Tuesday night saw the Placerville City Council closing out a year that included a lawsuit over the roundabout, a referendum that shut down redevelopment, the removal of a mayor indicted by the Grand Jury and Neighborhood Chats.
Tuesday’s meeting was a “goodwill to all, peace on earth” type of City Council meeting as 22 city employees were honored for 10 or more years of service with cake and gift certificates. Councilman Mark Acuna, mayor pro tem after the removal of Councilman David Machado as mayor, was selected lacerville mayor for 2012 and Councilwoman Wendy Mattson was voted in as vice mayor. It was a welcome change after the adversarial meetings that were common earlier in the year.
The year 2011 was, as Councilwoman Mattson put it at one of the recently instituted Neighborhood Chats, “a rough year,” in which council members and the public often found themselves on opposite sides.
For fully half of the year, City Council was involved in approving a five-year Redevelopment Plan for Placerville, only to meet with stringent opposition from some of the public, culminating in a petition with 1,087 signatures and a referendum against it. With the additional limitations placed on Redevelopment Agencies by Gov. Brown and the state Legislature, redevelopment in Placerville may soon die altogether or be resurrected on the November ballot.
While the council established a Measure H Transactions and Use Committee and applied Measure H funds to offset ratepayers’ bimonthly sewer charges, produced a balanced budget, completed the Point View Extension Project, creating an additional, and safer, route for Apple Hill visitors to get in and out of Apple Hill, updated city building codes and granted an appeal against a cell phone tower being erected on Placerville Union School District property, the city was also a litigant in a lawsuit to prevent the proposed roundabout at the intersection of Cedar Ravine, Main Street and Clay Street.
They mourned the death of former fire chief Albert Herzig and Schnell School principal Sam LaCara and honored retirees Kathryn Matthews as director of the El Dorado County Transportation Commission, Jack Winkler from the Placerville Parks and Recreation Commission and Carol Anne Ogdin from the Placerville Planning Commission.
The council banned the establishment and operation of medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits, reversing a 2006 decision; filed an application with Local Agency Formation Commission to pursue city-wide island annexations; reestablished the Historic Advisory Committee, pursued the removal of a number of abandoned signs as public nuisances and completed the Morrene Drive-Hocking Street Asphalt overlay project as well as several pavement repair projects. The long-awaited George S. Duffy Park became a completed reality ready for dedication in 2012.
In August, the City Council removed David Machado as mayor and requested him to take a leave of absence, which he has not done. Machado was arrested in August on suspicion of perjury and conspiracy to commit a crime and later arraigned on four felony counts and one misdemeanor charge.
The historical buildings at 301 and 305 Main Street and the Hangman’s Dummy were a continuing bone of contention as the Dummy and a new Hangman’s Tree sign reappeared. The city took court action to place the buildings in receivership, but said they are working with a group of citizens to improve them.
In an effort to put some distance between the contentiousness of the year and to re-establish common ground and clear communication, the council held two Neighborhood Chats in November — informal discussions between council members and the public. These were well attended and the results are being compiled to be released in January.
“I have great hope for the city,” said Vice Mayor Mattson. “All of us on the council have learned a lot this year. Even when we (and the public) are in disagreement, there is merit in the discussion. We’re going to take the lessons from this year and move forward to do things better and we’re hoping the community stays involved and helps us do that.”
“It’s been an extremely challenging year,” said Mayor Mark Acuna, “We were using bimonthly meetings and our Website to communicate with the public who was communicating weekly at the Farmer’s Market or daily on Facebook.”
He noted the changing face of American politics due to social media and vows to help improve city communication through its use.
“We’ve made good steps with better communication with the Neighborhood Chats and got a lot of information from diverse groups that we can use for direction. We want to continue the chats in 2012 in a variety of settings in order to have open and respectful communication.”
Councilwoman Patty Borelli described this year as “extremely challenging” as well.”It was disappointing at times. The economic times took a lot of things out of our hands, but I have to praise the people of Placerville for passing Measure H in this economy. To vote for a sales tax increase to benefit the whole city is unheard of.”
“We have a wonderful city staff and we’ve done a good job in keeping our heads above water,” said Borelli. “Let’s keep the momentum of the chats going and get the word out to more of the people. The more that people are involved, the more I see glimmers of hope that we can work together for the good of the city.”