Thursday, June 30, 2016

Two Placer County Libraries Set to Close, Grand Jury Questions Process and Decisions

Placer County Library Services covers a large portion of Placer County and operates 11 branch libraries. Two of the 11, Loomis and Meadow Vista libraries, are slated to close this month.
Two years ago, the Board of Supervisors gave direction to the Placer County library administration to develop a plan to provide sustainable libraries. Since then, county staff has engaged the public on the issue and given concerned citizens the opportunity to help find alternatives to the closures.
The Library Strategic Plan was derived from interactive discussion in community workshops and through surveys with more than 500 community leaders and Placer County constituents.
By reaching out to residents and asking them to share their aspirations and expectations for themselves, their families, and their community, the Library was able to capture the strategies and initiatives necessary to help meet community expectations of future Library programs and services.
However, according to the 2015-2016 Placer County [Grand Jury] Final Report, these “community conversations” were never held in Loomis or Meadow Vista. The report states “The Grand Jury recommends that Placer County Library Services seek viable options prior to solidifying plans to close a library. They have a duty to seek community input as to proposed direction and impact.”
Both communities showed overwhelming support for keeping their libraries open. Each has conducted meetings, explored alternatives and asked for more time to evaluate their options. Nevertheless, the Placer County Library Services and the Board of Supervisors voted to close the two libraries.
County staff are currently in talks with the Town of Loomis to lease the Loomis library building to function as a community learning center or possible municipal library.
In a recent county press release District 3 Supervisor Jim Holmes said “I am excited at the potential for the beautiful Loomis library building to continue its use as a critical community amenity.” Holmes went on to say, “The lease agreement between the county and Town of Loomis will ensure the building will continue to be an important asset to the people of Loomis.”
Library staff are currently in discussions to determine the best alternative service delivery models for the Meadow Vista community, including increased use of the Placer County bookmobile and book drops, as well as potential mobile library services at the local community center.
In the same county press release District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery said “While I know there are people disappointed at the closure of the bricks and mortar library, we can very confidently let people know they will continue to have library service in Meadow Vista, it’s just going to be a different model.” Montgomery went on to say, “This model will continue to let us have a more sustainable library system that will serve the entirety of people in Placer County.”
Although Supervisors Holmes and Montgomery remain very positive that the two closures will allow for more modern and sustainable library services throughout the library system.  The conclusion in the Final Grand Jury Report disagrees that both Loomis and Meadow Vista were allowed proper consideration in determining which county libraries would shut down.
However, since the closure date for both libraries is June 2016, no Grand Jury recommendation will have a bearing on these closures. Instead, the Grand Jury proposed four recommendations to any future county library closures:
     Placer County Library Services make the wants and needs of each community a major priority.
     Placer County Library Services revise the strategic plan to reflect those wants and needs of the affected communities rather than, “moving beyond an interconnected system of small ‘town’ libraries to a fully independent network of County library service outlets.”
     At least six months prior to proposing a library closure the Placer County Library Services must hold local public forums and perform input surveys in every affected community.
     The Supervisor of the impacted district should solicit input from their constituents prior to making library decisions.
These recommendations will insure that the library closure process will need some adaptation moving forward. However, for the towns of Loomis and Meadow Vista, it appears that the majority of it’s citizens who voted to keep their communities libraries open, will have to live with the Placer County Library Services’ and the Placer County Board of Supervisor’s decisions.
June 28, 2016
KAHI: AM 950

[San Francisco] SF civil grand jury warns of costly maintenance backlog

A new report is calling San Francisco’s $1.3 billion maintenance backlog a “slow motion train wreck,” but city officials say the numbers in the report don’t tell the whole story of how the work is managed.
A civil grand jury report released this week warns that a failure to make maintaining city assets a priority will drive maintenance costs up by more than $800 million unless addressed. The report notes that this year, $11.3 million — or 0.2 percent of the city’s general fund — will go to routine maintenance like cleaning windows and filling potholes.
But city officials point out that money also comes from other sources, such as fees and bonds. Another $26.7 million goes to what the city calls “renewals,” like replacing a roof every 30 years. About $13.8 million funnels into right-of-way projects, like repairing bridges, tunnels and guardrails. Add another $48.5 million for street resurfacing, and more than $30 million for emergency repairs and ADA compliance.
“So you add all of those line items and bonds together, and it’s somewhere around $128 million,” said Brian Strong, director of capital planning for the city and county. “We inherited a backlog from a long period where we invested little. We are on a trajectory that is better than anything I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
And that report? It’s probably not as straightforward as it seems, Strong said.
Grand jury response
“I hope they are right, and I’m sure their numbers are correct,” civil grand jury member John Hoskins, who helped write the report, said in response. “The problem is the city doesn’t report it that way, so the public doesn’t know how much they are spending. Maybe they are doing a wonderful job. They should put their numbers together and show them to us.”
The civil grand jury report — and an increased city focus on maintenance — stemmed from a 2005 report by SPUR, a nonprofit that researches planning and governance in the city. It was the genesis of San Francisco’s 10-year, 2006-15 capital plan, which focused on maintaining the city’s assets.
A second capital plan for 2016-25 will funnel more than $1.6 billion into renewable maintenance. The plan is updated every two years.
“The city has taken big steps forward in the last decade, mainly because of the 10-year capital plan,” said City Controller Ben Rosenfield. “It frames general obligation bonds and budget decisions by identifying where the city should spend to maintain its assets. Although the city has made progress, it is still short of where it should be.”
That’s because maintenance must compete for general fund dollars against social services like housing the homeless, supporting the elderly and reducing HIV infections. Repairing roofs and seismically retrofitting buildings just can’t compete. That’s where the report is right, city officials agree.
The best practice in many cities, like San Jose, is to spend 2 percent on what the current replacement value of infrastructure is, the report says. So a $1,000 handrail would get $20 annually for repairs. But San Francisco uses a complicated algorithm to calculate the percentage.
That percentage is rarely used, though. Instead, the city tries to grow maintenance funding by 10 percent annually. With each increase, the plan is to “attack and address the backlogs,” Strong said. About $128 million is projected for fiscal year 2016-17, up from $50 million in year 2006-07.
‘Facility resource renewal’
Maintenance is also tracked using something called a “facility resource renewal” model. Essentially, a program tracks when a piece of infrastructure will need upgrades and helps budget for them. For example, the brand-new Public Safety Building will need a new camera system in 10 years. And in 20 years? A new roof. After 30 years, a new air conditioning system.
“It gives us a more accurate picture of what a building like that is going to cost over its life,” Strong said.
Yet those dollars are often spread thin because San Francisco is both a city and a county, which means it has more facilities to support than others in California. Maintenance money goes to city agencies, like Public Works, as well as hospitals, jails and fire stations.
Other departments, like the airport and the Recreation and Park Department, are considered “enterprise” departments. They set their own maintenance budgets because they raise and spend their own money. About eight times as much money goes to repairs in these departments compared with general fund departments.
All things considered, the city is generally doing a good job at maintaining its assets, said City Administrator Naomi Kelly.
“The report complements what we are already doing and what we know we need to do better,” she said. “Our capital plan highlights what is going on and forces us to prioritize funding. It starts conversations and gives us a blueprint of where we need to go next.”
June 28, 2016
SF Gate
By Lizzie Johnson

[San Joaquin County] South Stockton's troubled New Grand Save Market heading to receiver

‘Cesspool’ of iniquity could become beacon of hope

Blog note: this article references a 2014-15 San Joaquin County Grand Jury report urging city government to take a lead role in a south Stockton renaissance.
STOCKTON — Control of south Stockton’s New Grand Save Market, described by the city as a fire trap and a “cesspool” of illicit activity, will be placed in the hands of a receiver late this week, a judge ruled Tuesday morning.
Once the court-ordered seizure is consummated, appointed receiver Mark Adams said, the market will be shut; a fence will be installed around the building at Ninth Street and Airport Way; and 24-hour security will be deployed.
“It’s a lawless place,” said Adams, describing how New Grand Save currently operates.
When Adams’ California Receivership Group takes control, it will develop a plan for the rehabilitation of the property, which most recently was in the news following a slaying in the parking lot in May. Adams said he expects to present his plan to Judge Barbara Kronlund at San Joaquin County Superior Court in August.
A visit last month to the dilapidated, dimly-lit market revealed shelves stocked with merchandise that included cupcakes, alcohol and junk food but no fruits, vegetables or other nutritious items.
The city reports it conducted “nearly two years of code enforcement efforts” and found 31 violations of state and local laws while scrutinizing New Grand Save.
Assistant City Attorney Susana Wood said that under the plan to be developed by the receiver, conditions will be ripe for a market or retail outlet that would benefit the neighborhood. She said court orders will be in place to ensure the property “doesn’t resort to its nuisance conditions.”
“It’s like a clean slate, I think, what gets to happen with that property,” Wood said.
City Councilman Michael Tubbs, whose south Stockton district includes New Grand Save, said he sees “momentum building” for change in the community.
“Now we get to start over,” said Tubbs, who is running for mayor against incumbent Anthony Silva.
The city sued New Grand Save one month ago. Tuesday’s court hearing passed without any opposition by the individual who owns the building and the land, and with no action taken by the store operator who rents the property.
Redrose Singh, the market’s operator, did not appear in court Tuesday or send a legal representative. Jaswant Singh, the building and land owner, stipulated to the court order through attorney Brian DeAmicis of Sacramento, who was patched into the hearing by speakerphone. Redrose Singh and Jaswant Singh are not related.
About 30 members of the surrounding community attended Tuesday’s hearing, expressing satisfaction over a ruling they said was decades overdue.
Maria Alcazar, who works for STAND Affordable Housing and the Reinvent South Stockton Coalition, said she had been waiting for Tuesday’s ruling since the day her brother was murdered near the market in 1999.
“It’s like a thorn that digs within my skin every single day,” Alcazar said of New Grand Save.
The Rev. Ernest Williams has lived adjacent to New Grand Save for about six years. During that time he said there have been eight homicides and 22 cases of assault with a deadly weapon near the store. According to the city, there were 191 calls for police service at the market in a 402-day span that ended with the slaying last month of Ikeila Fikes, 30.
“I can’t even count the robberies,” Williams said. “I don’t trust nobody in that lot, and I know a lot of them. That store could be an asset to the community, and it’s not.”
Tuesday’s legal ruling came 13 months after the release of a San Joaquin County grand jury report urging city government to take a lead role in a south Stockton renaissance.
The report said years of government inaction bear a large portion of the blame for the neighborhood’s “extensive blight, poverty, deteriorating housing, slumlord residential ownership, and vacant lots, a lack of neighborhood services, and widespread drug dealing and crime.”
The report added, “Only city government has the resources … to effect real change.”
Following Tuesday’s ruling, neighborhood resident and STAND worker Roslyn Burse recalled better days in south Stockton and voiced hope for rejuvenation.
“We had a pharmacy, we had grocery stores, we had our own gas station out here, we had our own Big Dipper, we had our own fish-fry store, we had our own bakery where you could wake up in the morning and smell the fresh bread,” Burse said. “I’m looking for a tower of businesses and organizations to come into our community.”
The New Grand Save ruling, she said, could be a turning point. But she said the market’s owners are not fully to blame for the neighborhood’s challenges, and she said many of the drug dealers who populate the parking lot do so only “because they don’t have any other place to hang.”
“You can’t always blame everyone,” Burse said. “You need to find out, ‘What made this happen? Why are they here?’
“It’s not just because they choose to. They also have to feed their families, take care of their families. We have to take everything into consideration while we’re doing this process at this time. Just taking over this store is not going to cure everything.”
June 28, 2016
Stockton Record
By Roger Phillips