Council discusses reopening chambers to the public

The council meeting on July 20 was short on business but big on council discussions of other matters.

In response to public comment from Mia Mendes, the council discussed amongst themselves options for reopening chambers to hold in-person meetings.

At previous meetings City manager Ken Irwin informed council members that a plan to open meetings up in a hybrid fashion was underway with a cautious expectation that chambers could be open sometime in July.

That seems less likely now as three weeks of July have passed and meetings are still only available virtually.

When asked by Mayor Dennis McCord when chambers would open to the public, Irwin explained that the hybrid format was still being tested.

Those who signed in for the council meeting on July 6 experienced the hybrid format that’s being tested first hand. During that meeting council member Al Parham was in chambers with Tom Houk and Peggy Houk to present a proclamation in honor of Maddy Houk. Simultaneously the other council members and city staff were present on the virtual Zoom platform as typical since chambers closed in March 2020.

Irwin further explained to those present that it had been difficult to schedule contractors to work on the necessary IT infrastructure to further streamline the hybrid format. Presumably because many of them are busy doing similar jobs across the state.

Council members Dominic Farinha, Shivaugn Alves, and Al Parham all expressed their desire to move forward with a plan to at least open chambers to council members who want to hold meetings in person.

Farinha and Parham shared that they are fully vaccinated and while there are still some concerns over rising case rates, due to the Delta variant, they would like chambers to open.

As this discussion was a non-agendized item McCord suggested the topic be added to a future agenda so that decisions could be made in an official capacity.

In consideration of statistics shared during the meeting that show Patterson residents being 70% fully vaccinated he also requested city staff draft a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom asking for support for their decision to reopen chambers and to potentially keep them open if a future shutdown were to occur.

As the Governor’s many pandemic executive orders come to an end, the city has until September 30 to return business as usual. Barring future emergency declarations, residents can expect council meetings to return to normal in the month of October as plans for earlier reopenings have yet to be confirmed.

Consent Calendar

All items presented on the consent calendar were approved unanimously.

A three percent COLA (cost of living adjustment) was approved for employees represented by Patterson Management and Mid-Management Employees Association, Patterson Fire Fighters Association IAFF Local 4577, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees as well as unrepresented employees effective January 1, 2021.

The adjustment, conditional on an increase in sales tax, was approved due to the previously accepted MOUs (memorandum of understanding) for the relevant groups. “A review of the official reports of the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) formerly known as State Board of Equalization as provided by the City’s sales tax consulting firm (the HdL Companies) showed an increase of 17% local sales tax revenue over year 2019. FY2021 Amended Budget and FY2022 Adopted Budget show a surplus net change in current year activity General Fund in the amount of $391,396 and $874,196, respectively,” states the staff report presented to the council.

Public Hearing

The second public hearing was held in regard to Ordinance 854 amending chapter 6.56 of the Cannabis Business Pilot Program.

The staff report presented at the July 6 meeting reads, “Under the proposed ordinance the Municipal Code will still require new cannabis businesses to operate with a development agreement. However, each cannabis business will be required to pay a minimum Public Benefit amount or pay a cannabis business tax, whichever amount is higher. Additionally, the City will negotiate new development agreements with current cannabis operators to incorporate the tax.”

McCord reiterated that the new taxes will be comparable with area communities in response to Mia Mendes’ request that the city “err on the side of caution,” in regard to the tax increase.

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