Councilmember Lists 27 Accomplishments that Improved Banning
10/5/15 – More than once we all have heard criticism that this City council does not accomplish anything “positive”.
In an attempt to counter those critics, council member Ed Miller has compiled a list of 27 accomplishments of the current council. Are his points valid? – Let’s examine them one by one.
In the above video, Council member Ed Miller makes the following points:
1. The mine operating within our City limits is finally being taxed, thanks to the voters of Banning approving the ballot measure proposed by this Council. That tax money is being used for a variety of purposes, helps balance our budget, and hopefully in the future will help alleviate the polluting dust and noise produced by the mine. What is interesting and perplexing is that previous Councils did not attempt to obtain any of this sorely needed funds, for reasons that I cannot fathom. (Our comment: the lack of action by previous councils needs to be view in light of the fact that at least 3 previous council members (Botts, Hanna, Machisic) received substantial campaign contributions from the operators – see our previous story.)
2. In addition, this tax is an incentive for the mine’s operators to be more willing to discuss the plan for the final improvements in the mine area once the mine is depleted and closed. Such reclamation plans could result in a valuable park area for the City, rather than a vast empty dangerous hole abandoned at the Eastern edge of our City. (Our comment: point well taken)
3. This council has recognized Stagecoach days as being an important part of our City’s recreation, is indicative of the western heritage and culture of our City, and is an event that draws many people from outside the area to our City to increase business activity and improve the image of our City. This council supports the Stagecoach Days event strongly, and appreciates the enormous efforts of the volunteer group that arranges this event. The previous Council dismissed this signature event with insulting remarks equivalent to “this labels us as a hick town”, and refused to support Stagecoach Days. (Our comment : former council member Bob Botts is on record making the “hick town” comment about Stagecoach days and the Stagecoach theme in general)
4. This Council has maintained Dysart Park in its current form, with sufficient room for rodeo trailers. The original plan considered by the previous council was for changes which would have made such use impossible. (Our comment : factually correct)
5. Lion’s park is being improved to permit use by handicapped people. Such needs were ignored in the past. (Our comment : factually correct)
6. The previous Chief of Police, without proper authorization, obtained an armored vehicle suitable for use in Iraq and other war zones, but is incompatible with a suburban town such as Banning. The lack of appropriateness for our City’s use is indicated by the fact that this vehicle was involved in an accident while being driven here. It has been returned to the DOD. (Our comment : factually correct – the accident the MRAP vehicle was involved in cost the City in excess of $ 50,000)
7. The Police station, (also previously known as he Fortress of Isolation) under the previous council and Chief was closed to the public except for several hours a week, is now open during normal working hours, indicating the desire of our police under its new Chief Alex Diaz to be fully responsive to the residents of Banning. (Our comment: former Police Chief Purvis had the station open just 3 hours per week. He cited lack of staff. Police Chief Diaz has now opened the station 5 days a week -9am –5pm – without adding staff. At a minimum this indicates incompetence, but possibly even ill will, on the part of Purvis).
8. Despite its excessive size, the Police station was improperly designed, and there is no place for the gang task force, storage of the City’s mobile control center, or for attack training. Space is now available in the Wilson street Fire station, due to its abandonment by the Fire Museum. (Our comment : factually correct – the Police Mobile Command Center (motor home) had to be parked outside in the weather for years, so privately owned fire trucks could be stored inside a City owned building, free of charge)
9. Our City has not had a State approved housing element for more than twenty years. The Housing element is a zoning map which satisfies the State’s requirements for affordable housing. Failure to have this approved plan has prevented our City from obtaining government housing grants for, incredibly, twenty years. That is an astounding display of leadership failure. This plan has been finally approved under this new Council, and we can now apply for those sorely needed grants. (Our comment : factually correct)
10. The previous Council was lax in assuring that all contracts were obtained through an open bidding process. We have assured that all bids go through such a process to assure the lowest cost to our city for services rendered. (Our comment : factually correct, in the past bids were usually never discussed nor even published)
11. Similarly, previously, when bids were required, they were often advertised only locally, in local newspapers. We now require all such bids be made also through national trade magazines. In the reconstruction of the electrical yard, more than $2 million dollars was saved by this re-advertising. (Our comment : factually correct)
12. City Hall was only open 4 days a week. This was initially done as a result of the recession of 2008. That should have been corrected a while ago. City hall is now open 5 days a week, demonstrating that our City is open for business, and is thriving. (Our comment : this accomplishment is huge, but has gone completely unnoticed. City manager Dean Martin failed to issue a Press Release)
13. The flume is vital to our water supply, but the water being brought to water canyon by the flume has been under threat by the Forest Service for more than 5 years. While much more work is still required, more progress in dealing with this problem has been made recently than in the previous half decade. (Our comment: point well taken)
14. An oil spill occurred during the previous council’s rein, costing the city over $1.8 million. The previous council did nothing to attempt recovery of that money. This council has obtained over $600,000 from parties responsible by strongly pursing this action. (Our comment: former City manager Takata recommended paying the bill, despite the fact that a consultant’s report expressly questioned it – see previous story)
15. Other sources of income were freely given away by past Councils. The Chamber of Commerce was not being charged for its utility bills for many years. The City is now charging for these utilities, and is pursuing collecting the back charges owned. (Our comment: see our previous story)
16. We now have a licensed professional engineer in charge of public works. Having a knowledgeable engineer in charge is invaluable in searching for the best solution to engineering problems in our City. For example, this engineering knowledge is invaluable in helping to find the appropriate means to reducing the Cr6 concentration in our water supply and in evaluating the best solution to solving our problems with the flume water supply. (Our comment: former public works director Duane Burk did not have such qualifications)
17. The Pardee development North of Wilson has been stalled due to lawsuits with “Cherry Valley Acres and Neighbors”. Those lawsuits are now settled, and that project was approved by this Council to continue. (Our comment : factually correct, but the City council cannot take credit for the settlement of this third-party lawsuit)
18. The Water and Electric bonds issued by the city have been reissued at a lower interest rate, saving the city $7 million in interest charges. As a personal note, at my first meeting as a new Council member with the then city Manager, I asked for a review of interest charges, and how they could be improved. (Our comment : this is a huge accomplishment, but again, City manager Dean Martin failed to issue a Press Release on the subject)
19. Our City is burdened with having an interest in a coal burning power plant (the San Juan plant). We will be divested of that plant in 2017, removing that cost from our electric department. (Our comment: point well taken)
20. Previously, our city’s donations to various organizations were done in a haphazard, or on a one-to-one basis. Our City now has a firm legal procedure stating the steps to be followed when the City is asked to provide cash, buildings or in-kind services to any organization. This legal framework will protect the City from claims of prejudice, and aid in preventing the awarding of taxpayer money to friends of the Council. (Our comment: in other words, the days of “giving away the farm” no questions asked, are finally over)
21. The City Manger has the authority to grant contracts up to $25k without the approval of the council. Previously, contracts of that amount could be awarded repeatedly to any one company. Now, any such repeat contracts must go to open bids, again assuring that the City will receive the lowest cost for services. (Our comment: long overdue)
22. The new Chief of police Alex Diaz has instituted a policy of having officer internal affairs investigation being done internally, instead of having them sent to an outside firm , saving the city the cost of such reviews, and providing easier, less offensive reviews to our officers. The previous Police Chief developed costs to the city of about $700,000 for such external reviews. (Our comment: factually correct. Former Police Chief Purvis was a former Riverside County Sheriff Deputy. Part of the $ 700,000 in contracts were given by Purvis to the husband of another Riverside County Sheriff Deputy – see previous story).
23. The previous Councils had given the Cultural Alliance hundreds of thousands of dollars with insufficient accounting. A Grand Jury investigation found that these gifts were unacceptable, and stated that much of that money should be returned to the city. Despite that finding, the previous Council continued to give taxpayer money to the Alliance without oversight. This Council has stopped that practice, saving the taxpayers additional expense. (Our comment: long overdue. The funding of the Cultural Alliance was nothing more than a gift of public funds – without any measurable results whatsoever. The funding was the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the Banning taxpayer)
24. Previous Councils have blithely continued to subsidize the airport, despite the fact that it is underutilized, and the number of users has continually declined. The present council has had several workshops to discuss its future. While no absolute decision has been made, these discussions demonstrate that this Council is willing to review past policies and to see if they fit modern requirements. (Our comment: point well taken)
25. The previous City councils had WRCOG (the Western Regional Council of Governments) perform community work to inform people of the methods of recycling. This work was simultaneously being performed by our Waste Management company. The contract with WRCOG was cancelled by the current Council as unnecessary, saving our city $60,000 per year. (Our comment: here is a highly commendable example of restoring accountability, instead of continuing to rubber stamp the WRCOG dictated status quo)
26. The public works department was permitting a private company to use City land without payment. That practice has now been stopped. (Our comment: here Miller is referring to actions of former Public Works director Burk. Not only has the outrageous practice been stopped, but Public works director Duane Burk, who allowed it, is now longer employed by the City. The background on Burk’s departure was never reported by the media : members of City staff allegedly allowed a private bee keeper to exclusively use city land for a commercial bee keeping operation – for free. This went on for well over 10 years. An estimated 35 million bees were kept at the location. Allegedly the bee keeper was also given access to an unmetered City fire hydrant, free of charge. It is further alleged that the bee keeper gave Public Works regular gifts in form of cases of honey. The honey is said to have been distributed freely among some members of City staff. )
27. The previous City councils approved the contract for the top city executive with what I consider an outrageous excessive salary and an outrageous, excessive severance package of one years salary. Did anyone of us taxpayers ever get such a deal?. The previous permanent City Manager salary was equivalent to that of the Mayor of Los Angeles and New York. Our city can not, and should not bear such expense. This council has agreed that future contracts will be more reasonable. While we do not yet have a permanent city Manger, this City has been governed efficiently by the interim Managers, and we are searching carefully for an appropriate manager who will be of benefit to our City. (Our comment: a commendable approach aimed at restoring fiscal accountability)
As our review shows, Councilman Ed Miller has made many valid points.
A lot has changed in Banning, and Miller’s list shows that the City council has, in many ways, taken a new, more accountable direction for the City.
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