City Manager Blog - Scott Barber

City Manager

Farewell to Councilmember Nancy Hart; draft budget presented in the afternoon

We said goodbye to Councilmember Hart last night- I think everyone has favorite memories of time spent with former Councilmember Hart- I know I do. Nancy represented her ward and the city so well over the years, and I personally will miss her smile, candor, and wit.  We also welcomed newly elected Councilmember Jim Perry, as well as swearing in returning Councilmembers Andy Melendrez and Paul Davis.

In the afternoon session, the Council approved the draft budget for next fiscal year, which will be presented for adoption next Tuesday evening.  The coming fiscal year budget is balanced without a proposed use of reserves, and although there are remaining challenges within the budget (such as finding the money for the settlement pay-back), I believe it is another solid budget document.  My thanks to everyone on staff who worked so hard to pull this together.

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CITY EARNS FINDING OF COMPLETION FROM DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE

This press release is just too good to not include in my blog…

Riverside, California – On April 17, 2013, Riverside received a Finding of Completion from the State Department of Finance. The Finding of Completion was awarded to Riverside after the Department of Finance confirmed that the City as Successor Agency had fulfilled requirements of redevelopment dissolution legislation, which included paying $18,640,600 to the State.

“This is great news for Riverside” said Mayor Rusty Bailey. “City leaders and staff demonstrated strategic thinking, cooperation and determination to achieve this critical finding. Their efforts will result in making Riverside an even more attractive and desirable place to live.”

After many years of planning, bidding and designing, the City is finally allowed to proceed with several new and long-awaited bond-funded projects. The Finding of Completion also allows repayment of City loans that were made to the former redevelopment agency. The City will be moving quickly on the following bond-funded projects”

BNSF Quiet Zones – The ability to complete construction of over a dozen of the railroad crossings in the City that will improve public safety, provide construction jobs, and it will promote and enhance quality of life for all its residents throughout the City.

Arlington Park Childcare Center – The construction of an 8,921-square-foot childcare facility at the Arlington Park will provide 144 pre-school age children with a playground, and it will include on-site parking for the convenience of parents and visitors. Completion of this Center will establish a basic educational foundation for students while providing necessary child care services to residents in the area.

Villegas Park Improvements – The renovation of this community center will include an enhanced exterior façade, a new kitchen, landscaping with lots of greenery and field improvements to provide children with additional recreational opportunities within the community.

Gould and Gramercy Pedestrian Improvements – The construction of essential curb, gutter, sidewalk, driveway approaches and ADA ramps to provide walkability and convenience for residents in the surrounding area plus it will improve traffic circulation for motorists and bicyclists.

Camp Anza Officer’s Club – The transformation of the current deteriorated vacant building into an affordable housing and social services facility will help to provide assistance to 90 disabled veterans and their families while preserving a significant historic structure in the City.

Collett Avenue Extension – Street improvements consisting of 1,400 linear feet of four-lane of roadway infrastructure will provide vehicular and pedestrian safety while reducing traffic congestion and providing convenient access for residents, bicyclists and motorists.

Well done, City Staff!!

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Refuse Rate Questions

Recently during public comment, questions were raised by some members of the public regarding the appropriateness of charges that go into our refuse rates.  Given these questions, I thought it might be helpful for me to address Proposition 218 in general and these charges specifically.

 Proposition 218 applies to water, sewer, refuse and other property-related fees in a limited context.  Prop. 218 does not require voters to specifically approve, by ballot, utility rates.  Rather, Prop. 218 requires such fees to be “proportional” to the cost of service.  This means that the rate may not exceed the reasonable cost to provide such service.  Prop. 218 also requires the City to hold a public hearing to discuss adoption of a rate increase, provide mailed notice to all ratepayers of the hearing and if more than 50% of ratepayers object to the rate increase, the rate increase fails.  The City has scheduled such a hearing for the proposed refuse rate increase for February 12, 2013, and all ratepayers have been so notified of the hearing.  

 A specific question was raised as to why refuse ratepayers should be charged for the following services:

 -        shopping cart retrieval

-        street sweeping

-        Keep Riverside Clean and Beautiful, which is a program administered by the local Chamber of Commerce.

 Specifically, two ratepayers have asked how these services directly benefit their parcel.  Here are the answers:    

-        Shopping Carts:  The retrieval of shopping carts will not be funded by the Refuse Fund. 

-        Street Sweeping:  The Refuse Fund funds a portion of street sweeping, because a portion of the refuse which is collected by the street sweepers is either a result of collection bins being collected curbside or is refuse that is generated by the property owner that otherwise should have been deposited in collection bins. 

-        Keep Riverside Clean and Beautiful (a program of the Riverside Chamber of Commerce):  Keep Riverside Clean and Beautiful (KRCB) is a community based program sponsored by the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce, the City of Riverside and other organizations and individuals to provide community clean-ups and beautification efforts to improve the quality of life for the City of Riverside.  Since 1992, KRCB has provided hands-on stewardship with litter prevention year round.  City of Riverside refuse funds are used to help pay for time and materials needed to implement litter removal activity.  City funds have helped to pay for removal of 116,965 pounds of litter, 800 Adopt a Street clean ups for 84 Adopt a Streets, monthly clean ups, the Great American Clean-up volunteer program activities and calculation of the annual litter index.  KRCB works throughout the city with local businesses and schools to provide volunteers and sponsor events to remove trash cleaning up our environment and improving the quality of life in the City of Riverside instilling a sense of pride in our residents.  On November 11, 2011, KRCB won the national award for First Place from Keep America Beautiful in the category for cities with populations over 200,000.  The judging was based on litter prevention efforts, recycling & waste reduction, beautification programs, community involvement and leveraging resources, media and public awareness, and recognition programs done throughout the year.  Programs which promote and educate as to the proper disposal of refuse, the appropriate diversion of recyclable materials, and the proper disposal of hazardous waste benefit all refuse ratepayers by keeping the City’s costs for refuse collection low.

Hopefully, you will find this information helpful as you review these issues- thanks for reading, Riverside.

-Scott

 

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Forbes Article – the 10 dirtiest cities in America

Riversiders, you may have read or heard about a recent Forbes article listing Riverside among “The 10 dirtiest cities in America” (link provided).

http://homes.yahoo.com/news/the-10-dirtiest-cities-in-america-193222121.html

 

Cindie Perry, our Intergovernmental and Communications Officer, prepared the following response to Forbes that I want to share with those who read my blog.  I think it is well written and I hope that it is a ”call to action” for you to contact the author at Forbes and let him know that he has mispresented the City of Riverside.  ===============================================================================

RE: Forbes article “The 10 dirtiest cities in America” (Dec 11, 2012), author Christopher Helman

Dear Mr. Helman,

 

The following is in response to your online Forbes article “The 10 dirtiest cities in America” posted on Tuesday, Dec 11, 2012.  In that piece, Riverside, California was listed in the Top 10.  Unfortunately, your article reflects the City of Riverside as “dirtier” than other cities and neglects to clearly identify the distinction between an individual city and a metropolitan statistical area.  It is our position that the City of Riverside stands out as an exception and is leading the way in environmental stewardship and sustainability.

 

As is stated in the body of the article, Forbes’ research is based on Sperling’s Index which ranks “metro areas” also known as metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) — in our case the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario MSA (pop. 4.2 million).  Unfortunately, Forbes has mislead the reader in the headline by using the word “city” as the identifier.  The reality is that few readers know that MSA or “metro area” data lumps multiple cities and often times more than one County into the mix.  Compounding the matter, Forbes’ list in the article shortens the MSA reference to read Riverside, Calif and that, combined with the article headline, leads the reader to assume that the “City” of Riverside alone is the receiver of the undesirable prize.  It is unfortunate that Riverside (and other forward thinking cities) get the “black eye” for the occasional less-than-flattering statistics associated with the MSA. 

 

In response, we would like to highlight that the City of Riverside is an environmental leader – having adopted numerous policies to improve the environment and has received numerous recognitions for the same.  In 2009 Riverside was designated as the first-ever Emerald City awarded by the California Department of Conservation to recognize sustainable green initiatives and Riverside’s commitment to helping the State achieve State environmental priorities.  Riverside was also named 2012’s Most Intelligent Community in the World by Intelligent Communities Forum.

Riverside Public Utility has received multiple awards, including the 2011 Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) Platinum Award for Utility Excellence, which recognizes the extraordinary performance of water agencies to create a sustainable utility producing ample supplies of clean, safe drinking water.  The City also received the Clean Air Award Among Leaders  Combating Southland Air Pollution for the City of Riverside “Grease to Gas to Power” Project, was named the #1 Green Fleet in America and the list goes on.  View our City award page for more located at www.riversideca.gov/awards.asp.  Additionally, the City recycles 69% of its waste – nearly 20% more than the state mandate.

Riverside leaders recognize the importance of sustainability and as a result have placed environmental issues at the forefront of Riverside’s federal and state legislative agendas.  Riverside is actively working with representatives in Sacramento and Washington DC to tell our story and to help improve the environment and promote public health in our region.  

Conclusion

 

We hope Forbes will recognize the frustration high-performing cities like Riverside experience when lumped together with MSA data that doesn’t reflect our efforts and achievements to improve the quality of life for our residents.

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Thank you for a great first year!

To all of our residents, I just wanted to say “thank you”!  It’s been just over one year since I had the honor to be selected as the 18th City Manager for Riverside (I was appointed December 6, 2011), and as you might guess, it has been a very busy year in every department of the City. During this year, our Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department has completed and hosted the Grand Opening of Doty Trust Park as well as the remodeling of Hunter Hobby Park and Dales Senior Center.  Our Public Libraries have launched EBooks and we are working on a rehabilitation plan for the Main Library.  The Airport has received an approximately $1 million grant for a new airport apron; General Services has overseen the complete rehabilitation of the Municipal Auditorium, putting the final touches on the Fox Entertainment Plaza, and received recognition as the “Best Green Fleet in the Nation”.  Our Human Resources Department has re-tooled our internal training program to create better succession planning; the Police Department completed their 5-year Strategic Plan and created the new Youth Foundation.  Our 125 year old Fire Department (congratulations on that wonderful accomplishment) purchased a replacement Fire Engine at a huge savings to the City, and our Public Utilities Department has won awards too numerous to list for our Green and Blue Riverside efforts.  New efforts are underway in Community Development (which recently was reorganized and merged with our former Development Department) to create a true “Business First” effort to make the planning and building permitting even more user-friendly; Public Works completed the Magnolia Grade separation, started construction on the Iowa Grade separation, and bid out the Water Quality Control Plant project.  Our Economic Development team helped to create or retain almost 1,400 jobs, and moved “the needle” forward with community efforts such as Seizing Our Destiny.  And let’s not forget the amazing work done in Information Technology- 2nd Place in the Nation for Best of the Web; SmartRiverside giving out the 6,000th free computer to a low income family; and spearheading the effort to lead Riverside to win the Intelligent Community Forum in an international competition- Riverside, the Intelligent Community of the Year!

It’s been a great year, Riverside- again, my thanks!

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Reductions in staffing- update

Correction from my previous blog:

Reductions in staffing: During the Council meeting yesterday (7/24/12), one our frequent commenters mentioned that she had heard that there were layoffs in Code Enforcement here in the City of Riverside.  While the issue of layoffs is always painful for all individuals involved, I do think it is good to know that we are attempting to be both fiscally responsible as well as sensitive to the needs of our staff members and our community.  A layoff did occur- why?  Because of the combining of Community Development and the Development Departments there was an over-staffing of certain clerical positions, which resulted in one layoff notice.  The affected employee (who was working in the Code Enforcement Division) was able to exercise bumping rights to a previously held position in other department of the city.  The bottom line: no Code Enforcement Officers (who are the field staff most visible to our community) were laid off, one important and productive employee in Code Enforcement was required to exercise bumping rights to a lower position in another department, and Community Development continued their work to “right size” the organization so that revenue more closely matches expenditures.  Update (11/2/12)- fortunately, the staff member from Code Enforcement was able to “lateral” into the same level position in another city department.  My thanks to our Human Resources team for making this happen.

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Updates on City of Riverside activities

Riversiders, my apologies for not blogging recently (my last blog was June 26th)… but here we go- lots of information to share with you!

Pledged Assets in the Public Realm- Update from my May 4th blog: With the Council’s approval of the refinancing of our 2003 Certificates of Participation on July 24th, along with the recent Convention Center financing, the following City assets were removed from the list of city facilities pledged as security:

  • The Corporation Yard
  • Parking Garages 1, 2 and 3
  • The Airport Fire Station
  • The Downtown Library
  • The Airport Clear-Zone land

I appreciate the leadership on this issue from our City Council and I’m proud of the hard work put in on this by our Finance Division staff.  Well done!

Redevelopment Update: I mentioned this during a recent Council meeting, but it really deserves to be repeated… AB 1X 26 and AB 1484 (the original bill that ended Redevelopment Agencies and the recently adopted State Budget Trailer bill making changes to the implementation of AB 1X 26) called for a “July True-Up Process” regarding what the State Department of Finance believed were incorrect allocations to affected taxing entities due to errors on “Recognized Obligation Payment Schedules” (see my May 31st blog for additional information on these Recognized Obligation Payment Schedules or ROPS).  I am happy to report that the City of Riverside was advised by the Riverside County Auditor-Controller (CAO) that we did not owe any money- this is pretty significant for a couple of reasons: 1) it validates the work that we have done to correctly implement the state’s guidelines, and 2) look at the numbers from other jurisdictions as reported the San Francisco Chronicle (http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/State-duns-cities-for-millions-of-dollars-3732550.php) with cities receiving bills for millions of dollars from their local CAOs.

Reductions in staffing: During the Council meeting yesterday (7/24/12), one our frequent commenters mentioned that she had heard that there were layoffs in Code Enforcement here in the City of Riverside.  While the issue of layoffs is always painful for all individuals involved, I do think it is good to know that we are attempting to be both fiscally responsible as well as sensitive to the needs of our staff members and our community.  A layoff did occur- why?  Because of the combining of Community Development and the Development Departments there was an over-staffing of certain clerical positions, which resulted in one layoff notice.  The affected employee (who was working in the Code Enforcement Division) was able to exercise bumping rights to a previously held position in other department of the city.  The bottom line: no Code Enforcement Officers (who are the field staff most visible to our community) were laid off, one important and productive employee in Code Enforcement was required to exercise bumping rights to a lower position in another department, and Community Development continued their work to “right size” the organization so that revenue more closely matches expenditures.

Humphrey Bogart Film Series at the Fox Theater: Looking for something to do this summer?  Check out the Bogart Film Series at the Fox!  “The Maltese Falcon” will show on 7/27, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” shows on August 3rd, and “The Big Sleep” will finish the series on 8/10.  This is a great opportunity to view high quality, historic films in a setting like no other.

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Recap of my remarks at Good Morning Riverside

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak with some of Riverside’s finest business leaders at Good Morning Riverside hosted by the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce; here is a recap of my remarks:

It’s been a short six months since I was named as the City Manager and I’m excited to provide an update on the City of Riverside, focusing on the areas City Managers across the state are reviewing as well- Redevelopment, Economic Development, and Budgets. 

Regarding Redevelopment, despite the State’s best efforts to prohibit our accomplishments, we are fighting for our City’s projects with enforceable obligations and finding alternative ways to pay for other projects and services.  Our work with Sacramento has reduced the amount removed from our Recognized Obligation Payment Schedule down from $150 million to just over $30 million, and our goal is to further reduce that number to zero. 

I quickly moved on to my new favorite subject – Economic Development.  I tell every employee that their job is economic development whether they are picking up trash, approving site plans or meeting with brokers.  We understand as a community that every public service, every quality of life amenity starts with a healthy business environment.  We have already experienced many economic development successes including a new economic development website, an approved action plan, a Business First program and a weekly radio show.  I also mentioned that during the current fiscal year (2011/12), we have worked with companies to create more than 1100 jobs and 600 more are in the pipeline.  Here are a few of the businesses and job numbers noted: Crystal Pacific Window and Door Systems opened with 20 new jobs; Elephant Thai opened downtown with 10 new jobs; Royal Interpak opened, creating 75 new jobs; Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park opened, creating 80 new jobs; Red Robin will be opening soon at Tyler Galleria bringing 90 new jobs; and, UCPath Center opens July 2013 and will create 600 new jobs by 2014.  It’s motivating to see this kind of positive economic growth in Riverside and points towards a continued future of even greater success.  We are a business-friendly community and we want everyone to know it. 

Regarding our budget, I advised the attendees at the meeting that the Council was poised to adopt a balanced budget, with a provision to use approximately $1 million of reserve to close a small gap between revenues and expenditures in the General Fund (GF).  Overall, we project to continue to have a General Fund Reserve well above the 15% of GF expenditures that the Government Finance Officers Association recommends.  Overall, we are fortunate to find our city in this financial position, especially when you consider the State and Federal government’s budgets.

It was my pleasure to speak with our business leaders at the Chamber, and I really appreciated the warm support I received from them.

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First round of appeals on Redevelopment ROPS- Riverside’s costs confirmed by the State DOF!!

Riverside_May26_ROPS_Approval_Letter

Our great team of staff from Development and the City Attorney’s Office worked diligently to put together an excellent appeal letter to the Department of Finance’s (DOF) first round determination that some of our debts were not “enforceable obligations” - that letter, and a rather lengthy telephone call to DOF, created the first round of results that we were looking for; namely, confirmation that actions taken on behalf of our former Redevelopment Agency did meet the letter and spirit of the law.  I am proud of our staff and thankful that we have taken a “lead” position on appealing these matters with DOF.  Next round- those “interfund/interagency” loans!

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Did the City recently enter into new Pension Obligation Bonds- and if we did, why??

In 2005, the City issued $60 million in Pension Obligation Bonds (POBs) to reduce the cost of meeting our unfunded pension obligation with the California Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) for non-safety City employees.  The rate available on that transaction was substantially better than the rate used by PERS to amortize the City’s obligation for unfunded pension costs.  The proceeds of that bond issuance were all deposited with PERS, reducing both the obligation with PERS and the corresponding rates assessed annually by PERS on the City and employees thereafter.

 Half of the bonds issued in 2005 were issued as variable rate debt with the interest rate reset on a periodic basis. The $30 million of variable rate “Series B” debt currently exists in the form of a 1-year bond anticipation note, maturing annually and currently being ”rate” reset in one-year increments.  The annual renewal is NOT new debt, but simply a renewal of the variable-rate debt originally issued in 2005 (to answer the question at the “headline” of this blog- no, we did not enter into new Pension Obligation Bonds recently).

For cost saving reasons, the $30 million of fixed rate debt (Series A) is being repaid first and when that is paid off, the lower cost variable rate debt will then be paid.  The entire $60 million matures over a 20 year period as originally planned for in 2005 when it was first issued.  In 2025 the City will no longer have that continuing obligation and will have “paid down” the obligation to PERS in a manner that will have saved $10’s of millions of dollars over the 20 year period.  PERS would have amortized our obligation if POBs hadn’t been issued at 7.75%.  On only this $30 million variable portion, we’re paying a rate of 0.75% for 2012/13, or 7 full percentage points less…that’s over $2 million in savings in this year alone on that one amount.  Given all of the financial advantages of this approach, I think we can see that the Council acted in very thoughtful manner in 2005- and it’s our goal to continue to be thoughtful and prudent in our financial transactions here at the City.

Thanks for reading, Riverside!

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