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City Council Debates All-Weather Field

Heated discussion focuses on penciling in a specific amount as Walnut Creek awaits report on ballfield priorities.

A City Council discussion of 2012-14 budget priorities grew heated for a minute Tuesday night in an exchange of opinions on funding for an all-weather field at Heather Farm Park.

"We're just delaying a decision," said Mayor Pro Tem Kish Rajan. "We make decisions in the budget process. I'm baffled as to what we're waiting for."

Rajan was responding to a suggestion by Council member Cindy Silva. With the results of a consultant's analysis of the city's ballfields expected in six to eight weeks, Silva suggested the city hold off designating an amount for an all-weather field — and instead budget a dollar figure for recreation capital projects and specify the projects at a later date. The field, tentatively planned for Field 5 and/or Field 6, was pegged at $2 million in a staff report for the budget workshop.

Silva said there was about 90 percent of the information needed for the council to make priority decisions on a series of capital projects:

  • the all-weather field at Heather Farm Park;
  • an overhaul of the pool at Larkey Park;
  • Civic Park construction estimated at $1.25 million to make a permanent site for the Walnut Creek on Ice rink in winter and use for bocce courts at other times, plus realignment of walkways and creating a place for near the downtown library. The Civic Park plans are due to go before the council at its next meeting, May 1, after review by the city's Park, Recreation and Open Space Commission.

Beyond repairs at the Larkey Park pool, the city has listed as a discretionary expense the possibility of a splash feature, estimated at $600,000. The proposal merited further study, argued Mayor Bob Simmons, because the fees charged for it would increase overall cost recovery for the Larkey pool.

The council on Tuesday passed no resolutions designating budget amounts. Instead, it gave city staff direction on budget priorities in aiming for the budget to be finalized by mid-June.

For instance, because of concern for the expense, there was a council consensus to remove from the budget at this stage, potentially at Civic Drive and at Shadelands. The signs were intended to replace the inconvenience and expense of city workers putting up temporary signs when there is a blockage on the busy artery. Much of the cost would be building an extensive foundation to support signs at the side of the road with a high pole and a sign overhanging the busy road, said city Engineer Steve Waymire.

Other transportation projects listed under discretionary capital projects include:

  • in-pavement lights, estimated at $300,000, in various locations, including Locust Street, at Main Street near Target, and Walnut Avenue. 
  • a sidewalk on Ygnacio Valley Road from Oakland to Parkside.
  • extended left-turn lanes on Ygnacio Valley at San Carlos, and Civic Drive at Ygnacio Valley.
Milan Moravec April 25, 2012 at 11:30 PM
California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier authored the bill that allows public employees to spike their pension payments so public employees receive pension payments that are greater than their work salary. Can you guess who pays for public employees receiving pension payments greater than their salary? Californians as Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party 75% of the money DeSaulnier collects comes from Sacramento. Senator DeSaulnier’s interests are lobbyists not district priorities. Send a forceful message to Calif. Senator DeSaulnier in November that these actions simply aren’t acceptable.
One more time with feeling April 26, 2012 at 04:16 PM
There must be no "discretionary expense" until the budget is under control. Council members, at your discretion, please place the "discretionary funds" into the General and Emergency funds that were pillaged to build the Contra Costa County Library downtown Walnut Creek Branch when voters would not pass the two bond measures. The city budget is at least at a $2.1 million deficit. There should be NO discussion about spending $2 million for fake grass, $1.25 million for an ice rink or bocce ball courts, artwork installation at the County-staffed library, or any of the other expenditures considered. Add these items in to INCREASE the deficit. Not adding these items in AND reducing spending reduces the deficit. How much more clear can this be stated? STOP SPENDING MONEY YOU DON'T HAVE and stop spending money that will bring no return and you will have a much better chance at reducing the deficit. City Council members, with all due respect, we may have a revenue problem, but this is because YOU certainly have a spending problem. Ms Silva, saying the Blue Ribbon Task Force did not recommend making any cuts is laughable. http://www.contracostatimes.com/walnut-creek/ci_20478357/walnut-creek-budget-hash-out-continues-gets-heated YOU instructed them to not make such recommendations...
Jim April 26, 2012 at 05:34 PM
I believe the sports field money can only be spent on new construction so have at it I say. Everything else is dead on OMTWF. If you remember during the 2010 election there was a big debate about this with some candidates and groups citing the need for road improvements, storm drain improvements etc. How did Cindy Silva, Charlie Abrams, Gwen Regelia, Gary Skrel and Sue Rainey not see this coming when they approved not just A library but THE most expensive library around. Clearly other regular folks saw the train coming toward them. More importantly where were (are) all the so called media watchdogs? They complain about pensions that cost peanuts compared to the tens of millions the library (and other programs) are costing. Where is Elisabeth Nardi, Dan Borenstein and Thomas Peele now? They rant about political influence and shady government dealings yet not a peep about this massive finanical blunder. One wonders what their political agenda is.
One more time with feeling April 30, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Jim, If the expense to cover the Heather Farm field renovation to replace real grass with fake grass is from some sort of grant that specifies this is all that the funds can be used for, then I agree with Mr. Rajan's frustration - and this should not even be a discussion point. In theory, this is no impact to the city's budget. However, I am curious to understand how anyone would explain (without laughing) how calling this "new construction" when it is "renovation" of an existing field. If the field were dirt and used for parking - or if there was some sort of building that was being razed to make room for a new field - then "new construction" is a relevant term. But the field is currently in use and will be used for the same thing after the fake grass is installed. There is nothing "new" about this. I guess if City staff can magically convince the providers of the funds that what they plan to do is indeed "new construction", then that's their problem... I'm still on the fence, though... I need to understand what the maintenance requirements are on this fake grass. It may not need water, cutting, fertilizer, etc... but there will be maintenance $ needed.
David P May 01, 2012 at 06:25 AM
OMTWF - I agree that the City needs to look closely at overall spending when there is a deficit. I have to believe that no one at City Hall wants the budget to be unbalanced. The budget didn't get this way due to one or two or three "pet projects" by councilmembers. I believe it got this way due to the overall changes in the economy, including reduced property tax and sales tax revenue. Yet, I also believe that we need to continue to keep those amenities that our neighbors utilize and enjoy in proper repair. Yes, the streets need to be maintained and all neighborhoods need to be safe, but the City needs to balance that with parks and recreation opportunities, and even a library, if people are going to find value in their property tax payments to the City.
David P May 01, 2012 at 06:37 AM
As for the Library: I do not believe, Jim, that Gary Skrel voted for the library. I think I remember consistent 4-1 votes as the issue progressed. I would like to see a group of three or four people from "all sides" come together for a day or two and look at the usage data for the two WC branches, and make apple-to-apple comparisons with the other branches in the County. The only cost I could see is for the County library staff to provide the actual data, as well as respond to reasonable requests for additional relevant data. Doing so might just stop many people from continuing their positions -- one way or the other. I am big on the value of data and making analyses based on it -- and hopefully objective analyses. I would even participate -- primarily so we could potentially put this usage argument behind us. And yes, I understand that there are those that would not care about the results and just continue their barbs, but I would hope it might make them do it a whole bunch less. Want to join me in this effort OMTWF? Paula? Tom? I'll buy lunch, but only from a local small business. :-) Thanks for listening...Dave
michael frederick May 01, 2012 at 07:29 AM
David P., I think you are shading with your two or three "pet projects." As you know, personal prioritization over public welfare is the fuel this Council and its appointments have run on, particularly under the previous administration. It's why, for instance, over the last twenty years no Council appointed commissioner has endorsed any candidate Council (and the Chamber) didn't endorse first: Not one. To do so is treason: Council first, WC last. I might find your commentary, such as "reduced property tax and sales tax revenue", compelling if you'd have offered it when "experts" like Silva, Blubaugh, and Regalia were -- repeatedly -- reassuring the public that ~$43 (or even $50) million for library represents NO financial concern. In fact, they attacked those who did. As a faithful servant you cheered, as here. How much "value" do your neighbors find in the $13 million of commercial parking garage called "Library"? I was impressed when Dan Hatfield publicly acknowledged plagerism at The Times. His message -- we know better and will do better. I'm still waiting to see a similar glimmer of character from City Hall over library. Instead of making-up silly excuses to appeal to the disinterested and/or infirm, how about showing the public that this City Hall is capable of doing better? How about showing some character and service to WC, beyond PERSONAL loyalty to colleagues -- as you collectively take a chunk out of the place by frustrating reason?
michael frederick May 01, 2012 at 07:56 AM
David P, You are correct, Skrel displayed bad Council manners and opposed. Your reaching out is great. However, you are correct -- naysayers such as myself will undoubtedly continue to maintain that the time to determine operating costs and value to the community is when the project is proposed -- not just after the fact, when downtown feels the need to address criticism through an autopsy ... How does the amount requested compare to the projections given in the heat of promotion? Frankly, I'm not just concerned about library. I'm concerned about the way of doing business at City Hall it represents. Were honest representations forthcoming from City Hall or just promotional garbage?
SR May 01, 2012 at 01:20 PM
"Yes, the streets need to be maintained and all neighborhoods need to be safe, but..." David, you say that almost like they are equals. Those pesky roads and that silly thing about wanting our families safe. Everything else comes second. If you don't have good infrastructure and a safe community no one really cares what else you have. As far as Skrel his token votes don't really count. He votes no so he can say he voted no if it goes bad. Of course no one remembers a no vote if everything works out. Having a backbone would have meant voting no AND publicly saying this is a disaster! Don't do it. The City Manager says it is a bad idea (remember Mike Parness?). But all we got was a quiet no vote.
Paula Miller May 01, 2012 at 03:36 PM
@ David P.......if you would truly like to hear in-depth what I have to say about life in Walnut Creek, give me a call......you know where I live and how to contact me. Always open to honest discussions about current problems and the positives for the future. ;-)
David P May 01, 2012 at 07:26 PM
SR - No, they are not equals. But those were a couple of the messages I heard in the last election cycle. I think a city needs much more, as I stated previously. And I don't believe our community is unsafe. I do not have an opinion on the staffing levels at the PD, except to say that if they decide to add, it should be to start with two or three and then build up as identified objectively. Jumping right to five or six officers would, in my opinion, not be prudent right now. But if we truly need it, then it should be so. In addition, pension reform has been an issue. I think all sides need to look at that objectively, too. It appears to be the way the cities across CA are going, and probably not such as bad idea to have the public safety folks contribute to their own plans. I did in my last job.
David P May 01, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Paula - I think another nice chat would be nice. I always appreciate hearing from people one-on-one and in-person over coffee. Much better. Thanks and we will connect.
David P May 01, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Mike - I appreciate your feedback and had no comments until you said one thing: "As a faithful servant you cheered, as here." First, how did I cheer? I was not a part of any vote for the library as I wasn't on PC at the time. I did not contribute to it, nor did I contribute to any council candidate ever. Please do not group me into the grand circle you believe there to be. And I don't think it is fair to group the other commissioners unless you want to get feedback from each individually. Second, please drop the statements about no commissioner endorsing specific candidates. As said before, I was never asked to support any of them, and based on our differing opinions, I probably would not have. So what you are saying is only a half-truth. Third, still ready to get together one-on-one and in-person when you are. I like Panera Bread, Sunrise, Hubcaps, and a number of other coffee/breakfast spots downtown. I've done it a few times already and I think it was valuable for all parties. And if you do, I will let you know firsthand my plans for November...before almost anyone else does. Thanks.
SR May 01, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Pensions are a convenient excuse for those looking to spend more. In Walnut Creek it just doesn't pass the smell test when so much money is being spent on so many projects and programs that are nice but not necessary. The problem (and everyone knows it) is spending. If pensions were such a problem could we really have afforded $5000 for each and every kid's chair in the library? Just one example. Another would be the new upgrades and art proposed for civic park. Are pensions a problem or are we just looking for more money to spend at the expense of city services?
David P May 02, 2012 at 12:02 AM
BTW, Paula -- I was not saying you were part of this discussion initially. I thought that you have a different view on things than Tom, me and some others, and I like the way you convey it, and believe that you listen to both sides, as I have found. Thus, someone I could agree to disagree. That was why I thought you would be good to look at some of this data so we could get an objective view if and when various parties came together who wanted to discover the answers.
David P May 02, 2012 at 12:07 AM
No, SR. Looking at pensions is something that should be looked at as a possibility, as is everything else on the table. If the problem is spending, and the city is spending dollars to cover the employee portion of the pension, then maybe the employee should start paying their portion, or a part of it to start, and the city can lessen the deficit. And I haven't analyzed the budget yet, so I do not have any information to base how much of a deficit is truly there and how the city could act to lessen it. But I do feel that everything needs to be objectively reviewed.
Not too bright May 02, 2012 at 04:39 AM
David, as a City commissioner I truly hope you will educate yourself more about the city's finances. I fear you buy a lot of vacuums and magazines from door to door sales people. The employee portion as you call it means nothing. Our city employees get no retiree medical benefits like most others in the area do. If you told the city employees you were giving them medical benefits after they retire I'm sure they would be willing pay their entire "employee share" of their pension (most pay the majority of it anyway but that's for another day). You have the wool pulled over your eyes by looking at verbiage instead of actual dollars in the form of total compensation. In other words, do your homework before speaking when you basically represent the city as an appointed official. And please don't offer to sit down over a cup of coffee to talk. You seem like a genuine guy but I don't need to sit down with you to figure out you aren't the sharpest pencil in the box.
Jim May 02, 2012 at 04:59 AM
Is David P the guy who bought that slimy nightclub owner's line of bull at the Planning Commission and voted against the other members to let them stay open later? The same nightclub where the police were regularly finding cocaine and breaking up fights? I love the sock it to the city employees argument so we can keep spending your tax dollars on some really silly stuff. As a bonus we'll have to pay huge ongoing operating costs we never told you about just to keep the doors open. But you'll have to pay because we spent so much money building it we have to spend the money we don't have maintaining it! It all makes sense, really-trust us. Enron would be proud.
michael frederick May 02, 2012 at 06:21 AM
David P, Ever heard of statistical probability? I don't need every commissioner's personal excuse to make the point there is a systemic condition at City Hall whereby commissioners either conform or they aren't commissioners. Twenty years of data support that -- nothing supports otherwise, beyond jibberish. Grouping commissioners seems not only justified, reason demands it. In this light, your shameless usage of the very same economic concerns voiced in opposition to $40 mil "jewel" -- to excuse its obvious impact away(!!!???!!!) -- describe where you fall in the above commissioner descriptor. I really don't think that's going to sound any better over coffee.
One more time with feeling May 02, 2012 at 03:32 PM
David P, Are you the "David Powell" listed under "Appointed Officials" at Cindy Silva's website in her Endorsements area on the left? http://www.cindysilva.org/endorsers.html If yes, this puts you in the middle of the "grand circle" that you deny.
David P May 02, 2012 at 04:24 PM
OMTWF - Yes, that's me. And, BTW, just because I endorsed her does not mean I agree with her every position or action, which I do not. I felt, and still feel, that she was one of the best candidates for the position. Cindy works very hard for this city. BTW - there really is no "inner circle," or at least not one that I am part of.
David P May 02, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Jim - I'm not sure I would quite describe myself in the same eloquent verbiage that you did, but Yes. And look back at my previous posts about my thoughts. It was the inconsistent data that caused me to allow them one final chance to correct their deficiencies prior to having their hours shortened.
David P May 02, 2012 at 04:39 PM
NTB - Sorry to burst your bubble, but I do not buy vacuums or magazines door-to-door. Yes, I am educating myself about the budget, thank you. I believe we all should have a basic understanding if we are to comment -- and I provided the caveat that I had not yet. After retirement medical is a different subject -- one that I think should be provided, but not at 100% for life. However, some level could be provided. And the employee portion is not just what I call it, it is the term used for that portion of the contribution. Thanks for the compliment about the "genuine guy;" I like to think so. I never said I was the "sharpest pencil in the box" or the "brightest lightbulb in the chandelier" either. But you might be surprised of my positions and my knowledge on things if we did meet. Geez, I'd probably surprise myself! And no wool over these eyes -- I would have vacuumed it off anyway to read those magazines. ;-) Does my Flowbie have an attachment for that? Thanks for your comments.
Paula Miller May 03, 2012 at 02:41 AM
@ David P, Please give me a call. You have my number but I don't have yours. Thanks.
One more time with feeling May 03, 2012 at 03:04 PM
David P, Allowing your name (and reputation) to be used by a candidate's election push as an endorsement *is* a contribution. Probably more valuable than a financial one. Of course, your public endorsement sets things up for the reciprocal favor later. This is the institutional politics that Mr Frederick described which makes the incestuous relationship between the Chamber and Council so perverted and disappointing. This is exactly the "grand circle" you continue to deny. You said you were not asked to endorse specific candidates and go so far as to say you would not have supported any of them if asked. Are you saying Silva publishing your name as an endorser is incorrect? Are you saying she lied about your endorsement of her candidacy? Which half is the truth?
David P May 04, 2012 at 04:58 AM
OMTWF - Thanks for your comments. I understand your opinion about someone's endorsement bring more valuable than $, although if you ask Not Too Bright, my endorsement probably means nothing. I interpret "Inner Circle" a being kinda like people in a backroom making decisions; I've never been part of any such meetings, and I do not operate that way. And if anyone says that these occurred, I would hope they could provide hard evidence before you state it instead of just hearsay. As for my comment about not being asked for an endorsement, that was referencing candidates that Mike Frederick says never received an endorsement from any sitting commissioner, at least in the last few elections. I only know three -- Sol, Jake and Justin. I don't know any of them well, but I think each of them are very nice men, and I see and chat with them whenever I see them (and only one of them in the past two years). But none of them ever asked me for an endorsement; I do not agree with most of their campaign positions, so would not have endorsed them anyway. I tend to believe you knew that is what I meant, instead of throwing my words back at me, but as I try to be accurate, I'm sorry if I wasn't clear. BTW, yes, Silva did ask me for an endorsement and I gave it to her, and I walked doors in my neighborhood for her since I thought (and think) she is a very good council member. All for now, and thanks for the comments.
michael frederick May 04, 2012 at 07:57 AM
David P., "Inner circle" refers to those who huddle together to attack reason and fact in support of each other and their system of privilege, which they like to try to confuse with public service. Usually, their only discernible qualification for "service" downtown is their obedience to each other -- which is why over twenty years none has gone against the Council that appointed them: Not ONE (1)! For example, they can look at a $40 million expenditure in the face of global economic upheaval, a pending national recession, aging demographics requiring increased city services, increasing employee costs, inevitable increased state take-aways due to a state on the verge of bankruptcy, ditto county economics, mounting CIP requirements, etc. and attribute the impact on the city economy of flushing $40+ million to BAD LUCK, as we've witnessed here. These are folks who, for instance, can consider 80 police calls over two years -- coupled with WCPD testimony -- and conclude "inconsisent data." As if handling data were a strong suit of those who blow off 20 years worth of haystack to expound upon needle. They often don't make sense and leave the few members of the general public that can stand to watch their machinations wondering: How and why did he find Council appointment? Only to eventually realize: Oh, yeah, he had a fund-raiser for Cindy Silva at his home...
David P May 04, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Damn, Mike...I hope you are not always this negative, but it sure seems like it. And this is your definition of Inner Circle. And 80 calls is inconsistent data, and I am pretty darn good at objective data analysis, thank you, but you have no idea of my background. BTW - have I ever even met you face-to-face? And it was not a fundraiser -- it was a neighborhood meet-and-greet so people can meet the candidate and learn her opinions. Again, get the facts correct, please.
michael frederick May 05, 2012 at 12:18 PM
David P, Excuse me everyone, it was a "neighborhood meet and greet." My apologies??? Sorry if I misled anyone...
One more time with feeling May 07, 2012 at 08:10 PM
David P, Thank you for the clarification regarding your response to Mr Frederick on "contributions to candidates". You have differing opinions from those three candidates you would not endorse. At least one has a HUGE planks relative to a balanced budget & government transparency. If the Council truly wants a balanced budget, the actions of several Council members do not reflect that. Of course you "have to believe that no one at City Hall wants the budget to be unbalanced". Say that with a straight face when they are planning to spend money we don't have. How much more opaque can the 3rd floor & Council can get before their constituents start wondering. We are at a $2.1 million deficit in our budget, yet they consider spending money we don't have on street signs for Ygnacio Valley Blvd, fake grass for Heather Farm Park, split time for bocce ball & ice skating, artwork in Civic Park & keep dumping $ into the Lesher Center money pit & apparently you are in full support of the grossly overpriced, not yet complete, Contra Costa County Library downtown Walnut Creek Branch after two City Managers said we could not afford it, voters twice would not pass bonds & the state turned down our three grant requests. Fixing roads, getting the Police Department back to a decent staffing level, community-wide support (not just downtown) & other basics would be a good start. And you support - rather, endorse - Council's behavior because you "have to believe". Good to know.

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