City Council and Staff refuse to give basic information

I follow the budget pretty closely. I read the materials put online and try to translate them for the average resident who is interested but not able to dig through all the documents. I have been trying for months to get a detailed answer as to the budget cuts that have been made thus far. Not the chart below which has been repeatedly put into the packets but an exact description of what positions were cut and when and what that savings was. I know in the last packet there were many letters trying to save the job of a swim center staff person. I want to know what his job was and when it was cut and how much it saved the city. Same with the Assistant to the City Manager because I believe that job is not cut until January 1, 2021.

What restructuring was done at the Fire Department? Same with the police because we are not seeing any real drop in the police budget. It appears it might be unfilled positions cut. If the position was never filled is it really a budget cut? The funding for the landscape services-what was cut and what was moved to Measure H. This should be readily available information. I have requested it numerous times both through some council members and more recently through the city clerk. The city clerk referred me to the budget book with no citations of pages and I was unable to find anything with any more specificity than the below chart.

Mayor Lyman recently responded to a resident question by saying there were still cuts proposed in June on the table. Cuts on the table that haven’t been made?? I requested more information on that and was directed to this presentation by Management Partners. This presentation had many cuts in it but as far as I could tell they were never discussed in depth. One of the cuts was the elimination of Fire Station 72 and I know if that was ever discussed there would have been a big public outcry.

I went back and reviewed these strategies. Some of them have happened like the elimination of passport services and the library hours were decided not to be cut. Most of them are unclear as to whether they have happened or not. What was very interesting is this nice slide on the assumptions used for their forecast. This is something we have been begging the council to ask for from the Finance Director for his projections. These forecast assumptions seem reasonable given circumstances (and they were made several months ago). There was also an additional slide talking about the need to take action NOW!

What was the point of hiring these consultants and getting their recommendations and projections and then ignoring them?

I also requested records to see what cuts were being put into the future budget projections. I was told that there were no records in regards to that. So we continue to not know things like if the furloughs were carried over into future budget years?

The city’s refusal to be transparent has been an issue since long before this crisis. The only way they will be transparent is if we the residents push them to do so. These questions are not brain surgery. The information is readily available from the City Manager. So why are they refusing to give that information out?

Again, please write your council members and tell them to get this information out there. Please remember that the longer it takes for an action to happen the more severe the actions are taken will be.

6 thoughts on “City Council and Staff refuse to give basic information

  1. It is more than a matter of ignoring the needed cuts. It’s negligence plain and simple. One doesn’t need to have a degree in business administration to understand what a deficit means, that the council knew in 2018 that they had exhausted all their reserve funds, and that they acquired a huge pension fund liability. They knew, we reminded them, and they still created another deficit budget. Believing that writing more letters is going to be productive seems to be unrealistic. Not only it is not workingm but it seems that the council takes pleasure in denying the facts and their constitents. A policy that threatens bankruptcy usually supports a move for a massive tax increase. That is what they want to lay on residents so they can keep a top heavy staff and lay back more. Less management is what needs to be cut, not services. They refuse to take that very simple step — it’s negligent. Sorry, why bother writing? City council meetings are a farce. We need to kick the bums out.


    1. I understand your frustration but if we don’t keep the pressure on there is no hope. We only have one incumbent running and hopefully, he will not be re-elected which would send a message. I am hoping we get three new people who will ask the tough questions and make the tough choices. But it will take a while to change the culture of El Cerrito politics and the politicians have to know it is no longer business as usual.


  2. Thank you for your continuing vigilance. I’m willing to write to city council members to ask them to share specific information with you so that you can digest and convey to the rest of us. What documents or data should I ask them to present and to whom should they send it? Thanks again.


    1. Hi Jan. Thanks for asking. Given I have asked the Mayor, at least one councilperson (Fadelli), and the City Clerk I am not sure additional requests would get better results. The City Clerk (who is generally very good) and the Mayor both insist the information I want is in the 250 age budget book. While some of the details can be found by deep digging I wanted details of Table B as shown in the blog post. What were the specific jobs cut and what was the savings of each of them? What does it mean to reduce shift funding for landscape maintenance? Because what I am beginning to find out is that much of what they are calling cuts are not really cuts. The PD cuts were to jobs cut by the school district and a vacant position. Landscape costs seem to be just be moved to Measure H. The devil is in the details What I am asking for is details for each of these cuts. We were told at the Town Hall meeting that the city would be more transparent and this information should be readily available on the city website. We should not be required to watch 4.5-hour meetings and read hundreds of pages of documents to find information. I should not be doing this work the city should. But if you request what I am asking for is details of that chart. and if you get something comment here and I will give you my email to send information to. I hope you at least send in public comment and email our council people because this is just plain negligence IMO.


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