Business community must remain involved in city decision making
As I near my final Redlands City Council meeting on Dec. 4, I am frequently asked what advice I have for others based on my five years of City Council experience.
My advice is simple: Be involved — for your own welfare and for the welfare of Our Town.
A majority of the items before the City Council involve business. Some are specific to a single business such as rezoning of property or award of a contract, but many affect the entire business community and, of course, our entire city community.
Just consider a few of the far-reaching measures approved by the council over the past couple years:
Community Sustainability Plan. This plan first introduced by the Climate Action Task Force but extensively modified by city staff and City Council members calls for an extensive menu of green measures to limit our energy consumption and reduce our carbon impact. Many of the measures have substantial impact on the business community — some reasonable and some unreasonable.
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). This plan to reduce pollutants from our wastewater and stormwater drainage systems was authorized by the federal Clean Water Act of 1972, but only in the past couple years has the City of Redlands started charging nearly every business in town an NPDES fee along with their city business license no matter how unlikely it is that a business will discharge any pollutant. Even a one-room office is charged.
Increased city fees and service charges. In November, the City Council approved substantial increases in nearly all city fees and service charges based on what a hired consultant said was the city’s cost of providing various special services. Affected were special charges ranging from dog license fees to building permit fees. I thought the fee increases were too high, many of them borne by businesses.
Increase in overtime parking fines. At the last council meeting in November, a broad range of parking fines were increased, including hiking the fine for overtime parking from $35 to $55, the highest of cities surveyed in the area. Will the chance of getting a $55 overtime parking ticket discourage your customers from shopping in your area?
These are just a few examples of the many items the City Council considers that the business community should follow closely. There are many others.
Often the paths to council decisions are complex, and decisions are difficult. I voted for some of the measures described in this column and against others. But in each case the business community had a big stake.
Fortunately, our Chamber of Commerce’s Government Review Committee under the leadership of Geoff Bonney has been active in presenting the chamber’s viewpoint on some of these issues.
But more is needed. The business community needs to support the Chamber with individual phone calls, emails and letters. Be involved. Be reasonable but present your case persuasively. The council members do listen.