Pint Arena’s New City Manager
by Debra Keipp, December 30, 2014
Last week I visited Point Arena City Hall because the new City Manager and secretary weren’t answering their phones. I asked for a few chapters out of the City’s Muni-Code, and had a few more questions about the City’s dormant (what used to be called) Low-Income Housing Build-out Component. (It appears most of the low-income component has been aborted and it is now dubbed Senior Housing with only a few low-income units in the plans.)
The new Point Arena City Manager job has been filled by Phil Vince, who accepted a job that years ago should have been upgraded for Fred Patten, our old City Clerk under Mayor Dahlhoff. Patten held the City together for about a quarter of a century working in the capacity of City Clerk under both Mayors Earlygrow and Dahlhoff. Patten babysat Dahlhoff through her myopic unsuccessful attempt to rend ownership of Point Arena Water Works from owner, Bill Hay, which ended in Dahlhoff charging homeowners and water users for the entirety of the lawyers’ fees generated by Dahlhoff for both sides in the case. (Dahlhoff’s lawyers fees which water users are still paying as part of their water bills.) Dahlhoff proved too skimpy with her old friend to offer Patten the job re-classification and pay raise befitting his most excellent skills; holding together, as it goes in a small constituency like Point Arena, two handfuls of inexperienced Council members and Planners. Eventually he left his job, ill and discouraged. Since then Point Arena City Hall has been flapping in the breeze. A good deal of cluelessness could be attributed to the years since Fred Patten’s resignation; leading up to recommendations made by the Mendocino County Grand Jury to hire an actual “City Manager” to guide City Council, instead of just another clerk.
New Point Arena City Manager, Phil Vince, most recently worked in Martinez and lived in Moraga, taking a year sabbatical before being hired recently to oversee Point Arena City Hall. While, according to election law, the City Council members must all live within the City limits to run for elected office, employee Vince, and one of the Planners, may live outside the City limits. There are no new places to live inside Point Arena’s City boundaries, as build-out has been discouraged here throughout all of the Earlygrow and Dahlhoff campaigns amounting to about the last 25 years. Point Arena suffers a surplus of vacant, unpermitted dwellings as a result. Dahlhoff only recently released her stranglehold on Point Arena’s no growth stance to bring Point Arena to the status of “Monument”, all of a sudden. Previous to that and presently, there remains no economic development plan within the City limits, even with promises of such after the dedication of the Coastal Monument. The population of Point Arena today remains at only around 500. It can’t grow much larger than that, for lack of legal living accommodations within the City of sensitive habitat located entirely within the California Coastal Zone.
Point Arena sits within one square mile, with only about 200-odd registered voters. The maximum for a good voter turn-out is around 80-88 votes. Votes rarely number more than 90.
In speaking with Mr. Vince in the cold concrete and cinder block building which is Point Arena City Hall, he sat in his office working in a substantial, thickly-lined yellow hooded rain slick and acknowledged, “There’s something not quite right about getting elected to public office with only 88 votes. It’s usually unheard of… But that’s the way it goes in a City the size of Point Arena.”
I asked Vince straight up, “What’s the tax revenue of the Koogles’ Huntley House, where our new Mayor lives illegally, which as potential tax revenue for the City, mostly sits empty of businesses these many years? And, why then can Mayor Koogle remain on Council when he doesn’t legally live within the City limits, having lied on his election application papers, even though somehow, he can afford to keep buying unlivable, unpermitted properties which sit completely or mostly vacant in need of permits and renovation within the City limits?”
Mr Vince: “We don’t even have enough officials for a Planning Commission. We have Council acting as Planners now…”
DKPA: “I know of the general lack of interest… You’re saying we should be admitting Council applicants in from outside the City limits to hold office in Point Arena. According to what law? (Senator Roderick Wright was convicted of voter fraud for lying about his true residency in voter registration papers.) What’s up with NO enforcement? Is it time for re-annexation so the City can legally draw applicants from outside the City limits?”
Vince looked nagged and incredulous as he said, “That’s a law that is frequently broken and no one bothers to go after the offenders most of the time…” Episodic enforcement interludes are what they’re called in Point Arena. (Mr. Vince is hog-tied anyway, until he passes his new employee probationary period.)
To which I responded with another satirical tact altogether. “Well, then, can you look at it this way? Why then didn’t the City advertise the one seat on Council to anyone outside the City limits who can grow their 700 lbs of pot, enabling them to afford not to hold down another source of employment while living within the City limits like the rest of us poor suckers without virtue of “economic development”. Then, with untaxed pot money generated outside the City limits, buy up three parcels of property – oddly all unlivable, unrentable and dilapidated buildings – but within the City limits nonetheless, most all of which generate little, if any tax revenue for the City of Point Arena? All without filing for ANY permits, let alone the proper California Coastal Commission development permits. Let’s open it up and make it available to every elected seat – not just the one guy who lied and got away with it. The City should be offering the position to more than just that one liar who shouldn’t even be voting in the City limits, – that’s voter fraud – who loop-holed it with his illegal living address on his election papers, which is still enforceable by law. But you tell me following the law is optional according to the City of Point Arena? City Hall gets to decide with impunity who gets to break the law? Does City Council draw straws, or decide by personal preference, overlooking their “friends” entirely in facilitating avoidance of all permitting processes. That lack of equality in enforcement just sends more complaints to Grand Jury… once again – to referee inadequacies by the City of Point Arena, who should simply follow the law instead of bending it to the breaking point only for “friends of City Hall”.”
We also touched briefly on nepotism by Council, Planners and employees of the City. Apparent in the nepotism of the City’s hired relatives, errr aaaa… employees, Jean Nadell, former County Counsel, now Judge, came to City Hall to educate Gualala’s GMAC members, Point Arena City Planners and Councilpersons, regarding conflict of interest, informing that they couldn’t be married or related, and sit on these boards or as employees, simultaneously. That’s when Mr. Dahlhoff, the former Mayor’s husband, negated and argued with Nadell, regardless of the law she quoted. See my point about Point Arena’s entitled conflicted political mindset?
“You want a letter from the City saying the current Mayor’s “true residence” is not even a legal live space? I have evidence of that on City letterhead provided by the fired City Clerk. Wanta see it?”
Koogles’ Huntley House is not a legal live space, according to the City of Point Arena. Never was. Koogle is guilty of fraud, therefore, as he rented it under that falsity, to at least two renters as a legal live-work space, before moving into the building himself. Can’t we legally open City Council seats in Point Arena to everyone, in or outside the City limits, since it already seems to be a kind of unspoken broken law, anyway? We might at least get a better chance at a qualified candidate interested in prioritizing more than just a skate park typically for, and narrowly used by one gender – adolescent males.”
I added that I didn’t want to overburden Mr. Vince with re-annexation in his new job, but that would be the most sensible for a voter constituency languishing at 88 votes, under annual scrutiny by the Mendocino County Grand Jury. Re-annexation could open up the already stifled boundaries of “Pint” Arena from Iversen to Mountain View and up to Ten Mile from the Ocean – or, follow the fog bank. That might at least give us a voter population of a few thousand… a much larger tax base, not to mention maybe some folks who’d like to run for office with some business acumen. Point Arena has at least a dozen vacated, deconstructed buildings and/or business spaces presently; both residential and commercial – most absolutely uninhabitable, earning no taxable income for the City of Point Arena, with nowhere for a new constituency to live in a city not requiring building permits and/or improvements, beginning with its Councilpersons.
I advised Mr. Vince to get the City Hall locks changed or re-keyed to eliminate the extra subterfuge, after already having had the City’s office records sacked for incineration since Fred Patten ran City Hall. Before searching for the Muni-Codes, I informed Mr. Vince that the office secretary, himself, and the emergency services director for the City (who it turns out, is also Mr. Vince), are suppose to be the only three designatees with keys to City Hall’s office. Not even the Mayor or Councilpersons are to have keys to City Hall. He blew it off telling me the locks had been changed by the previous interim City Manager, Tyson. I then asked Mr. Vince if I could buy a copy of Chapters 14 through 18 of the City’s Muni-Code.
We went into the inner office in search of the Muni-Code binder for chapters 14-18. We found that chapters 14 and 18 are missing. These are the specific chapters that relate to the other Grand Jury Complaint a few constituents are filing on one other of Point Arena’s City Council members who, for the last four-plus years, has been living without proper sewer, water, dwelling, or permits; in violation of Point Arena land use issues on sensitive habitat, which qualifies most of Point Arena within the City limits.
“Hmmmm…” I said, “Look there. The pertinent Muni-Codes: missing. I’ll be damned. …and just the very chapters pertaining to your other illegally-lodged Councilperson’s California Development Permit, residency, and land use issues living in that uninhabitable garage without City sewer hook-up down on Point Arena Creek!”
To which Mr. Phil Vince, new hire City Manager, responded, “You could be right about those keys.”