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14 Jul
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CDP Region 8 Meeting scheduled July 26

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13 Jul
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Dave Herb’s City Government Report – July 2014

Dave Herb serves as the Fresno County Democratic Central Committee’s liaison to the Fresno City Council, and he has graciously agreed to make his thoughts about the meetings by the Council and other local governmental bodies available to Democrats in Fresno County through our website.

Ballot measure on water rates — As a recovering public employee, I have little sympathy for citizens who do not want to pay their fair share of essential public infrastructure costs.  The current drought should alert even the most casual observer to the critical nature of our water quality/quantity issues.  It is a fact that the metropolitan population is expected to double by 2050.  We used to be the largest city in the world to subsist entirely off of underground water.  Surviving off of underground water is no longer possible and we need to utilize surface water.  This means more storage and treatment of surface water resources.  I consider myself to be an environmentalist, but until and unless we find the will or the way to stop growth we must have increased water supplies.  Conservation can bend the curve, but ultimately growth increases demand.  In years past, the city practiced the urban growth management process. This meant that new growth was expected to pay its own way. There were no arbitrary lines on a map.  Developers could go where they wanted if their land was planned for urban development, but if they leap-frogged beyond existing urban boundaries they paid the cost to expand or extend required services (streets, sewers, water, etc.).  The council’s proposed rate increase for surface water treatment takes the increased demand for water created mostly by new growth and places the burden on the backs of current rate payers.  This is not how I define “fair share.”  What is currently proposed may be business friendly, but it is not based on “fair share.”  If the ballot measure recently submitted by Mr. Doug Vagim is approved, the council and its consultants will have to go back to the drawing board.  I recommend that people support the proposed ballot measure.

City budget — After predicting that the city was heading over the cliff of bankruptcy if Measure G (privatized residential trash collection) was not passed, the mayor started this year’s budget session by noting the rainbow on the cover of her budget document.  We are now past the threat of bankruptcy and on our way to a $27 million rainy day reserve fund.  This is good news.  However, an uptick in the property taxes in the wake of a multiyear economic recovery is hardly a surprise and makes me wonder about the proposal to privatize an efficient municipal service under the threat of bankruptcy.  Was this prudent budget management or a pretext to privatize a public service which would likely have had a long term adverse impact on local rate payers and displaced employees?

Sidewalks vs. developers — In recent weeks the City Council voted to permit Granville Homes to modify established property development standards for new residential subdivisions in a manner which will likely block neighborhood sidewalks.  Developers accurately note that the General Plan calls for higher density/smaller lots and this makes for tiny backyards.  One solution is to reduce the required 20-foot front yard setback.  Contrary to what many people assume, the required front yard is not as much to provide a neighborhood playground as it is to provide an off-street parking space on the apron/driveway in front of the garage.  In an effort to maintain a viable backyard, Granville proposed reducing the front yard driveway to 8 feet.  Not a bad idea at first glance; however, the 8 foot driveway together with a 10 foot sidewalk/planting strip creates an 18 foot area which will provide a tempting off-street parking area if you don’t mind blocking the sidewalk.  Unfortunately, the disabled will mind, and if you believe in neighborhoods you understand that sidewalks aid in turning a collection of houses into a neighborhood of family homes.  If the truth is known, developers don’t seem to like sidewalks.  They cost money.  The average home buyer does not understand the importance of details like sidewalks until after they are living there.  I am disappointed in Granville. In the long term, the quality of their neighborhoods will suffer.  Additionally, I am very disappointed in the council, whose job it is to govern the details of how we build our community.  The balance between profitable development and healthy neighborhoods is not being maintained.

Dave Herb

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