newark might have been more believable if they hadn’t asked for a 20 year UUT. That sent up the red flags announcing likely city misuse of the tax monies. Phone surveys of Newark residents never mentioned anything even close to a 20-year tax.

    The mayor and city council have never given up on their vision of a championship golf course and executive housing near a garbage dump. Meanwhile the mall and office and industrial parks are empty. Shopping in Newark is a joke. More taxes are not the answer.

  • Fremont Lifer

    Margaret – I’m not saying I’m pro-utility tax, but if more taxes are not the answer, what do you believe the answer is? Newark is not receiving the sales and other tax revenue that it got in the past, and their existing budget is being “borrowed” by the State. I’m trying to think of other alternatives, but coming up dry. Do you have any other ways for Newark to get the funds it needs to keep public safety and other needed services running?

  • Marty

    “…all cities are hamstrung by rules written by anti-government activists and most are struggling to provide basic services. Most cities spend 2/3 or so of their budget on public safety. I know Fremont spends 90% of their operating budget on safety and maintenance.”

    They’re hamstrung because they are paying magnitudes more for those services than revenue allows. This is not conjecture, nor is it anti-government.

  • anon

    The answer will come in the same way that it has for those in the private sector. Chapter 11 / bankruptcy will rid these public organizations of massive pensions that we can no longer afford.

    It will be difficult – but it is nothing that the private sector hasn’t been witness to for the last 20 years or so.

  • Marty

    Newark will have to learn the hard way just like Stockton and Vallejo: they have no business paying any city employee safety or otherwise a dollar above the state average. They are all marginal towns with very little reason to live or visit. Pay for employees should reflect this fact.

    As I expect every municipality to make major adjustments in how they compensate, I have to agree with Anon that there is a special place reserved for towns like Newark who have no hope in hell in sustaining these gold-plated salary and benefit packages on a budget made of contaminated lead.

  • Margaret

    http://www.insidebayarea.com/argus/ci_7168991

    Newark built the Silliman Center with a massive indoor swimming pool. It was all about showing off; beautiful but far too expensive for Newark. Newark built a huge fire station in Old Town. Something on a more modest size would have done just as good.

    For a number of years the city gave the Chamber of Commerce big bucks to keep the chamber afloat. This was after a high level chamber employees skipped town with a substantial amount of money. Newark could drop the DARE program as other cities and states have done.

    The mayor is executive director of the fund raising arm of Newark Ohlone. He is bringing in revenue for the college. We need some of that revenue-generating talent at the city level. Businesses looking to relocate or expand are not looking at Newark.

    What happened to the $35 million surplus Newark had just a few years ago? Raising taxes does nothing to turn the city around.

  • newark citizen

    What I find interesting is seeing city council, chamber, newark firefighters, newark police department, school board and the democratic central committee all backing this tax. I get nervous seeing this many political groups backing something. Fill like a long tail cat in room full of rocking chairs. The problem with newark is too business ran away. You got all those vacant business parks in newarks and no one to fill them….no tax revenue. Weak economy…hotel vacancy down…no tax revenue. Lets see, who else can they get money out of….lets see the citizens of Newark who are also hurting, losing jobs and homes…hmmm let make them hurt more… I think it is time for all the city council to be replaced. They have been running the town like a country club…opps wrong no new golf course. Maybe the city employees need to take a salary cut, work furloughs and let them feel what the rest of the citizens of newark are feeling.

  • Dean

    On top of always trying to outdo Fremont with over-built facilities, I have always wondered why a small city of our size needs an assistant City Manager at over $200,000 per year when we have all those department heads. Look at this Argus article on the high salaries paid to Newark employees.

    http://www.ci.newark.ca.us/jobs/salaryschedules.html

    Dean

  • Dean

    OOPS, I posted the wrong link. Here is the one from the Argus. The other one is the Newark City site for their salary ordinance.

    http://www.insidebayarea.com/argus/ci_7168991

    Dean

  • Bill_Spicer

    Fremont Lifer , Margaret,
    The way for Newark to bail out of this mess is to annex it self to Fremont. This makes sense as far as bringing public safety and fire protection cost down.
    Fremont Completely surrounds Newark, it should have stayed with the original plan , that is being part of Fremont.

  • Fremont Lifer

    But, Bill, wouldn’t that be a bit like trying to save yourself from drowning by tying yourself to a rock? Fremont has its own significant budgetary problems and, from what I understand, will also be rolling out its own utility tax (again).

    Dean, it’s funny – I always thought it was Fremont that was trying to keep up with Newark.

    It was Fremont who built the Starship City Hall that was recently knocked down while Newark is still using their City Hall, not to mention Fremont’s new (and structurally unsound) police building, compared to Newark PD still located in their same old City Hall.

    Fremont piddled around long enough so Newark got Newpark while Fremont just had the Hub, until Fremont got their own back with Pacific Commons.

    Fremont built the water park after they got Silliman Center envy. Fremont’s 50th anniversary bash was over the top when compared to the rather modest celebration in Newark. Newark Days is a consistently smaller and lower-key event compared to the Fremont Art and Wine Festival. Putting the waste transfer station right next to the Newark border was a not-too-subtle way for Fremont to highlight just what they thought of Newark.

  • Gus Morrison

    Lifer has managed to include all the “urban myths” about the relationship between Newark and Fremont in three paragraphs. It is too much effort to respond to in writing so I’ll save my response for some other time when I have a glass of wine in my hand.

    Spicer is right, there are economies of scale which could work if Newark was part of Fremont, one fire dept, on police dept, one administration, one maintenance dept., etc. It should have happened in the beginning, but it didn’t and it probably never will until a whole generation of people decide we are not in a competition and try to find ways to survive.

    As for the Newark tax measure, I have no position, although I believe without it there will be major cuts. If Newark is as Fremont, with 90% of the expenditures going to public safety and maintenance, there is no way to make major cuts without impacting those core services.

    And, the people of Newark seem content. They have no candidate running against the mayor and only one candidate running against the two incumbent councilmembers.

  • Marty

    “…with 90% of the expenditures going to public safety and maintenance, there is no way to make major cuts without impacting those core services.”

    Why not just pay city employees less?

  • anon

    No, not THAT Marty !

    I like the soft cool calm voice that says “Yeah well, see you can make those cuts if you all want to. But, well, then maybe when those wolves come knockin’ at your door, maybe we’ll be there for you and maybe we wont – you know, we’ll just have to wait and see . . . . So, for now – why dont you just take a look in that there wallet of yours and figure out how much you got and maybe we’ll keep on checkin’ up on you.”

    Seems like there’s two wolves in this story and the only difference is one of ‘em is wearin some sheeps clothes. . . . .

  • http://www.ishanforcouncil.com Ishan Shah

    Marty: easy. Nobody would take the jobs. The only reason anybody would want to work for government and not run for office is because of the benefits. Its simple to just say that why not pay city employees less? That’s the same as Why not pay police and fire less? They won’t get paid less because nobody would want the job otherwise. I think that by creating that tax, newark will be able to provide more for its citizenry. Just my opinion! Please do let me know your side :]

    Just an update guys: read about my dc lobbying trip on my site when you get a chance! http://www.ishanforcouncil.com

  • Fremont Lifer

    Now, Gus, was there anything incorrect about the facts of my post?

    Did Fremont not build a horror of a City Hall which they had to subsequently vacate and tear down?

    Is Newark not still using the same City Hall they’ve had for years? Is the new Fremont Police headquarters not seismically unsound?

    I think we both remember how Newpark ended up in Newark rather than Fremont.

    Was the water park not built after the Silliman Center?

    Was Fremont’s anniversary celebration not substantially more lavish than Newark’s? Isn’t Fremont Art and Wine larger than Newark Days?

    And we both remember the litigation around the construction of the waste transfer station. (http://wasteage.com/news/california-transfer-station/)

    Sometime when you have that glass of wine, I hope you will school me on local history, because I know we’ve both been here to see it, possibly from different perspectives. Don’t just say I’m wrong and not say why; I was raised to expect better from you than that.

  • Marty

    Ishan, were you transported to the TCB in some time machine from 1996? Public employee pay and benefits far exceed that of the private sector. This is a function of collective bargaining and facilitated by the very myth you’re promoting, which shines sympathy on an otherwise bloated, under-qualified and overpaid public workforce as compared to other regions and states.

    Please do the research. The SJ Merc did an outstanding series of articles on this topic a few years ago, at the peak of the Bay Area economy mind you, which dispelled your malinformed position. The SF Chronicle has many articles comparing wages/benefits of transportation workers, city employees and state workers to the private sector. Matt Artz has posted many blog entries here addressing the topic, specifically comparing Firefighter pay in the tri-city are to that of other agencies. The disparity is amazing. Go search, they’re there for you to find. Each and every article contradicts your position.

    And, considering that U6 unemployment (google it) in CA is 20%, you’re position that nobody else would take these jobs is not only ridiculous, it is completely ignorant. I hate to hound on you, but you are so misinformed about this topic that I fear your ignorance as applied to public office is the very causation of the financial pit our state is currently in.

  • http://www.ishanforcouncil.com Ishan Shah

    Sorry guys! you’re right. I’m gonna go read up more on it. I assumed =\ shouldn’t have done that.

  • Marty

    Ishan, I realize my response was quite rude. But I think there would be a line out the door for these jobs for less pay if made available to the 1 in 5 who are unemployed. (police excepted, they earn every penny and have trouble recruiting qualified people as you suggested)

  • http://www.ishanforcouncil.com Ishan Shah

    No worries Marty. This is why I post here, to allow myself to be educated. You all offer unique points of view. Don’t worry about being too harsh on me, I figure by listening to you guys I’m already doing a step more than our current officials right?

  • Andy

    Police/firefighters face a risk while doing their jobs. So they can justify their pay. Having said that police salaries must be adjusted according to the level of risk. I cannot accept fremont cops getting a salary at par or higher than a cop in oakland or hayward or richmond.

  • George

    Andy, andy , andy -

    Loads of people in uniform face risks Far Far Far greater than those encountered on our public streets while doing their jobs to protect you and I and our freedoms.

    Some of them get paid salaries that are well above what a free market negotiation would accomodate. Many of them get paid a hell of a lot less. Speak to our men and women in Afghanistan – some who might return in one piece.

    Why do Our P.D. and F.D. deserve above market compensation ? Why do our men and women in armed forces get under market ? Why do teachers make less than F.D. and P.D ?

    Something is wrong.

    These public servants obtain salaries and pensions and benefits that are well beyond anything that is afforded those in the private sector. The private sector has been unwinding retirement benefits for decades. The private sector has been unwinding total compensation for many many years.

    Our city managers have created a false economy.

    Many, many, many skilled and educated individuals would take their place for far less.

    Public employees are the wolves in sheeps clothing and they are breaking the backs of our city economies. It is only a matter of when – not if – that our cities go bankrupt at the hands of these selfish individuals.

  • George

    I have a list of the names of several men and women who have demonstrated the skills to protect our freedoms.

    THey have demonstrated their skills in far off and unfamiliar places.

    They are familiar with highly stressful life and death situations.

    They know how to handle a fire fight in close-in situations.

    They are familiar with rules of engagement.

    They would love to protect your freedoms and rights for only a small portion of those benefits afforded our public P.D.

  • Dean

    Arguments and rebuttal have been submitted. Please see our web site.

    http://home.earthlink.net/~lewis2/vote.nonewarktax/

  • Californiaguy

    There is a revolution happening now. With cuts to services, cuts to education, people are sickened to hear fire chiefs retiring at $240,000 a year.
    People are now becoming aware of the inequities with public employees pay and retirement benefits versus the private sector.
    People are beginning to realize they are paying for this. Most politicians do not have the gonads to fo after this problem and adjust it.
    Kudos to the Bart Board of Directors, they have started to implement a new labor contract that addresses these issue of inflated pay, and pensions.
    I have forgotten did Fremont City Council give city employees a raise this year?
    Join the Revolution and pressure politicians to address this third rail issue.

  • Laughing Citizen

    I have to laugh at all the posts here. Look who is in favor and who is against. The city employees, the city council, the elected officials and all the political backers. The people against the everyday citizen. Sounds like this is rammed down our throats. Fremont is still sore about not eating up Newark over 50 yrs ago. 3 words, LET IT GO! This is a Newark issue and not a Fremont battle.

  • http://www.ishanforcouncil.com Ishan Shah

    Californiaguy: our retired fire chiefs make $240,000?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!

    WHY?!

  • Lou Vandelay

    I’ve never had a government job, run for office, volunteered my time to work for a candidate, or written a check for any campaign. I’m not a political backer. I’m a regular citizen who lives in Newark. I don’t feel that anything is being rammed down our throats – we all get to vote up or down on this tax. The city corrected a mistake and lowered the term from 20 years to 6 years.

    I enjoy the Silliman Center and it’s OK the firemen have a new firehouse – the old one was pretty bad. I’m not so hot on the idea of a golf course, but I don’t believe that is where this tax will go. The tax would run for six years and it’ll take longer than that for the economy to recover and the studies for a project like that to be done. If they say this is money that they need to keep the doors open, I tend to believe them. I don’t want the planning department to stop issuing permits, the parks to go untended, the community centers to close, or other city services to stop.

    Look at the websites for Fremont and Newark. Fremont has 21 departments; Newark has 8. They’ve been more careful with their money than Fremont. Times are tough. Newark is having the same problems as other local cities – reduced tax revenue, businesses closing, and the state raiding what funds the cities do have. People are right to be mad about a fire chief who retired at $240,000 a year, but that didn’t happen in Newark, it was in Moraga.

    http://www.contracostatimes.com/danielborenstein/ci_13008390

  • Gus Morrison

    In general, public safety employees retire at a pension calculated at 3% of the single highest year’s salary multiplied by the number of years served to a maximum of 90% of that salary, at a minimum age of 50. This pension rate was authorized by the legislature about 10-15 years ago.

    So, a fire chief earning $180,000 a year would retire at $162,000 if he/she had 30 years service. Depending on choices for a surviving spouse, that amount would be reduced by that choice.

    The instance about the Contra Costa chief was another example of people gaming the system to their advantage. The loopholes they used will probably be closed quickly, but someone will find others. It is shameful and elected officials who allow it to happen ought to be recalled.

    As for the question, “Why should a fire chief make $180K in the first place?” There are a couple of ways to look at that. First, just consider the steps between the entry level fire fighter and the chief-engineer, captain, battalion chief, division chief-5 steps, with 10% (arbitrary number I pulled out of the air) and you find a 61% difference in salary.

    But, consider the value of someone responsible for 180-200 employees with an annual budget to manage of around $30 million (also my estimate, close enough). I would guess a chief’s salary would be in the ballpark of those with similar responsibility in industry.

  • Laughing Citizen

    The sad thing about Newark is their problems goes back to before the downturn in the economy. They allowed all that no empty industrial area to be built that now is empty. Look who is exempt from the tax. If those exempt groups would also chip in, then it would take less than 6 years. What is good for the citizens of Newark is good for those exempt.

  • Marty

    A fire chief *should* make 180K+ per year for the reasons Gus presents. What’s absurd is that a rookie firefighter could make about 75% of that in his first year.

    Tell me one other job besides sales where a starting employee makes 75% that of a 30 year veteran?

  • Lou Vandelay

    As Gus said, they’re closing the loopholes:

    Ex-fire chief billed for $7,000-plus in legal fees, lawyer says
    By Tom Lochner
    Contra Costa Times
    Posted: 08/18/2009 02:08:42 PM PDT

    By Tom Lochner

    The Rodeo-Hercules Fire District has sent an embattled former chief a legal bill of more than $7,000 for negotiations that led to his recent retirement, the ex-chief’s new lawyer says.

    The district also is denying Gary Boyles some pay adjustments he believes he is entitled to under a June 25 settlement agreement, according to the lawyer, William Kelly.

    http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/localnews/ci_13152102