City goes maroon for council district boundaries - The Desert Trail: News

City goes maroon for council district boundaries

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Posted: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 11:54 am | Updated: 8:39 am, Fri Feb 16, 2018.

TWENTYNINE PALMS — The City Council unanimously selected the maroon map, setting district boundaries for city council elections, at the regular meeting Tuesday, Feb. 13.

The vote will continue the city’s transition from an at-large to district-based elections.

The city is still protected under the 90 days “Safe Harbor,” process, which “minimized the liability to the city,” said City Manager Frank Luckino.

Two maps were displayed to the public on the video screens, which was not possible during the last meeting due to technical glitches.

Attorney Kevin Shenkman of the law firm Shenkman & Hughes threatened to sue the city, for violations of state law, in a letter the city received Sept. 19, 2017.

Shenkman’s letter threatens a lawsuit under the California Voting Rights Act (“CVRA”) unless the city converts to a by-district election system.

Shenkman and his firm have served similar letters and subsequently filed numerous actions in recent years against dozens of cities and other public agencies for alleged CVRA violations, including nearby cities.

The City Council had limited discussion on Tuesday night.

The public also did not have any questions prior to the vote.

“They are just going to leave it to us,” said Mayor McArthur Wright. “I’m looking for a motion; we got to pick one.”

Council member John Cole queried about an ad hoc committee to get into the voting details but the question of the lack of available time was addressed.

“We are pushing the 90 days Safe Harbor,” Luckino said.

The fifth and final public hearing on the changes from at at-large to district elections was held Jan. 23.

The city hired demographer Doug Johnson to facilitate the process for $18,500. The city’s legal costs on the process are estimated to be $22,000, according to staff reports.

“We’re in a really unusual situation,” said Demographer Doug Johnson on Jan. 9. “All four maps divide the base in the same way.”

Cole said during the last council meeting in January he finds numerous “similarities,” with the maps. He said he is in favor of the maroon map.

“In a nutshell, I would suggest the maroon map,” Cole said.

Council member Steven Bilderain said on Jan. 23 he also wants to keep it simple.

“Let’s keep it as simple as possible for the voters,” Bilderain said. “Once you are in the seat you’re for the city.”

The council eliminated the orange and green maps from consideration during past meetings and focused on the two remaining: maroon and purple B.

According to the city’s legal team, every public agency defendant in the history of the CVRA that has challenged the conversion to district elections has either lost in court or settled/agreed to implement district elections, and been forced to pay at least some portion of the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs.

Shenkman has been relatively successful in recent years and has received $15 million in fees from lawsuits in the past 15 years, according to city lawyers.

One of the city’s biggest challenges is mapping the Marine Base and handling off base housing areas, city officials said.

Jim Bagley, a third generation resident of the city, voiced his opinions again during the final public comments on Jan. 23. He was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I am deeply disappointed,” Bagley said. “This is social engineering. I am deeply offended by all of this. I want to vote for my council members. It is part of the American process!”

Bagley said he feels this is just attorney’s lining their pockets and getting wealthier. Bagley, who served three terms on the city council, said he was offended by the letter from the law firm.

“This is extortion,” he said.

The next city council race, in November, will see contests for council seats held by Dan Mintz, John Cole and McArthur Wright.

Other action

•    The City Council held a workshop for 45 minutes prior to the regular City Council meeting to hear seven local nonprofit presentations for available Community Development Block Grant funds for 2018-2019.

•    Southern California Edison presented a $5,000 check to Reach Out Morongo Basin for their Emergency Preparedness Program.

•    The Council voted 5-0 to adopt a memorandum of understanding with Climatec LLC to review its energy systems in an effort to decrease costs and become more energy conscious in the future. This is the initial process only and will not cost the city during the assessment process, according to Luckino. “I have great confidence with Frank Mann and Climatec,” said Luckino, who has worked with the company in the past.

•    The City Council voted 5-0 to approve the $296,000 sale of a parcel to Fountainhead Shrugged, LLC, the developer of the new Starbucks at Highway 62 and Adobe Road. The City Manager is now authorized to execute all associated documents for the sale, which houses two Bank of America ATMs. The sale also allows the city to have a 20 foot easement around the new property to repair the damaged light at the intersection. The site includes two parcels of land one owned by the city and one by local businessman Charles Donaldson. The council vote mandated the city’s property would be sold first, according to council discussion prior to the vote.

“We would profit $19,000 in this transaction,” Luckino said on Tuesday night.

•    The City Council voted unanimously to award a six-year contract to a San Antonio, Texas company called Rackspace Hosting Inc, which will help the city store its documents, records, and most paperwork on the Internet in a virtual private cloud, according to Eli Marshall, owner of Marshall Networking Inc., who currently holds the city’s technology contract. Marshall said it will cost about $68,000 annually for the new program. The contract includes Microsoft products, storage and back up systems and will eliminate the city’s need to buy equipment, Marshall reported.

The company Rackspace Hosting Inc. announced on Tuesday it has laid off fewer than 100 of its 6,700 employees to make room for workers with certain skill sets. Rackspace says it has more than 200 jobs opening and encourages people to apply on its website. It released this statement in regard to the layoffs:

“Rackspace operates in the fast-changing information technology industry, and we constantly evolve our workforce to meet shifting business requirements,” the company said in an email published in the San Antonio Business Journal. “We are hiring in areas where we need more Rackers with certain skill sets, and we periodically trim in areas where other skill sets are in lower demand. Our business is growing in revenue and profit, and our headcount is the highest it has ever been.”

© 2018 Hi-Desert Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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