FAB Meeting March 9, 2021

So the FAB meeting happened and there was a lot to be disappointed in.

Both the Chair Dick Patterson and the Finance Director were pretty clear that the purpose of the FAB is to rubber-stamp what comes from staff. FAB Member William Ktsanes has been requesting additional information from the Finance Director and not getting the level of information he wished for. The Finance Director said that the staff did not have the time to prepare them and the Chair Dick Patterson said that many on the board did not have time to dig in deeper. It was very disappointing.

When I asked a question on the documents being presented I was told that questions were not appropriate for this forum. This was an issue that the Chair repeated several times during the meeting. I brought up the point that if questions were not answered by any other means such as email there is not an opportunity to ever get questions answered. The last meeting I attended there was a responsive demeanor towards questions. This meeting it seemed more important to get the meeting done as quickly as possible

FAB documents discussed are found here .

Other items of note:

  1. Staff is hoping for 4.8 million in stimulus money. Councilperson Quinto said that money will all go into reserve. Which if it is not restricted is great. However, those decisions should be made by the council with feedback from FAB. And it appears that there is no real way for that to happen unless the City Council specifically requests that of FAB. I hope at the next Council meeting there is a motion to do so. There should also be direction to FAB to make recommendations regarding the state audit report which is due out March 16, 2021.
  2. Councilperson Quinto, the Council liaison, did not stay for the meeting.
  3. FAB member Ktsanes again brought up the purpose of FAB and what they are supposed to do as far as these reports. To this viewer, it looked like Chair Patterson got upset at those questions. Mr. Ktsanes is challenging the status quo and it is not going well.
  4. The five-year forecast was given. There is a line on it for permanent reductions of three million for starting in fiscal year 21/22. The Finance Director stated that they needed to make these reductions to meet their reserve goals. William Ktsanes pushed to understand why this was there if there was no corresponding list of potential cuts.
  5. At this point, the City Manager broke in and said that because of negotiations with unions and personnel that they cannot speak about specific cuts. She said it was up to City Council to make that decision. What was confusing to me is that the City Council just said we could not make 1 million in cuts this year (4 months) due to the devastating effects of those cuts. Cuts the City Manager recommended against. But they are now looking at 3 million in structural cuts in one full year. It seems to me these are an equivalent level of cuts. The City Manager states she will make the cuts that the Council suggests. She will also protect whatever the City Council wants i.e. the fire department. She then blamed the Council for decisions made in the past for leading us here. I found that interesting since she and her former boss made recommendations to the council at the time. She also suggested that some open positions could be removed from the budget. She also said there MIGHT be more cuts to management because that is an unrepresented group so it is easier to make cuts. The City Manager appeared to have heard the council say they wanted FAB to be more involved and stated an intention for that to happen.
  6. The issue came up about the use of Web-Ex and the City Manager said that they would be transitioning to Zoom for all meetings soon. At 8:56 the Finance Director made it apparent that it was time to end the meeting. Then the Chair asked the Finance Director what action he wanted FAB to take. The Finance Director said that in the past motions were made to just pass the reports on to Council or make another motion. He then said he thought that the Council would like to hear from FAB as to whether or not they thought this report was adequate. This was put to discussion. New member Ruth Caqzden said that no recommendation should be made because the document was going to change due to the potential for federal stimulus. There was no real discussion on this issue. A few other members said they would agree to no recommendation.
  7. The last item was to determine the agenda for the next month. The Chair and Finance Diretor has earlier suggested training on the Brown Act and the FAB charter. My interpretation of that is they want William Ktsanes shut down. Chair Patterson wanted to add the work plan and asked the Finance Director to set the work-plan. During agenda public comment I once again brought up the state auditors report and William Ktsanes said it should be on the agenda and it got added for next time with the caveat that it could be moved to the following month if time does not allow for it. It must be on the agenda for any discussion to occur. Another member Farhad Farahmand said that he thought the most important item was a discussion of the role of FAB.

The next council meeting is Tuesday the 16th. The 5-year forecast will be on the agenda as yet another study session. Which means lots of talk no action. It will be interesting to hear the council’s thoughts about those 3 million in structural cuts. I hope they direct the City Manager to come back with a menu of options to make those. But that level of cuts will be painful. At the same time if we get federal bailout money we have to make sure that the priority is the reserve and if for some reason the money has to be spent we use it for one-time capital expenditures. We cannot use it to fill this hole and then have the hole open up again next year.

2 thoughts on “FAB Meeting March 9, 2021

  1. Exactly, questioning the existing power brokers at City Hall in El Cerrito will get those who desire transparency and accountability nowhere. To expect anything different from their appointed/approved surrogates is sadly unrealistic.. It is a classic run- around.

    “Both the Chair Dick Patterson and the Finance Director were pretty clear that the purpose of the FAB is to rubber-stamp what comes from staff. FAB Member William Ktsanes has been requesting additional information from the Finance Director and not getting the level of information he wished for. The Finance Director said that the staff did not have the time to prepare them and the Chair Dick Patterson said that many on the board did not have time to dig in deeper. It was very disappointing.

    When I asked a question on the documents being presented I was told that questions were not appropriate for this forum. This was an issue that the Chair repeated several times during the meeting. I brought up the point that if questions were not answered by any other means such as email there is not an opportunity to ever get questions answered.”.

    Like

  2. Thank you so much for your report. Clearly the city staff has been hoping for stimulus money and now they are counting on it. If it comes, and it all goes to and stays in reserve, great, but as you say it may be required to be spent. And of course you could spend it and put other money in reserve. The buck passing is stunning. City Manager recommends to council, council rubber stamps, things go wrong and city manager says “but wait, council approved it so it’s their fault”, and then city manager gets a contract extension. FAB rubber stamps the city staff reports and the same happens when things go wrong “but our FAB approved the report”. It is just a circle without accountability. I am so supportive of Mr. Ktsanes for standing up and asking the hard questions in the face of intransigence by staff and the chairman.

    Liked by 1 person

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