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by Mike Ceremello
Feb 2, 2005
Dangerous Times in Dixon
There must be something in Dixon’s water. That is the only way I can explain the inconsistent and paradoxical consistent behaviors of our council people and their constituents. You could always chalk it off to people just being themselves. Logic, it seems, is totally lost on all of the players.
Lest I be accused of only praising people when they do what I like, I must say I have given a lot of thought to that aspect of my criticism against those in power. I have come to the conclusion that it is “the nature of the beast” in that understanding that 2 + 2 = 4 and not another number because “it feels good” is the only valid argument I will recognize.
I have more criticism for the mayor but I was more than pleasantly surprised by many of her actions at this last council meeting. After she adamantly refused to hold a discussion on agenda items before opening the item for public comment, supposedly because I would attack how she was going to vote, she did just the opposite on the issue of city hall expansion and the ADA curb cut program.
If she was paying attention, she also noticed that I didn’t attack her position at all but pointed out the illogic of staff recommendations while giving her ammunition to make a stronger, more credible decision. Congratulations on realizing the adversarial attitude is nowhere near as productive as taking logical and factual input from the public.
* * * * *
There are three topics I want to cover this week: the curb cut program, the expansion of City Hall, and the racetrack.
The curb cuts isn’t the difficult issue that the Council and foot dragging city staff has made it. It should be apparent to anyone who has followed this issue in this paper that the largest problem is the fact that the city can’t find one curb cut that has been done correctly. Partnering off of this fact is the city is doing their absolute best to stall the solution out in time.
The first problem could be solved by staff themselves. If they would get off their highly paid butts, get a copy of the ADAAG codes and the corresponding State Codes, read them thoroughly to winnow out the more stringent of the two, and then apply the resultant code when designing and inspecting actual construction, the first problem would be solved.
While I would like to criticize Ron Wilson of CARD and others for not specifically detailing the correct specifications, it is not his job to do this. If the city staff can’t understand what is required from his circuitous and voluminous dissertations and handouts, then they should take it upon themselves to find another source. You would think that in the twelve and a half years since the ADA was made law that one of these professionals could do that.
Instead, we have inspectors who don’t inspect, city managers who don’t manage, and councils who make excuses. To prove this point, you only have to ask yourselves “why is it that the developers of the current residential areas aren’t being forced to bring the construction into line with the code? Why is the city using taxpayer money to remedy their errors?”
On the point of timeliness, the mayor sat down with members of the disabled community to “prioritize” the areas needing curb cuts. She agreed that 600 of the 900 necessary curb cuts would be scheduled for completion by the end of 2006. I guess she forgot that by the time she got to the council meeting.
But let’s not leave out Loren Ferrero, the man who stated “I want ADA compliance to be our number one priority.” Loren, after listening to the mayor’s arguments about the project potentially running into problems, quipped “I wouldn’t have a problem saying 3 years.” New councilman Mike Smith seemed to have forgotten about his one large contractor being able to get the job done quickly.
The following quote sums up where this city is headed. “If the city does not have all the sidewalks and curb cuts done by December 31, 2006, I, Byron Chapman, as a member of CARD, will involve the State Attorney General, the Department of Justice, and any other means at my disposal including litigation to resolve this situation.”
Once again, the city and council have been warned...
* * * * *
The expansion of city hall non-argument by city staff and their hired consulting architect demonstrated the bureaucratic empire building about which I continue to wail. Does it amaze you as much as it did me that they didn’t bother to provide their space needs study to the council let alone the public?
As I said from the podium, just tell me why we need this and I will shut up and sit down. We have the largest project that Dixon has ever seen in Dixon Downs, following closely on the heels of Wal-Mart while managing to process the Pulte project and the Southwest residential future development. So you tell me why we need to expand our engineering department to house 6 full time engineers, 5 technicians, and the city engineer from the current 5 person staff.
The mayor concurred, as did others, stating she wanted to see the study before making a decision. The city manager tipped his hand by saying that he wasn’t calling for this project to be built tomorrow or even in the next three years. So why was this on the agenda then?
It is all about the money. $1.2 million has already been collected from developers and $3.5 million is needed for the Taj Mahal addition. The real reason this was on the agenda was so that fees could be adjusted upward now. Other than the fact that the need for the addition wasn’t proven, it makes sense to assure funding.
Vice Mayor Vega saw the problem, opining that refunding the fees to the developer is not the same as refunding the money to those who actually pay the fees: the new resident.
Glad to see that the council has finally come to their senses...
* * * * *
January 27 was the first information exchange by the proponents of the race track. Sorry, I mean the consultants who work for the city who want this to happen. The consultants paid for by Magna, the entertainment company who also paid for city staff, council, and planning commission to witness the Sunshine Millions the following weekend in Florida. A little too cozy for me...
Seeing tracks in action has nothing to do with whether the land should be re-zoned to accommodate this business. Expecting to see how a track handles traffic created by such a large event is secondary to understanding how Cal-Trans or the City of Dixon will get the freeway reconfigured or overpasses enlarged. Visiting with those who have remained in neighborhoods affected by the track isn’t as valuable as locating those who have moved because of its proximity.
I agree with Joe Fleischman who asked for the consultant to demonstrate how he derived his calculations of financial benefit to the city. Next session is supposed to cover the benefit to the average citizen.
Again the “carrot was dangled” of a Phase II which may or may not be built. It seems that the majority of revenues to the city come from this event. Also the tax of .33%, that is one third of a percent, is now estimated to generate $800,000 per year. Funny, I seem to recall that it was $200,000 and then $500,000. Maybe we should wait a few more years and it will be over a million.
Former mayor Marime Burton asked a great question, “what if we don’t think this is an appropriate project for Dixon?” This is a zoning question only. If you don’t want the project, you simply don’t re-zone the land to highway commercial. Only a portion of the Magna property is currently correctly zoned for entertainment use.
Going a step further, maybe Marime should have been more vocal when the city annexed land next to the freeway. Well, she wasn’t vocal in defending her Measure B when the “tweaking” was pointed out to her, so maybe she can be convinced there is some good in the racetrack, just as there will be from the homes being added to help the school district build a new high school.
After reviewing all of this, I have only one question. It is the same question I had and still have about the city manager negotiating salaries which eventually benefit him.
“Do you really think you are going to get an unbiased opinion from those conducting research that will eventually benefit themselves?”
While I don’t believe in giving the populace the right to vote on this project, I do believe you need to get involved. You need to present facts. You need to force the consultants to demonstrate how they arrived at their conclusions. You need to let your representatives know how you feel from now until September.
Hope to see you during public comment time at the council meetings...
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