VISTA — Residents spoke out about their desires for the city to reallocate funds to address issues with the homeless and improving opportunities for people of color during the City Council’s June 23 meeting.
Several lobbied for the hiring of more homeless service providers and addiction recovery specialists as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for equality. Calls for defunding the police were targeted at better management of the budget and funds for other areas of concerns, and some on the council reassured residents that they’re taking all concerns seriously.
“The tone and insinuation that we don’t care is wrong,” Councilman John Franklin said. “From whatever background we come from, all of us in public service want to improve things. We are trying to protect all people’s rights … and that some people don’t feel safe hurts us.”
Franklin said he wants to start the dialogue and that everyone deserves to be safe, but he said defunding or de-policing will hurt those who are already the most vulnerable.
Councilwoman Corrina Contreras said the public has made a request of holding the council accountable for a better vision for the city. The goal to hire more deputies, she said, costs about $277,000 and she asked why the cost will be higher and why the city increased its contract with the Sheriff’s Department by $5 million.
“We could get in a pretty dire financial situation where we are hiring more deputies,” she said. “When my co-workers are getting laid off at the city, this is not a good goal. To have a goal that says hire more deputies, I just don’t think it’s a good goal.”
As for the goals, Kevin Ham, director of economic development, updated the council on the progress of its six top priorities. Those include fiscal responsibility, improving traffic and roads, enhancing the city’s image, continuing economic development, public safety and parks and recreation.
Not all of the goals are funded, which happens separately during the city’s budget process, which is done every two years. Ham said the fiscal responsibility goal centers on the council incrementally increasing its emergency reserves until it reaches the 35% goal.
Traffic is always a big issue and Ham said the goal includes traffic signal upgrades for better timing schemes and efficiency north of State Route 78. He said the city is ready to bid the project and is estimated to be completed by 2020.
As for the image of the city, homelessness, like much of the county, is an issue. Ham said the city is releasing a request for proposal for a contract with a social worker to provide homelessness prevention services as part of a pilot program.
Also, the city is negotiating terms for an agreement with a part-time Home Share coordinator who matches individuals for low-cost housing with homeowners with available space, Ham said.
Public safety concerns focus on exclusive pedestrian phases at high accident intersections, notably North Santa Fe and California avenues. The project is expected to be completed later this year.
Additionally, the city is currently working with Caltrans on a street plan for Townsite with improvements for pedestrians, bicyclists and traffic calming measures, Ham added.
For the parks, Bub Williamson Park will undergo improvements as construction is expected to begin in August and be completed in fall 2021. Final designs for Pala Vista Park improvements will come before the council in the next several weeks.
As for the COVID-19 pandemic, staff is tracking expenses and hours related to the pandemic for possible grants or reimbursements from the state or federal governments, Ham said.