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The Fix Was Inn…but it Didn’t Cut the Mustard

By   /   February 12, 2014  /   5 Comments

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Twentynine Palms, Cal.- The Twentynine Palms City Council met in regular session last evening to discuss a full agenda after calling the meeting to order and listening to a beautiful piece of classical music I have not heard in a long time.

The Twentynine Palms Council decided to allow and respect each citizen’s right to give an invocation, chant or hum.  This evening, Almut Fleck played 3 minutes of classical music to bring peace and calm to those in attendance.

I spoke on behalf of a 29Palms property owner regarding agenda item #14, to consider purchasing 70 acres from the Huell Howser Estate for a park to “honor Huell Houser” at a cost of $354,000.  This agenda item which was listed under the heading “Discussion and Potential Action Items” and on the following “Closed Session” to discuss terms, price and conditions authorizing the manager to negotiate the purchase of that property.

It appeared the “Fix was Inn,” especially after reviewing the email sent out by Staff member Randy Councell to certain citizens urging them to support this purchase.  See previous post with documents>LINK

During the Staff report by Randy Councell, he said two weeks ago he was contacted by a real estate company handling the estate of Huell Houser to sell 70 acres and a home situated in Twentynine Palms and wanted to know if the City was interested.  Councell said he brought the idea forth to Mayor Danny Mintz and City Manager, Joe Guzzetta.  He then said, “We came up with the cost of $354,000.” (The Staff report said the property was listed at $354,000.) Mintz jumped in to say that the Council could not discuss the price and had to wait until they met in closed session.  Randy spent a long time speaking on the virtues of buying such a large property, the right of way, it meets the Parks Master plan, a once in a lifetime to control large acreage and engineering saw value to develop catch basins to mitigate flood control issues, etc, etc, etc. Randy even proposed the name “California Gold Park” because Huell Howser would not allow his name to be used for this project being proposed for purchase “to honor Huell Howser.”

Councilman Joel Klink announced his property was 500 feet from this parcel and provided a map to verify he had no conflict of interest.  If an elected official owns property within 300 feet of a project or property, he or she must disclose that information, recuse themselves and leave the room during any discussions or voting. I personally was glad to see Klink proactive to clear the air that he had no conflict of interest and could participate in the discussions and closed session. Alas, the Closed Session was cancelled due to the consensus of the Council to pass on this property despite the anticipated rubber stamp approval that did not happen.

I raised many questions regarding the lack of information on the property listed in the Staff report that did not fully disclose the surrounding area,  current zoning, flood plain disposition or if there was a well on the property. I proposed that this acreage could be developed as a large scale housing complex bringing roof tops and property tax revenues to the city versus a city park with water and maintenance costs.

Finally I stated, “I am in possession of an email sent out on this agenda item.  I would like to know who authorized Staff (Randy Councell) to send out an email using the city’s computer and city’s email address to promote this purchase?” Only two councilmen appeared surprised to hear this revelation. >Councell Email – Copy

Tamara Alaniz, General Manager of the 29Palms Water Department, emailed her concerns regarding large water usage for additional turf which was read into the record.  Realtor Larry Briggs, Sr. spoke at the lectern against purchasing this property giving the councilmen the run down as per his detailed analysis.  Paul Smith from the Twentynine Palms Inn said, “Well, here I am to give you a shout-out! Go for it!”

Councilman Jay Corbin was the first one to come down against this purchase for many reasons. No, no, no! “I’m against land banking!” Corbin said he reviewed the Parks Master Plan and this property did not fit in.  He also added the city already owns the right-of-way through this property. Councilman Joel Klink said no, especially if this was going to be designated for a dog park and the money could be better spent on a homeless shelter. Someone brought up the fact the council recently passed on purchasing 50 acres in a better part of the town for 1/3 the price!

Mayor Mintz still called for the motion…there was none.  He then moved to remove the Closed Session scheduled at the end of the meeting to discuss negotiating the property.

End of this story….

 

 

 

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About the author

Margo Sturges

Yucca Valley Editor

Note: Margo Sturges has written many articles for Cactus Thorns and is the founder of Citizens4Change.info. Email contact: MargoSturgesYV(at)aol.com "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."- George Orwell

5 Comments

  1. Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

    Thanks for the report Margo.

    What is truly amazing is that city staff does not seem to understand the concept of "perceptions".

    This is not the first item of business that the city has attempted to do that really has no bad or good side to it.

    I can understand how city staff thought this might be worth bringing to the council given the fact that the city was contacted two weeks ago about purchasing the property. Now, even though the city staff was told by the council on December 10, 2013 that no new land would be purchased for this proposed "dog park" this was different. It was not only a "dog park" it could have been more if the council agreed to proceed.

    So where is the perception problem? It is in the Randy Councell email to a select few citizens. To some, sending that email, appears to be an attempt to "strong arm" the council.

    I am sure that staff will say that "strong arming" the council was never Randy Councell's goal. But..... it is a matter of perception and more than a few had that perception.

    City staff must learn that they are being closely watched due to the Project Phoenix Bond disagreement. They need to be extra careful to be overly transparent and email by city staff to select individuals and an inaccurate staff report about this purchase does not help the city one iota.

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    • Either the city manager was involved in the email, or he was not. If he was not, he needs to educate his staff not to work around him. If he was -- and how could he not know about the email -- then he was working around the city council.

      Perceptions are a funny thing. Perceptions are build on perceptions. When two council members duck out on an ethics seminar and a seminar on building the public's trust, during a junket paid for by taxpayers, that too is a perception.

      There is a long list of perceptions concerning this remote little city, it is about power and backroom deals and holding on to power, influence and money.

      At least the city council saw this one as one to avoid. It would have put all of them in a bad light. Can the light get any worse? Yes it can.

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      • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

        When you boys going to learn, the cronyism, the looting of taxpayer dollars keeps happening and you boys don’t understand it is better to lock the door (in this case locking the door is firing our waste of a city) than catch a crook. It is the only way for a small town to stop the madness

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  2. Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

    I was just informed that this very property that was not purchased last night was a contender for purchase on December 10, 2013.

    I will check that out.

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  3. Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

    Huell Howser's property is confirmed as a possibility via the staff report of December 10, 2013. New story to be posted about this as soon as I write it.

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