, August 09, 2022

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Impacted families to issue demands during Vallejo City Council meeting; new tax measure likely for November ballot

  •   6 min reads
Impacted families to issue demands during Vallejo City Council meeting; new tax measure likely for November ballot
Vallejo City Hall.

VALLEJO – Concerned community members and the families of men killed by Vallejo police are scheduled to show up ahead of Tuesday’s Vallejo City Council meeting and demand action.

Organizers want the city to “vigorously pursue” the firing of Vallejo police Det. Jarrett Tonn and are asking the council to support the creation of a police commission and inspector general position as a way to reform the beleaguered police department.

Vallejo police Chief Shawny Williams moved to fire Tonn last December for violating departmental policies when he shot and killed 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa of San Francisco outside a Vallejo Walgreens during the early morning hours of June 2, 2020. However, Skelly officer Marc Fox overturned those findings earlier this year calling them “excessive,” according to a report obtained and reviewed by the Vallejo Sun.

A “Skelly” hearing is a mandatory review hearing for public employees facing discipline. Fox sustained Vallejo police’s findings that Tonn failed to activate his body camera and engaged in poor performance before shooting Monterrosa but found that those violations did not warrant termination. While the city can still technically proceed with the termination, despite the Skelly officer’s findings, it would likely lose during arbitration.

The impacted families last showed up during a March council meeting which was briefly shut down as they vented their frustration over the lack of movement in firing officers that bent the tips of their star-shaped badges after shooting someone. The families also demanded that the council reject a plan to seek a $30 million loan through the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (IBank), to fund, design and retrofit work for the new police headquarters at 400 Mare Island Way.

The council has since ordered an assessment of the John F. Kennedy Public Library to ascertain if it can be converted into a police building.

Council expected to place general tax measure on the November ballot

The council will consider placing a seven-eighths cent sales tax increase on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The general transaction and use tax is expected to generate $18 million annually to maintain city services, including addressing homelessness, blight, illegal dumping, repairing roads, fire and police protection and “keeping public space healthy/safe/clean.”

The council directed city staff to come back in July with the needed documents to place the measure on the November ballot, despite learning last month that residents distrust their city government so much that a proposed sales tax hike to pay for infrastructure repair and other general city services would likely fail.

Funds from a general tax would be deposited in the city’s general fund and could be spent for any purpose. It would require a simple majority of city voters, 50% plus one, to pass, while a special tax that would dedicate funds exclusively for a certain purpose like street repair would require approval by two-thirds of voters.

The council also directed staff to place a second non-binding measure on the ballot asking residents how they would like to see the tax money spent, but city staff is recommending against the non-binding measure.

“Unfortunately, in other cities, such as the case with Redding and Paso Robles, in recent years the placement of two measures on the ballot can be confusing for voters, which resulted in an outcome of a ‘yes’ vote on the advisory measure and a ‘no’ vote on the base funding measure itself, rendering the outcome moot,” City Manager Mike Malone wrote in a report to the council.

City hall originally sought to possibly place a special tax on the November ballot to fund infrastructure repair, but those plans were dashed when the polling firm hired to survey 500 residents revealed that about 60% of residents said they had an unfavorable opinion of the city council, while 67% said they had an unfavorable opinion of the city government overall.

The polling firm told the council in June that a unique situation happened when participants were asked about whether they supported a special tax for road repairs. Initially, 69% of participants said they would support such a measure — just above the two-thirds threshold — but that dropped to 66% when a hypothetical positive statement about the special tax was read to the participants. Finally, that number dropped to 47% when the negative statement was read to participants.

The cost of placing this measure on the November ballot is estimated to cost the city about $100,000, which includes the $16,669 cost quoted by the Registrar of Voters, as well as cost for voter information, Malone explained in the same staff report. The money will be paid from the fiscal year 20222-23 general fund. If approved, the tax would become effective April 1, 2023.

City hall was snakebitten when a general sales tax measure placed on the ballot during the November 2020 election failed as 50.57% of voters rejected the proposed tax hike, which the city said would have been spent on “retention of jobs and businesses, fire services, emergency response, crime prevention, youth services, homelessness services, law enforcement training, transparency and accountability, and public safety and maintenance.”

If the seven-eighths cent sales tax increase is placed on the Nov. 8 ballot, it will have competition. The Solano County Supervisors voted last month to place a one-eighth general sales tax increase for wildfire protection on the same ballot. They also agreed to place a non-binding advisory measure on the ballot as well. If approved, the measure will generate about $9 million annually.

Council asked to approve settlement with Syar Industries, Inc. regarding Blue Rock Springs redevelopment

The council will be asked to approve a settlement with Syar Industries, Inc. over the future of a housing subdivision and redevelopment of the Blue Rock Springs Golf Course along Columbus Parkway.

Syar filed a legal claim against the city after negotiations failed over the proposed density and location of homes near the Lake Herman Quarry operated by Syar. The quarry includes an asphalt plant, active quarry pit, a rock processing plant, a concrete batch plant, and other related operations.

The proposal included redeveloping the city-owned property with a new 18-hole golf course, a new clubhouse, and a new residential subdivision consisting of 615 residential units over 92 acres fronting two sides of Columbus Parkway.

Syar expressed concern that the housing on the eastside of Columbus would interfere with their operations. As negotiations failed between the two sides, Syar sponsored an initiative to block development of the area.

“Open space initiatives are typically well received by the public, even where they represent a potential for preventing the City from meeting other expected public needs such as providing housing, jobs, and operational revenue,'' Assistant City Manager Gillian Hayes wrote in a staff report.  

Settlement terms include Syar supporting the golf course expansion, withdrawing its initiative, waiving all legal claims against the city and donating $1 million worth of materials to the developer, Blue Rock Springs, LLC.

The developer has agreed to move all residential development to the west side of Columbus as a half-mile buffer zone between the quarry and the residential development. The golf course, clubhouse and some of the residential housing would be grandfathered into the buffer zone that would limit residential and commercial uses “to address Syar’s concerns with Quarry operations and the proximity to the proposed project activities,” Hayes wrote.

The Vallejo City Council meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., Tuesday inside the Vallejo City Hall Council Chambers at 555 Santa Clara St.

Members of the public will be able to participate in-person or remotely via Zoom.

Council to meet in closed session to evaluate city attorney

Prior to its regular meeting, the city council will meet during a special closed session to evaluate the performance of City Attorney Veronica Nebb.

Nebb was hired to be the city’s top attorney in October 2020, about six months after longtime City Attorney Claudia Quintana retired. Chief Assistant City Attorney Randy Risner was tapped to serve as interim city attorney and even applied to the permanent post, but the city council passed on Risner instead choosing to pick Nebb. Risner returned to the number two position within the city attorney’s office.

Before coming to work in Vallejo, Nebb worked for Walter & Pistole, where she served as senior assistant city attorney for the cities of Novato and Martinez, according to her then-bio on the firm’s site.

Nebb’s base annual salary was over $204,000, with her combined total pay, including benefits, reaching $324,000 last year, according to Transparent California, a website which tracks California government worker salaries.

The special closed session meeting of the Vallejo City Council meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., Tuesday.

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