The year 2004 brought a variety of city issues varying from a proposed youth skate park, crow problems, the city’s image and changes to the officials who sit on the city council.
City officials started the year discussing the proposed skate park, which was approved in 2003 and then put on hold due to general fund budget constraints early in 2004. Its construction was delayed because there was not enough money to cover anticipated operation expenses.
In April, skate park supporters circulated a flyer and rallied in city council chambers in support of the skate park’s construction. In November, the city council voted to resume plans for the skate park’s construction with an agreement between the city and the Madera County Community Action Agency, which would call for funding operation costs. Currently there is enough grant money - some $703,000 - to provide for construction. The agreement for operation of the park would make the community action agency responsible for wages and supplies once the park is built.
The city teamed up with the county to try and deal with the crow problem around the government center and in front of City Hall. Complaints about the crow infestation began in Fall of 2003, when cars, sidewalks, outdoor benches and occasionally the tops of peoples’ heads, began to be spattered with crow droppings. While trying to figure out how best to rid the city of the crows and their messy by-products, city officials heard ideas about getting rid of them, varying from shooting the crows, hazing them with noise and lights, trapping them, hiring a crow exterminator and conducting extensive crow research. The crows migrated in the Spring. Just before they did, a wildlife control technology official recommended to the council, that they should encourage business owners and property owners to be responsible for cleaning crow droppings around their properties and continue the hazing process. The council decided to resume the clean up when the crows returned in the fall. However when the crows returned, there was not as much attention given to them as before. Wildlife control technology officials said “no county has alleviated the problem 100-percent.”
Another issue which has received attention is the city’s image. City officials hired Charles Buki, an economist and consultant. He conducted interviews with community members and reviewed history and demographic data. Buki reported the growth patterns of Madera and Madera County would continue as they are; not only would downtown Madera and its surrounding neighborhoods continue to be perceived as problems, but presently upscale shopping areas in the city also would deteriorate as the city moves outward. Buki suggested a major change in community standards and attitudes; not only forcing the downtown area to improve itself, but at the same time realizing the advantages Hispanic - now economically under-represented - can bring to the economic future of the city.
In June City Redevelopment Agency officials hired Buki to provide more information and strategies to promote a better city image. Buki returned to Madera in December with more information and recommendations. In essence he and his colleagues recommended residents taking back their neighborhoods and being responsible for the image they project.
A proposed utility tax and sales tax measure was initiated and placed on the November election ballot and lost. The measure was created by city employees in hopes of raising revenues to beef up law enforcement, code enforcement and fire services.
Over the course of the year, the city council itself saw some changes. Former Mayor M.J. Nabors resigned from her councilmember seat at the end of May. Councilmembers raised discussion and questions about how the vacancy would be filled. They decided to fill the seat by way of election in the November ballot. Councilmember Gary Svanda decided he would not run for another term. Incumbent Sam Armentrout was re-elected, Mayor John Wells handed over the city gavel to Councilmember Gordon Skeels and newcomers Robert Poythress and Steve Mindt were elected during the November ballot.