Council agrees with Member Robinson; bylaw changes voted down
Long time Madera Redevelopment Agency business manager Bob Wilson was appointed interim director of that agency by a unanimous vote of 7-0 Wednesday night after more than an hour of discussion by the Madera City Council and other citizens who spoke, debating an item which would have resulted in a decidedly different outcome.
Wilson replaces former executive director Jim Taubert, under whom Wilson was business manager before Taubert retired at the end of December.
The item under discussion, tagged as 4A on the city council agenda, was an inconspicuous, routine-sounding amendment that would have changed the agency’s bylaws due to what was termed as “reorganizational necessities,” which if passed would have placed the Successor Agency to the former Madera Redevelopment Agency, as it has been known for the past few years, under control of the interim city administrator. It also would have moved Wilson into the back offices at city hall, and could have made the agency building on East Yosemite Avenue and the agency’s administrative budget available to the city.
The item was nearly approved until Council Member Cece Folley Gallegos requested clarification.
“If A4 passes PD (police department) is moving into the RDA building, and they will be over code enforcement,” Bob Wilson replied after being questioned by Gallegos.
This raised more questions from council members about whether the change was necessary or advisable.
About a half dozen or so residents attending the meeting also made their opposition to the reorganization plan known.
Gallegos suggested waiting until the permanent new city administrator was hired to review the situation.
“There were promises made to residents — that the RDA money would be used for just for RDA (projects) — to make Madera a better place,” she said. “Promises made, promises kept,”
Council Member Derek Robinson said the staff and plan put into place to wind down the agency, according to state law, had been working well and was cost effective.
“If it’s not broke, I mean, why fix it?” he asked, as residents applauded. “Bob (Wilson) has been doing a good job for years. I believe he should be running this ... he’s been doing the job. He needs to be moved up to director and stay put where he’s at.” Robinson said.
Council Member Donald Holley agreed. “This has been working (as a separate department) for years. They tell us council is supposed to be over everything (going on in the city) but it doesn’t look like that’s been happening these last few months. The RDA has a good staff and good working abilities over there.” Holley said.
He went on to say he had been hearing of a lot of changes in the city that he hadn’t been made aware of.
“And it doesn’t sound or look good to me. So many things have (recently) happened, this council doesn’t know what’s going on. I get calls from residents ... And finding out what’s been going on since (former City Administrator David) Tooley left in the newspaper. That bothers me and I’m not going to let that continue to happen without people being accountable for it,” Holley said as the crowd broke into applause.
Mayor Andy Medellin said Madera was in a unique position, through previous good management and planning to even have redevelopment funds remaining to work with.
“There are so many strings attached to this money. Once we define these dollars, (we need to) define what is our next plan to use these dollars ... as they were intended for Madera.” Medellin said.
Former Madera County Chief Administrative Officer and Madera resident Stell Manfredi spoke, and said that as chair of the Redevelopment Oversight Board he could say that said that body had an excellent relationship with the existing RDA department, but he was speaking tonight only representing himself.
“So let’s cut to the chase — I have worked with Taubert and every RDA director before Taubert. It’s been so well done by Bob and others, we haven’t had to get involved. I would suggest you reject 4A and appoint Mr. Wilson interim director for the remaining life of the agency,” Manfredi said.
“The current city administrator already has his plate full and a steep learning curve. Mr. Wilson has the knowledge to wind down the agency as soon as possible. It’s not a long-term process and shouldn’t be. A year and half, at most” to conclude the remaining RDA business.”
Manfredi also spoke directly to the council when he said, “There are some other issues. I also want to add that the admin budget is not $250,000, it’s $500,000 based on the two (funding) sources.” He also suggested the council remember “You are the bosses, not the city manager.” Manfredi said.
Until ordered dissolved by the California Legislature and governor in 2012, Redevelopment Agency missions statewide was to purchase blighted residential and commercial properties and through planning make them available for affordable housing or other projects benefiting local communities. About 60 parcels of land remain in the Madera redevelopment portfolio, which total several million dollars worth for action, according to city officials.