BLYTHE, Calif – To the obvious discomfiture of the City Manager, Chief of Police, Public Works Administrator and others residing in the upper echelons of City Hall, newly sworn in City Councilman Mike Evans made clear his views, thoughts and feelings regarding the inner workings of this house over the past four years. In a two-page statement made during the Oral Reports
section of the Council meeting, Mr. Evans made clear his following perceptions:
I want to first thank the voters of Blythe for having confidence in me and electing me to serve on their city council.
In the five months since I made the decision to run for city council, I have met and talked with hundreds of different people. While the opinions they hold as to solutions needed to fix our town’s problems are diverse, the one common thread of discussion all seem to agree on is that we can no longer make excuses as to how our city has been managed for the last four years.
Everyone I talked to agrees that we can no longer afford to pay outrageous salaries to city management, which leaves us with no money whatsoever to do even the basic maintenance to our parks, our streets and sidewalks, our city property and city vehicles. This was the message I put out throughout my campaign and this, I believe, is the reason you voted me into office. With a mandate from the voters to change the direction City Hall has been
headed, I will work with the other council members to return our town to local control at a cost far less than what we are paying now.
Our options of raising revenue are non-existent without putting more of a burden on city taxpayers. Therefore, I would like to ask all city management that includes the city manager, all department heads and assistant department heads, to take a 25 percent pay/benefit cut. This would give the city more than $600,000 of added revenue. I would also like for the council to take a look at job descriptions and salaries of all city management and come
up with a new pay scale for future hires that would be dependent, not on what other cities pay, but rather what we have in the budget. This has the potential to save the city thousands more and stabilizes the city’s financial position.
With a small part of that savings I would like to see the Blythe Chamber of Commerce funded once again. We are never going to go anywhere as a community when we handcuff the one source in town that is doing all it can to grow the business community and improve the image of our town. I want to see the $35,000 annual subsidy returned to the Chamber.
Next I want the $500,000 that was earmarked for local road improvements but diverted to a study on closing the Riviera Drive off-ramp, put on the next council agenda so that we can take a better look at where that money would benefit Blythe residents most.
I would ask that the council review all permit fees and charges, including water, so that we can determine which, if any of these fees, is a hindrance to growth in the local business community. I’ve heard stories of retail property rentals that go for $350 a month and yet the business owner must pay an outrageous amount of money almost equal to the rent to the city for water, despite the fact that the only water usage is a toilet being flushed a
few times a day. I also want to look at our policy for conditional use permits and determine if we are not chasing business from our community because of these high fees.
I have spoken to numerous police officers in the city and there is a huge divide within the department with the Chief, Lieutenant and a Sergeant on one side, and the majority of the force on the other. This has resulted in a dysfunctional department filled with officers who feel threatened and intimidated by a bullying Chief causing morale to plummet among the rank and file. This situation needs to be rectified immediately as the safety of
Blythe residents is being compromised. I strongly suggest that Chief Smith find a new strategy to command his troops other than through fear before we find ourselves in a serious lawsuit.
The Public Works department is in disarray as well, with a director who resides at City Hall while the rest of the department is located a mile away on S. Main Street. I hear complaints daily about the park facilities being in disrepair and foul odors permeating our city but all anyone gets from Public Works is excuses. I want to know why are city employees that don’t work in Public Works, using Public Works vehicles to run errands and do
shopping. This department continues to grow more dysfunctional by the day and I strongly advise there be a change in attitude toward the public whom you serve.
On a similar note, I want to know why are city department heads at the gym for hours every day during working hours and why are they using the police department showers after their workout while we’re charging local businesses a fortune to flush a toilet?
The finance department has a director and a deputy director with a combined salary/benefit package of over $260,000. City Manager Dave Lane, a budget expert, has a salary/benefits package in the range of $241,000. That’s half a million dollars we’re paying for the expertise of three people in putting together a budget. But when one of them went out on an emergency earlier this year, the whole process fell apart and the budget was delayed past
its due date. This is totally unacceptable and a case for the city taxpayers not getting their money’s worth.
These are the issues I hope to put the majority of my effort into rectifying. If I may reiterate, these are the issues my constituency elected me to address. I ask that the rest of the council join me in making any changes necessary so that we can provide a better quality of life for city residents and not just for city management as has been the past practice.
Discussion regarding scheduling both a study session upon Mr. Evan’s request regarding the $500,000 earmarked for the Riviera Drive project and a Brown Act informational meeting ensued. City Manager Lane was adamant that the Brown Act session be held as soon as possible for the benefit of the new members. Mr. Evans was adamant that a public study session on the Riviera project be held first. City Attorney Bettenhausen waffled on the issue and stated that
the decision rested in the hands of the council. A compromise of sorts was reached and a Brown Act workshop will be held in the afternoon on January 9th and a Study Session on the Riviera Off-Ramp will be held at 4:00, two hours prior to the regular City Council Meeting on the 10th.