VALLEJO – What should have been a routine matter was met with controversy as the Vallejo City Council rejected a plan from Mayor Robert McConnell to appoint Councilmember Cristina Arriola, District 6, to serve as council liaison to the newly created Surveillance Advisory Board.
Instead, the council appointed Vice Mayor Rozzana Verder-Aliga, District 1, to the position on Tuesday night. The normally straightforward process was met with a divided council after Councilmember Pippin Dew, at large, offered up Verder-Aliga’s name instead.
Dew stated that Arriola was the liaison to the Architectural Heritage and Landmarks Commission and Participatory Budgeting Steering Committee, which both meet on the same night as the Surveillance Advisory Board.
Arriola, who is in her first term on the council, said she still wanted to keep her committee assignments, but the council voted 2-5, with McConnell and Arriola the only ones supporting the mayor’s recommendation. Dew’s offer of Verder-Aliga was approved, with McConnell and Arriola opposed.
The surveillance advisory board — tasked with monitoring the city’s use and possible purchase of surveillance technology — is scheduled to hold its inaugural meeting April 21. The council created the board last September amid concerns with a lack of oversight for use of surveillance technology in the city.
The seven-person board is set to select a chair and vice chair to serve from this month to March 2023. There are no action items scheduled on the agenda.
Council approves new $9 million agreement with firefighters union
Resident Robert Schussel expressed concerns with the contract, arguing that its provisions put the city in danger of another bankruptcy.
“There is too much of the ‘trust me’ rhetoric from staff,” Schussel told the council.
With the new contract, another $209,000 will come out of the city’s general fund for the current fiscal year. Officials said city hall budgeted for the increased expenditures for the 2021-22 fiscal year. Fiscal years run from July 1 to June 30.
City staff wrote in a report to the council that eliminating one firefighter position next fiscal year is expected to “partially offset” the estimated increase in costs. The pay increase will cost the city $827,000 during 2022-23 fiscal year, $1.7 million in 2023-24, $2.7 million in 2024-25 and $3.8 million in 2025-26.
Union members will receive a 4% cost of living adjustment the first full pay period after the agreement is approved. That will be followed with similar 4% increases on April 12 of 2023, 2024, and 2025. The firefighters’ previous contract expired on March 31. Their last cost of living raise was on July 1, 2021.
The city filed for bankruptcy in May 2008 attributing its $16 million deficit at the time to ballooning contracts with fire and police unions and the overall economic recession.
Council OKs flying of Ukrainian flag at city hall
With no comment, the city council approved the flying of the Ukrainian flag outside city hall in an effort to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people. The flag will be flown until the council revisits the issue in August.
Officials said the city received multiple requests from the community to fly the flag following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. That action has resulted in at least 24,000 deaths and displaced 11 million people, according to Reuters.
The council approved a new flag policy in early January 2021 establishing the process on how flags can be displayed on city-owned flagpoles outside city hall and at the Marina Vista Memorial Park behind city hall.
Council approves $190,000 contract for consultant to help planning services department
The city council also approved an agreement with InterWest Consultant Group for senior planning personnel for 40 hours per week starting on April 18 and lasting at least six months. The move comes as the city struggles to maintain staffing levels.
“The Planning Division is operating with only half the staffing level approved by Council. This agreement will help fill the void left by the departure of a seasoned Senior Planner and provide the necessary support to review the complex planning projects being processed in the Planning Division,” Christina Ratcliffe, the city’s interim planning and development services director, wrote in a staff report to the council.
Ratcliffe wrote that the contract will give the city’s human resources department time to recruit and fill the vacant senior planner position. The city has the ability to extend the agreement in intervals of 30, 60, 90, or 120 days, by written notice to the consultant, for up to 1 year.
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