Monday, July 14, 2014
July 14, 2014
By Alex Breitler, Staff Writer
Calaveras County should sever ties with San Joaquin Delta College, that county's civil grand jury has concluded.
Calaveras residents are paying millions into Delta's voter-approved Measure L bond, but the county "has not received the benefits" that were promised, the report says.
Shifting northern Calaveras County into the Yosemite Community College District - southern Calaveras is already within that district's boundaries - would increase the county's electoral strength and give it a more unified voice, the grand jury found.
Dave Tanner, a Calaveras planner who ran unsuccessfully for the Delta College Board of Trustees in 2012, said Calaveras taxpayers are spending $1.5 million to $2 million a year for their share of the $250 million bond, and feel they haven't gotten enough in return.
The 2004 bond listed an "education center" in the Mother Lode as one of many planned improvements. A decade later, no center has been built.
"This sounds terrible, but it's reality," Tanner said. "(Calaveras residents) feel like they're a sugar daddy and they can't afford it. This is not a rich community."
Delta trustee Steve Castellanos, who represents Calaveras County, said the grand jury's report did not recognize a renewed effort to get classes started in the area. Delta officials on Friday announced four classes would be held at Calaveras High School in San Andreas in the fall, and Castellanos said the plan is to further increase course offerings over the next two to three years.
Ultimately, Calaveras students should be able to satisfy their general education requirements there, Delta President Kathy Hart said earlier this week. Hart said Delta's intention is to work with the neighboring Yosemite district to provide the classes students need.
Delta has offered courses in Calaveras County in the past, but the four courses this fall will be the most in "a really long time," Hart said.
"During the budget cuts and the whole recession we really didn't offer much of anything up there," Hart said, adding that she recognized Calaveras residents have "not been pleased with us."
While the grand jury report cites past reports that Delta improperly spent bond money, Delta officials have said there hasn't been enough student demand in Calaveras to justify a brick-and-mortar campus, and that there isn't enough money left to build one anyhow.
Whether Calaveras County could easily divest itself from Delta is unlikely. Tanner admitted that it might require an act of legislation.
The grand jury recommended that the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors "support a legal petition requesting secession" from the college, if such a petition is filed.
Delta trustees will consider a response to the grand jury report at their meeting on Tuesday.
Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or email@example.com. Follow him at www.recordnet.com/breitlerblog and on Twitter @alexbreitler.
Shelter volunteer answers grand jury
Ukiah Daily Journal
Having been a volunteer at the Mendocino County Animal Care Services Shelter in Ukiah for the past 8 years, I feel an obligation to correct several misstatements and add a few points, in regards to the Mendocino County Grand Jury's report on, and a Ukiah Daily Journal opinion piece about, the shelter.
While I appreciate the time, energy and concern the grand jury afforded the ongoing operation of the shelter, and recognize that most institutions, etc, can always be improved, I feel several facts from the report were unfair, untrue, and inflammatory.
The report states that the shelter is overcrowded, and this comment is, unfortunately, correct. The shelter was designed and built with 46 double-sided dog kennels in 2003; a better time, perhaps, in our county's care and concern of pets. According to the report, "The Shelter attempts to house 100 to 150 dogs and 70 to 80 cats per day. The grand jury observed there is insufficient housing for this number of animals. Overflow animals are housed in various animal crates."
At times when the shelter is crowded, several kennels are doubled up; but with only 46 kennels, dogs would need to be tripled up in every kennel to allow for 150 guests, which is simply not the case. (As I write this, Sunday, July 6, there were 55 dogs at the shelter.) There are various stand-alone crates in several staff rooms, used to house small and timid dogs who need special attention and care.
The report continues: "Overcrowding is so severe that the facility cannot do its core job (finding homes or disposing of animals) with respect to animals placed in its care." This statement is particularly vexing, because in reality, whatever the faults at the shelter, the adoption rate is pretty astounding -- with the average being 40-45 dogs a month; that number has gotten as high as 65. (This figure does not include dogs transferred to rescues, foster care homes, or found by their owners and returned home. If that number of adoptions doesn't impress, try thinking of it as two to three adoptions a day.
While I cannot speak for all the staff and volunteers at the shelter, I believe most of them would disagree with the report's finding that the overcrowding has a "very serious effect on staff morale and is severely detrimental to the well-being of the animals." Instead, the overcrowding usually has the effect of making an already admirable, hard-working, dedicated staff work harder; calls are made to rescues and foster homes, advertising in print and social media is increased.
The Daily Journal's opinion piece stated throwing money at a problem is not a solution, and though I can agree at times with that statement , in the case of the shelter, I think increased funding would be the start of a solution. Yes, the shelter is run down, has a rat "problem," and apparently has a headache-inducing computer software issue with Animal Control. But these are not new problems or a result of current management as much as administrative short-sightedness. And though I cannot speak to the assertions that Animal Care and Animal Control have an acrimonious relationship, I can say that in eight years I have not witnessed people being turned away when attempting to surrender a dog, as the grand jury reports.
As I mentioned, the shelter contains 46 kennels, a small number when seen in light of the county and city's growth. Current financial strain has forced countless individuals to surrender their pets. And for every dog adopted, you can bet two or three enter the shelter system. It's a continuous, daunting, tough environment to be in, and that makes the staff and volunteer's dedication more impressive. For those of us who have watched the shelter change from a place where animals were sold for medical experiments, then held and euthanized in several days, to the current setup, going back in time would be heartbreaking. While not perfect, the current shelter is a place that attracts people from near and far because of the variety of the dogs and the concern and assistance of the staff. (Again, as I write this, yesterday three adoptions were made to folks from Walnut Creek, Oakland, and Oregon.)
So, what is the answer? Right now there's a good amount of finger-pointing but not much in the way of solutions. Can the shelter improve? Of course: in the past half a year, the rat problem has been addressed; much-needed and often-requested updates and weatherization to the kennel areas have been installed, which will keep the dogs warmer during the winter. (Volunteers dream of air conditioners or fans for the outside kennel areas.)
We wish people would recognize their obligations towards their animal friends, neuter their pets, and make sure they are safe. But unfortunately, man's best friend is treated as so much disposable entertainment. Until people become responsible, pet overpopulation resulting in over-burdened shelters will continue to be an issue and problem. Our shelter is just one of thousands across the country, but with all it's shortcomings, we do a pretty amazing job.
I've watched the shelter go through several organizational changes over the past eight years, and as such, I don't believe a transfer to another county department is the answer. The concept may sound good on paper, but I would like to know the consequences and repercussions of such an action.
In the meantime, volunteers are always needed at the shelter, and folks are invited to attend a one-hour orientation every first Wednesday of the month. If you are unable to observe the shelter first hand, please keep in mind that every day, dedicated staff and faithful volunteers are trying their best to aid and comfort our pets. Please spay or neuter yours, get your dog microchipped and make sure the information is up to date. Keep your pets safe, but if for some reason your dog or cat is lost, visit or contact the shelter immediately.
– Kathy Shearn, and Rod Coots, Mariah Mountanos, Nancy Commons, Shanna L. Phillips are all from Ukiah
Sunday, July 13, 2014
July 12, 2014
By Democrat staff
The city of Woodland has either implemented protocols or working to conform with recommendations by the Yolo County Grand Jury when it comes to managing its real estate loans.
Woodland City Manager Paul Navazio submitted a list of responses to the late May report for consideration by the City Council this Tuesday. The council meets at 6 p.m. in City Hall, 300 First St. The council can accept Navazio's recommendations without comment or choose to add additional information.
The Grand Jury called for a series of actions to more effectively manage its affordable housing loan program, including developing and implementing policies, preparing annual reports and generally "make it a priority to maintain trained administrative services necessary to effectively manage its affordable housing loan portfolio." The report was issued May 28.
Jane Naekel, forewoman for the 2013-14 Grand Jury, reported the body undertook the investigation after receiving a complaint the city was not properly executing its duties on a loan it made in 1995 to Leisureville Community Association. The city manages and administers a portfolio of affordable housing loans in excess of $24 million, according to the report.
However, the city had "not established a viable system for tracking or reporting on these loans," according to the Grand Jury.
In his response to Yolo County Superior Court Judge Dan Maquire, who is responsible for the Grand Jury, Navazio basically indicated the city is taking action to correct problems.
For example, the Grand Jury suggested the city create a database of affordable housing loans. Navazio responds stating the city has created such a data base. An earlier version of the database was provided to the Grand Jury during its investigation, Navazio noted, and now additional information has been added to address the Grand Jury recommendation.
Additionally, the Grand Jury recommended the city direct its Community Services Department — the current agency administering the city's loan portfolio — to develop a policy and procedure manual for real estate loans, identifying who is required to manage loans and how, and on whose authority, a loan can be modified. This policy and procedure manual should be completed by Jan. 31, 2015.
Navazio responded, writing that the city has done just that, with the City Council scheduled to review the draft manual on Tuesday. The manual is scheduled to be finalized later in the year.
The city is also now preparing annual reports and is working to provide for greater management and oversight.
"The city's efforts to improve the management of its housing loan portfolio have been under way before, during, and after the Grand Jury's investigation," Navazio stated. "This work focuses on the organization and maintenance of the physical files; establishing an electronic database of loan agreements, promissory notes, deeds of trusts, and affordability agreements; preparing a spreadsheet system for tracking individual loans with key borrower information (property address, borrower name, assessor parcel number, source of funds for loan, principal amount of loan, start date of loan, loan term, interest rate, and other information); and verifying ongoing City responsibilities."
However, as Navazio noted, situations can change depending on personnel. "While the staffing situation for administration of the city's affordable housing loan portfolio is stable at this time with the assigned staff member also responsible for affordable housing projects/programs and the City's Community Development Block Grant program, the city recognizes over time staff assignments change as staff members leave or their work is restructured," he wrote.
"Accordingly, the City values the importance of putting systems and procedures in place to ensure continuity when the duties for administering the affordable housing portfolio are transitioned," he concluded.