Express Yourself

Monday, June 3, 2013

I have only been home for a week and already I am hearing some interesting scuttlebutt.

The City Council has been postponing the decision on the proposed Verizon Cell Tower since April. I oppose the Verizon cell tower because of its proposed location.

It is widely believed that the City Council was prepared to sign off on this lease agreement in March-April, but the Conditional Use Permit (CUP), a necessary piece of the processing, needed approval from the Planning Commission.
The Planning Commission did approve the CUP. In the interim, the community became aware of this proposed cell tower and expressed opposition for a variety of reason, most notably the location at Pinole Valley Park.
The lease negotiation appears on the Council agenda for tomorrow under closed session. There are two agendas for tomorrow, one is listed as a Special Meeting.
Regular Meeting
Special meeting

I believe the opposition may have come as a surprise to the City. They had been trying to seal the deal with Verizon for the tower on Adobe Road for about a year. The proposed cell tower was brought to the attention of the Save the Swim Center Committee last year as a possible source of sustainable revenue for the Pool, an idea the Council put the kibosh on, understandable as they were still in the throes of fiscal meltdown. The lease, as originally proposed, would pay the City a $5,000 up front fee, with lease payments of $24,000 per year.
The Planning Commission noted that Verizon had proposed other locations, but that the final location at Pinole Valley Park, was the one all parties (not including the community) agreed was best.

The City had to tighten its belt and made dramatic cut backs to services in Pinole over the course of the last three years.
We were all asked to share the pain, we did that.
To this community’s credit, they stepped up and did what was needed to retain and preserve the services they cared about.

In November voters extended the Utility Users Tax for another 8 years so that we could “Keep Pinole, Pinole”.
No promises were made, but it was clearly implied that the UUT would help retain and restore these important services, and for many it was the reason they voted, YES.
By all accounts the City’s budget situation has improved, how much we won’t know until the new budget is presented this month.

The question is, has the city’s financial position improved so much that they are now in a position to offer bonuses to staff? That is the scuttlebutt around town. Pinoleans are spitting mad about this possibility.

Services this community has supported through their taxes and fees, were jeopardized due to the economy, some of those, the Senior Center, Parks and Recreation and PCTV, have relied on fund-raising to stay in business. Volunteers have worked long and hard to raise funds to keep them in business. Why? Because they believe these services define their community and are the reason they choose to live here.

Now, volunteers have reached a point where they are asking, “how much longer will we have to do this, when is the City going to assume its rightful responsibility and allocate resources in its budget to maintain the services we want and pay for?”

If Pinole’s economy is moving in the right direction, with the help of increased revenue and the UUT, then taxpayers deserve to know how the City can possible justify any increase in salary, benefits or the handing out of bonuses, before allocating resources for these services.

It would be a dark day indeed in Pinole if the new budget does not allocate city resources for these services yet allocates bonus money or increased administrative staff costs. It would not bode well for the campaign to increase sewer rates.
Keep Pinole – Pinole, indeed.

The Critical Issues – Utility Users Tax

UUT, The Pinole Utility Users Tax
My position: I support it.


The City of Pinole, like many other California cities has used the Utility Users Tax to enhance revenue. UUT rates vary from 1% to 11%. Utility Users Tax Facts.
This tax is a general tax that requires a majority 50%+1 vote to pass. The revenue generated will go to the General Fund (GF).
The current Utility Users Tax (UUT), 8% for eight years,  was approved by the voters in 1998. The UUT accounts for approximately 20% of the City’s revenue, or $2 million.
With the State of California raiding local city coffers in order to balance its budget, every dollar the city receives in revenue is in jeopardy, unless, it is revenue that is locally controlled. The UUT is such a tax and therefore the revenue derived from the UUT can not be taken by the State.

I favor the extension of the UUT because we need to have this revenue source in order to allow us time to re-evaluate our expenses, review our organizational structure and develop new sources of revenue. Without it the city will continue its free fall.

Without the UUT the things that make Pinole a place people want to live and invest in, a safe, clean city, with parks, a community Swim Center and Pinole Cable TV access, are in jeopardy.
There is no guarantee that the State will not find new and creative ways to raid our cookie jar. But, with the extension of the UUT, we can roll up our sleeves, take a good hard look at where we are, where we’re going and begin to develop a plan for the future of Pinole.

Ivette Ricco

UUT Ballot measure language:
Primary Argument in Favor of the Measure M

The Pinole Utility Users Tax is NOT A NEW TAX; it is a RENEWAL of an existing local surcharge on gas, electricity, and telephone usage that has been part of Pinole’s finances for 21 years. It accounts for approximately 20% of Pinole’s budget. The city asks for a renewal of this tax every 8 years. It is paid by homeowners, renters, and businesses, and includes protections for low-income residents.

Without its renewal, drastic cuts will occur to our police, fire, and maintenance staffs that will undercut the safety and attractiveness of Pinole.

We all know Pinole is a great place to live. Our dedicated police and fire departments ensure the safety of everyone who lives, works, and shops in Pinole.
Our parks and recreation facilities offer excellent programs, community events, and services for everyone. Unique and family owned shops and restaurants exist along clean, safe, and well lighted streets.

All of these will be adversely affected if the Pinole Utility Users Tax is not renewed. With the exception of one year (it was repealed in 1997, many city services were cut, and Pinole voters immediately reinstated it in 1998), the Pinole Utility Users Tax has provided significant funding for our city since 1991.

The economic downturn and the raiding of our city finds by Sacramento severely wounded California cities. Pinole’s budget has already been reduced more than $4 million, necessitating the elimination of 1/3 of city staff (53 positions) and a significant reduction in salary and benefits, through major concessions, by all remaining city workers.

The city will be forced to eliminate another 14.5 staff positions, including 5 police officers, 2 firefighters, and 7 other crucial positions, if the Pinole Utility Users Tax is not renewed.

Vote YES to renew the Pinole Utility Users tax.
Keep Pinole PINOLE.