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Moraga Council Evaluates RECON, Looks to the Town's Financial Future

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									6/11/12               Moraga Council Evaluates RECON, Looks to the Town's Financial Future ‑ Lamorinda, CA Patch




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      Government, Business

      Moraga Council Evaluates RECON, Looks to the
      Town's Financial Future
      A report on Moraga's fiscal state - and ways to improve it - was the subject of an into-the-wee-
      hours meeting by the Moraga Town Council.
      By Florence Laumanamea Brown Email the author July 29, 2010


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                                                           This was an important meeting, despite the relatively light turnout by residents. What do you think of
                                                           RECON? Is the town heading in the right direction? Tell us in the comments.




      A report presented at the Moraga Town Council meeting on Wednesday has council members and citizens talking about ways to better their
      community.

      The Revenue Enhancement Community Outreach to Neighborhoods (RECON) Committee Report was based on an analysis of responses culled from
      focus groups and online surveys. The findings addressed resident's perceptions about Moraga's financial state as it relates to business development
      and Saint Mary's College.

      Moraga resident Dick Olsen and St. Mary's professor Dr. Larry Bienati presented the report, which described the process, methodology, and findings
      of the outreach effort. The purpose of the study was not to advocate or educate, but to simply observe how Moragans perceive their town and its
      needs.

      Over 600 respondents weighed in and produced several thematic concepts, transcribed and translated by the RECON team. A few key ideas are
      summarized below, with some concepts combined into one for the sake of brevity.

      Development of retail centers

      One particular problem appeared on survey responses in a variety of ways, all leading back to the same premise: Moraga business development is
      lacking. The themes interpreted by Dr. Bienati were, "lack of retail shops, dining and entertainment," "poor condition of Rheem Shopping Center and
      high vacancy rate" and "blight in Moraga center."

      Suggestions for change included revitalizing the town's shopping centers, advocating for an affordable small business environment and tapping into
      the St. Mary's College populace for input, a topic that became a theme unto itself.

      Moraga's relationship with Saint Mary's College

      Citizens and council members agreed that the town could benefit from increased inclusion of SMC stakeholders in the planning process. During
      public comment, several residents suggested that the college should have a liaison at town council meetings, such as the college president. The
      representative would advocate on behalf of the students and faculty of the college.

      Moraga Chamber of Commerce President Edy Schwartz commented that the town should communicate with students to determine how they utilize
      local businesses. A common complaint from students is that there are no entertainment options in town, so they often take their business to Walnut

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6/11/12                 Moraga Council Evaluates RECON, Looks to the Town's Financial Future ‑ Lamorinda, CA Patch
      Creek and Lafayette. Survey respondents and council members hope to bring some of their patronage back to Moraga.

      Knowledge of the town's financial condition

      Respondents in both the focus group and online survey admitted that they were not well informed about the financial status of the town. While no
      particular blame was placed on the town council, council members brainstormed ways that they might better reach out to the public.

      One insight that council members found interesting was the infrequent but ill-informed respondent suggestion that Moraga is spending too much
      money. Councilman Mike Metcalf admonished the response, reminding meeting attendees that Moraga is the lowest spending town per capita in
      Contra Costa County.

      Communication with citizens

      In addition to newsletters, local media and the town website, citizens expressed that they need alternative sources of information. Moraga Citizens
      Network President Ellen Beans suggested face-to-face personal relationships with store owners and residents as a way of sharing important town
      news.

      Several council members brought up the idea of a marketing plan centered around a small brochure or information packet containing easily digestible
      content like pie charts and summaries. This abbreviated version of the town financial report would target busy residents who might not have time to
      read the full version.

      Response to survey findings

      Council response to the RECON presentation was immediate. An Economic Development Director position was established, creating a volunteer job
      to report directly to Town Manager Mike Segrest. The position is meant to help address the issues brought up by survey respondents, from courting
      new businesses to fill retail centers to creating status reports for presentations at town meetings. In response to calls for increased coordination with
      Saint Mary's, the director will also act as a liaison to the college on behalf of the town.

      The hope is that the new Economic Development Director will maintain the momentum gained by the RECON report by addressing the specific
      concerns laid out by citizens. The ideal candidate will have experience and education in implementing effective economic management strategies.
      Report presenter Dick Olsen is hopeful about the council's steps to respond to his findings.

      "Now that you have your finger on the pulse of the community, keep it there," Olsen advised.


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          Dan Perkins                                                                                                                    Flag as inappropriate
          11:35 am on Thursday, July 29, 2010
          Sounds like the survey of residents dovetails with the findings of the report the Revenue Enhancement Committee produced. I like the idea of an
          Economic Development Director and hope he/she is able to push things forward with regards our downtown.

                                                                                                                                                       Reply



          Mike                                                                                                                           Flag as inappropriate
          3:00 pm on Thursday, July 29, 2010
          I finally went to the Town's website and read the FY 2010/11 Budget
          (http://moraga.ca.us/documents/Administration/1010%20Budget/Budget%20FY%2010-11(1).pdf). It was easy to find and very informative.

          I have long wondered about the various sources of revenue. As expected, Property Tax accounts for nearly 50% of overall revenues and this
          figure has remained surprisingly flat for a few years. This year FY Property Tax is projected to generate just over $3M and represent 47% of
          revenues. Sales Tax is expected to be about $850K, 13% of revenue. Sales Tax has been trending down since 2006/07 when it was almost
          $1.2M, but is projected to exceed 2009/10.

          Since assessed property values drive property taxes, most times you see a 'For Sale' sign in you neighborhood it will mean an increase in Town
          revenues down the road. That increase is multiplied significantly whenever a 'new' home is sold (are there any of those out there?) and, to a
          somewhat lesser degree when long-held homes are sold (because their assessed values are typically much lower).

          I personally hope that we are able to develop the town in a way that allows us to sell new commercial and (a limited number of) residential
          properties while upgrading our shopping centers such that they attract the quality businesses that make it easier for us to spend more of our retail,
          dining and entertainment dollars in Town.


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6/11/12                 Moraga Council Evaluates RECON, Looks to the Town's Financial Future ‑ Lamorinda, CA Patch

                                                                                                                                                      Reply



                  Zoe Claire                                                                                                            Flag as inappropriate
                  3:29 pm on Thursday, July 29, 2010
                  OK, call me a cynic. "Your a cynic." Thank you. But in reading this I wondered if anyone was struck by the fact that a core member of the
          St. Mary's College faculty would assist in?? or solely generate?? a report advising increased business contact between the town and college?

          I admit I came up through the Nixon years and I'm paranoid and jaded, but this stood out as a potential conflict of interest despite the "pro bono"
          spin. Anyone else share my paranoia, or should I just book another room at the Watergate and lock myself in for a marathon speed-reading of "All
          the President's Men?"

                                                                                                                                                      Reply




                  Mike Metcalf                                                                                                          Flag as inappropriate
                  10:02 pm on Thursday, July 29, 2010
                  Zoe:--Dr Bienati was on the faculty of St Mary's College for over 12 years. He has not been for several years now. What you might not
                  realize is that he was a long-time friend and colleague at the Kleinfelder Group of the late Mike Majchrzak, Moraga council member for 12
                  years and three-time mayor. Larry did this work for the Town for two reasons: (1) he actually cares about the Town and (2) he wanted to
                  do something for the Town in Mike's memory. Please don't plaster his noble intentions with your unkind views. He doesn't deserve that
                  kind of treatment.



          Dennis Wanken                                                                                                                 Flag as inappropriate
          5:22 pm on Thursday, July 29, 2010
          Seeing that this Economic Development "czar" is a volunteer, maybe we can apply that same volunteer spirit philosophy to the ballooning
          expenditures amongst town staff positions. I can still puzzled as to why the Town Council created a "Revenue Enhancement Committee" when it
          should review the expenditure side of the balance sheet. Or am I asking a redundant question ?

                                                                                                                                                      Reply




                  Mike Metcalf                                                                                                          Flag as inappropriate
                  10:10 pm on Thursday, July 29, 2010
                  Dennis:--I've been reading your comments over time about the Revenue Enhancement Committee and I had come to realize that you
                  might not have read the document. Your comment just submitted convinces me you haven't read absorbed the messages of Chapter 1 of
                  that report. Thereion is a concise discussion of the Town's expenditure profile via-a-via other cities in Contra Costa and elsewhere in the
                  Bay Area. The data doesn't lie. The Revenue Enhancement Committee drew their conclusions based on that data (which checks out
                  against prior year Town audited expenditures). Please read it -- and the enitre document -- to learn what the REC actually did and
                  concluded. Incidentally, I don't recall seeing you at any of the public meetings of the REC over the 5-month period over which it operated
                  in 2009. Nor do I recall any written communications from you to the committee during that time.



          Dan Perkins                                                                                                                   Flag as inappropriate
          5:56 pm on Thursday, July 29, 2010
          Zoe, there is no conflict of interest because the goals are in lock step. The college makes money from the students so the more they can attract
          by being able to tout how great Moraga is the better. They make more money, we make more money. I just don't see how increasing ties and
          catering to our large college community isn't a win win.

          Dennis what's with the "czar" moniker? Also if you've read the report you'll see that Moraga simply doesn't spend that much. At the end of the
          day cuts aren't scalable, revenue generation is and that's where we should be focusing our attentions.

                                                                                                                                                      Reply




                  Mike                                                                                                                  Flag as inappropriate
                  6:19 pm on Thursday, July 29, 2010
                  Expenditures have been static for the past four years. Unless Dennis is comparing against numbers prior to 2006, his warning about
                  'balooning expenditures amongst town staff positions' is a false alarm.



                         J.D. O'Connor                                                                                                  Flag as inappropriate
                         8:24 am on Friday, July 30, 2010
                  "Mike's" all over the forums this morning! Nice to hear from Mr. Metcalf.
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6/11/12                 Moraga Council Evaluates RECON, Looks to the Town's Financial Future ‑ Lamorinda, CA Patch

                                                                                                                                                          Reply



                   Zoe Claire                                                                                                              Flag as inappropriate
                   8:36 am on Friday, July 30, 2010
                   Mister Metcalf: I mean no disrespect, I merely call to the reader's attention a point that struck me and which has proven troublesome to
          others who entered business or politics based on, I'll say it, "the old school tie." There is no way for me to know who all of Mr/Dr. Bienati's friends
          are or have been over time but the point remains that a report proposing establishment of a business arrangement between two bodies could
          come into question if the person generating that report is found to have had ties to one or both parties. Pretty standard principle. I'm sure it is as
          you say (I'm not really, how could I be?) but you seem to know the behind the scenes details and I'm sure everyone is acting in an above board
          fashion. Just making a point it is my right to make.

                                                                                                                                                          Reply




                   Dan Perkins                                                                                                             Flag as inappropriate
                   8:58 am on Friday, July 30, 2010
                   So you don't think that Moraga should develop closer ties with St Marys - you honestly feel as though there is a conflict of interest here?



                   Zoe Claire                                                                                                              Flag as inappropriate
                   9:07 am on Friday, July 30, 2010
                 Good morning, dp. My point, again, is that ANY relationship where money is involved should be handled with discretion and disclosure lest
          the manner in which the relationship be formed come into question later.

          I'm not sure what "closer ties" will mean? Are you? Again, call me paranoid... but I would hope the parties working to build these relationships and
          ties be known from the start. That's all.

                                                                                                                                                          Reply




                   Dan Perkins                                                                                                             Flag as inappropriate
                   9:50 am on Friday, July 30, 2010
                   Yes I do know what closer ties means - it means finding ways that the town can cater to the students in such a way that the students are
                   happy and Moraga makes money. It's that simple.



                   Nicholas                                                                                                                Flag as inappropriate
                   10:08 am on Friday, July 30, 2010
                   All I want is a sports bar, three big screen tvs and a selection of fine ales. Is that asking for much???

                                                                                                                                                          Reply




                   Dan Perkins                                                                                                             Flag as inappropriate
                   5:03 pm on Saturday, July 31, 2010
                   :)



          Dennis Wanken                                                                                                                    Flag as inappropriate
          8:20 pm on Friday, July 30, 2010
          Dear Mr. Metcalf -

          If you'll recall I aired my comments in public session in February 2009 regarding the lack of vetting of the current town manager selection. During
          the Fall 2008 council campaign (which you also participated in) there was no discussion of the candidates for the town manager. Or, at least, no
          discussions in which I participated or was invited to regarding any candidates.

          For your information, I DID read the report from the Revenue Enhancement Committee and their recommendations. I would suggest you contact
          me directly before you issue your opinions on actions of others. As far as attending meetings of the REC are concerned, I have tried to volunteer
          on committees and serve Moraga. Repeatedly I was told by current and past members of the Moraga Town Council that my services would not
          be accepted in any way shape or form.

          Let me pay you the compliment of being blunt. If you'll don't agree with the position of the current consensus of the MTC on practically any public
          policy issue you stand to incur the wrath of an MTC spokesperson such as yourself. The result is villification, ridicule, and isolation.

          Back to the REC recommendations, can you explain to me how enacting a business license tax in Moraga will help stimulate business ? Further,
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6/11/12                 Moraga Council Evaluates RECON, Looks to the Town's Financial Future ‑ Lamorinda, CA Patch
          how will a utility users tax help folks on fixed incomes ? Finally, how will an increase in the real estate transfer tax create an environment for
          families to move to Moraga and raise a family ?

                                                                                                                                                           Reply



          Danielle                                                                                                                          Flag as inappropriate
          11:03 pm on Friday, July 30, 2010
          I have to say it sounds as if the deal has already been struck, the town is going to do this and the college is on board. "Lockstep" sounds sort of -
          scary. Leaving no room for discussion doesn't seem like a very good idea to me, and while I wish the college and its kids well, I'm not sure
          "catering" to them is every resident's desire.

                                                                                                                                                           Reply




                   Dan Perkins                                                                                                              Flag as inappropriate
                   11:18 am on Saturday, July 31, 2010
                   I suppose it would be better to ignore a great source of potential revenue. I mean what is there to discuss? The report from the committee
                   said this could provide more revenue and the online survey and focus groups backed up that assumption - no discussion indeed.



          Bob and Ann                                                                                                                       Flag as inappropriate
          8:49 am on Saturday, July 31, 2010
          Since they woke us up drinking and yeowling on the baseball field this morning at 3 a.m. the only thing I'd like to see them get catered is a
          baloney sandwich in the county jail! Don't they have security over there? Do your dang jobs!!! You could hear those kids for a hundred yards.

                                                                                                                                                           Reply




                   Dan Perkins                                                                                                              Flag as inappropriate
                   11:19 am on Saturday, July 31, 2010
                   Did you wave you cane at them?



          Bob and Ann                                                                                                                       Flag as inappropriate
          12:23 pm on Saturday, July 31, 2010
          No, I gave them YOUR address.

                                                                                                                                                           Reply




                   Dan Perkins                                                                                                              Flag as inappropriate
                   5:02 pm on Saturday, July 31, 2010
                   woo hoo! party time!



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6/11/12                Moraga Council Evaluates RECON, Looks to the Town's Financial Future ‑ Lamorinda, CA Patch




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