May 19, 2010

City is looking for ways to find money to keep some programs threatened by budget cuts

At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, speakers made thoughtful and sometimes emotional pleas to preserve kids', teen,  senior and recreation programs--including funding for the Lindsay Museum, jobs for coaches for the Masters Swim team, and a summer camp for developmentally disabled kids.

But some of these speakers also voiced a desire to work with the city to find new, non-city, ways to fund their beloved arts, recreation and community services programs. 

The council was holding the second of five meetings before adopting its 2010-12 budget. The council plans to adopt a new budget by June 15. 

Those who voiced the strongest willingness to find alternative sources of funding were parents whose developmentally disabled attend a very unique six-week therapeutic recreation summer camp run by the city. According to speakers, this camp is the only one of its kind in the area, and has become a life-saver to families with a child or teen who has developmental or behavioral disabilities.

The camp would be offered for this summer, but not in 2011 or beyond, under the current budget proposal. "I can't say I'll send him to Pleasant Hill or Concord, because there isn't anything like this in those cities," one mother said. Her 10-year-old son requires regular speech and occupational therapy. 

Parents talked about how this camp provided a respite for them, and a chance for their kids to be in an environment and with other kids where, for six weeks every year, they don't feel "different."

"For these kids, it's transformative," said the mother of the 10-year-old. She added that there is "nothing else" in the area like this camp, which is supervised by city employee Preston Jones.

Other parents, whose kids also attend the camp, said they looked forward to the opportunity to brainstorm ways to keep the camp going in 2011 and beyond.

Another summer camp that may go away is the city's Arts, Adventure and Academics camp, for grades K-9. Like the therapeutic recreation camp, the "Triple A" camp would be offered this summer.

Barry Gordon, the director for the Arts, Recreation and ommunity Services, said allowing these two camps to continue this summer gives the city time to figure out how they could be funded in 2011. 

A member of the Masters Swim Team also said he believed the team could look at new ways to fund its coaching staff. The team launched a major letter-writing campaign after learning that the proposed 2010-2012 budget does not include money to help pay for the salary of their team's coach Kerry O'Brien. 

But could the 300 some team members pay themselves for O'Brien's salary? That's a question readers raised in a previous post on the letter writing campaign.

As it happens, other aquatics programs in Walnut Creek and other masters swim teams in other Northern California assume the cost of paying coaches themselves. This is according to a staff survey of some other Northern California cities that Gordon presented. Also, other Walnut Creek aquatics teams, including the Aqua Nuts and the Aqua Bears, pay their coaches salaries themselves.


Grammar Police said...

Last paragraph should read Masters Swim Team and not Maters Swim Team.

AKA Soccer Mom said...

Thanks Grammar Police

Anonymous said...

"But could the 300 some team members pay themselves for O'Brien's salary?"

Why should the city even question it? Just tell them they have to pay. Maybe I should ask the city to pay for my personal trainer at the gym.

~YYZ said...

Commit political suicide or practive prudent fiscal management by raising specific fees/dues or put forth a tax to redistribute the wealth because most of WC can afford it. The latter is what the Annointed One is doing.

Anonymous said...

Raise pool and program fees to pay for the coaches' salaries.

For those whose children attend camp, why not start doing presentations to community organizations for donations. The Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club, etc.

The city can't pay for everything without an infinite amount of money.

Anonymous said...

After all the public input and most had gone home, the City Council discussed ways to further reduce costs. Most did not want to use "one time money" (e.g. selling city property) nor dip into reserves. One suggestion from Council Member Silva was to contract out more services (as proposed with custodians) since consultants could save money. Staff were concerned about a loss of expertise which Silva challenged since she is a consultant and self-proclaimed "very well qualified". As in library consultant ??

Anonymous said...

The City subsidized and heavily promoted these programs because they felt that this made Walnut Creek a more desirable place to reside and do business. This was also when they were prudently keeping a healthy reserve in the budget.

Guess what happened? The City Council took a wrong turn by deciding that they had to keep up with other affluent surrounding cities by besting them in the library race.

When the City committed too much money to this one project, new library, no reserves were left as sales taxes
declined due to the downward trend of the economy.

The City was warned about the decline of sales taxes but proceeded with their foolish and irresponsible spending plans and now look where we all are. Broke!

It is hard to be all things to all people attempting to play the 'good guy' role when you have spent all of the money. It will be very interesting to see just how the City will work it's way out of the mess they created.

Anonymous said...

All of these programs are regional in nature, yet they’re funded by the City of Walnut Creek. Every time I watch one of these meetings I see people from San Ramon, Danville, Concord, Lafayette, and the unincorporated county areas get up and talk about how the City shouldn’t cut funding to their beloved programs. Of course what kind of response do you think they’d get if instead they went crying to the San Ramon, Danville, Concord, and Lafayette City Councils, or the County Board of Supervisors? These are all wonderful programs; I’m not arguing that point. However, in these bad economic times, something’s got to give, and I think that the program users should be more willing to foot the bill for the services they receive, especially if they aren’t even Walnut Creek residents and taxpayers.

Let’s also not forget that Walnut Creek isn’t cutting ALL funding to these programs. For example, the Lindsay Museum is going on and on about how the City is reducing (though not eliminating) their funding, and yet there’s no mention of how the City only charges one dollar a year for the use and maintenance of the City owned (and City built) museum buildings. Maybe instead of trying to take money from the Police to pay for first-rate medical care for injured squirrels, they could instead do some fundraising to collect money from the entire region which they serve.

Basic City services must come first!

Anonymous said...

Maybe they could find some money in the library budget?

Anonymous said...

11:38 Really good point! Walnut Creek's quality of life programs have greatly benefited people in neighboring towns.

The city council should (but won't) ask that other towns either help fund these programs or require that services they fund offer tiered pricing.

Also, the city council should insist that the Lindsey Museum's teenager volunteer fee not apply to Walnut Creek residents. The museum could still offer a service where well-off parents from other towns could make a donation and the museum would say that their kid had volunteered, so the kid could add it to the 200 other so-called volunteer jobs she never really did but put on her college application anyway. In the meantime, the kids helping out would be the ones who really want to help.

A-Non said...

That damn $40 million library has screwed everything up! It looks horrendous in my opinion. It's just a very large building without any character.

Anonymous said...

Gary Pokorny sent out an e-mail today notifying city staff that he is retiring -- again -- effective November of this year. He's been the city manager of two cities in California. Wonder what his retirement looks like?

Anonymous said...

4:42 pm

I wonder who will be his replacement? Hopefully not another internal hire.
Pokorny, as one himself, has been a disaster.

Walnut Creek needs a City Manager who is not the lapdog of the Council.

The very thought of Cindy Silva moving into the Mayor's chair in November scares the hell out of me and many others.

Let us hope that some sanity by the other council members will prevail when it comes to choosing Pokorny's replacement.

Anonymous said...

Deus misereatur. It better not be Cindy Silva who will replace Pokorny.

Anonymous said...

Quit whining Walnut Creek. Every city has higher than normal costs after a major addition like a Library. I'm proud to live in Walnut Creek because of opportunities presented by our new Library. Raise taxes. This is not a big problem.

Anonymous said...

Of course the City should not be paying for a swim coach with tax monies, it should have always been contracted out...hiring a masters swim team coach was the bright idea of the former Aquatics Supervisor that embezzled well over a 100K from the City when no one was looking. If he pays back the City, maybe we can get mold and rot out of the locker rooms in the delapidated building that is falling apart around the swimmers!

Anonymous said...

spot on "May 19, 2010 10:36 AM"
Cindy pumping Cindy and dumping on the city.

Anonymous said...

Look at what's happening to Concord, Martinez, Antioch, Richmond and even in Danville today-shooting after shooting and stabbing after stabbing. What the heck is going on with people! How long until the stuff is commonplace in our city? With police cuts we won;t be able to do much. I for one don't want to have to "get use to" living with violence in our schools and neighborhoods.

MickeyMartin said...

How about opening a medical cannabis dispensing collective?

David said...

Okay - enough about the library everyone. Whether you agree with it or not, it has been built and will be opening in Summer - and it will be a wonderful addition to our City. Hopefully it will help spur some younger people to read and use the library instead of focusing on electronic media and video games.

And also - enough Cindy-bashing. It seems like people just repeat negative comments; it's getting old.

We are not in a situation to focus on the past, but need to look to the future and determine realistic ways to help balance the budget. Maybe that means more fees, maybe it means cutting underused programs, maybe it means contracting services. I don't like any of these options, but something has got to give.

SM - Possibly you can start a thread where people can give constructive suggestions of how the City can balance the budget. This means no demeaning of any individual, program or project. Together, seeking and even implementing solutions, we can make a difference. Thanks for reading. Dave Powell

Anonymous said...

I agree with you David. One area that's being proposed is contracting out park maintenance. On the suface this could be a money saver. however After talking to one of the park staff they pointed out that all park staff have to pass an extensive back ground check to work for the city. And thier DMV record is monitered continuisly. I don't know of any contract employees that have that requirement as part of thier job. I for one would like know the people working in the parks have a clean criminal record especialy when thier working around childern.

Anonymous said...

David, David, David,

One must remember the past to learn for the future.

I hope that Ms. Silva and the other council members do this and quit trying to blame everything else in the world, but the obvious reason, for Walnut Creek's financial problems.

If you think that the new library will wean kids away from video media then you obviously have no children. Not going to happen. Just ask any parent out there and then if not satisfied, ask any 12 year old, male or female.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Powell,

Funny how when you and those with whom you agree constantly bash those with whom you disagree it is okay. Just a bit hypocritical don't you think?

Honest folks who express their concerns about all matters affecting the city are often referred to as naysayers even while offering viable and workable solutions to our problems. Makes you wonder why people continue to care.

Taken and honest look at your "opposition" sometime and give them credit for being involved.

Anonymous said...

"How about opening a medical cannabis dispensing collective?"

How about you and your pot head buddies getting stoned in Berkeley or Oakland and staying the hell away from our city?

David said...

Anon 8:50: I do know that you have to remember the past to look at the future, and feel that is important; we just don't have to dwell in it. I really want to see what we can do to move forward.

And I didn't say all kids; I said "some" kids. And, as you obviously do not know me, I have two sons, thank you.

Anon 11:12: I do not think that all people who express their opinions against the City are naysayers. Actually I believe quite the opposite, and if you know my track record, then you might agree with that. I disagree with some things myself, yet I try (maybe not always successful at it, but I try) to get onto a path of how we can help or find middle-ground instead of throwing daggers.
And I don't look at anyone as "opposition," just expressing a different opinion. That's fine, I just hate any negativity aimed at one person, program or project. And if anyone wants to meet for coffee to discuss, let me know as you know who I am. I cannot outreach to you as I don't know who you are. Dave

LSR said...

"How about opening a medical cannabis dispensing collective?"

If the role of government is to protect the general public health, safety, and welfare then why would a jurisdiction accommodate a business that is clearly illegal and criminal in accordance with Federal law?

See it says "General". It doesn't say "Everyone" nor "a targeted group".

If a person who is high on marijuana wrecks you in a auto accident, how the hell is law enforcement supposed to check their sobriety? By whipping out a bag of Cheetos?

Anonymous said...

WC already tolerates law breakers every day. Panhandlers who today are populating the exit/entry ramps on Olympic/680 And multiple times a day the Trader Joes parking lot. The feel good program Fresh Start gives them tents and instructions on how to live outside, (see their website), them dumps their 'charity' into our neighborhood. (Of course Not Broadway Plaza, gawd forbid..) They live under the bridge on California, urinate and defecate into our creek, and break the municipal code multiple times every day, and negatively impact businesses next to them. (Restaurant owner has called police multiple times, the 'homeless' still illegally camp there, but curiously not in Civic Park, or the Veterans Memorial Park next to City Hall.)

My solution, enforce the existing laws; warn them, fine them, incarcerate them.

If you see them panhandling, do your civic duty and call the Police. Perhaps their sponsoring program will put them up at St. Paul's, they seem to have lots of room there........