The meeting was called to order at 9:18 A.M. by Mayor Long at the Point Vicente Interpretive Center, 31501 Palos Verdes Drive West.
City Council roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Wolowicz, Clark, Stern and Mayor Long
Also present were Paul Bussey, Interim City Manager; Carol Lynch, City Attorney; Carolynn Petru, Assistant City Manager/City Clerk; Dennis McLean. Director of Finance/IT; and Gabriella Holt, Channel 33 General Manager.
The Flag Salute was led by City Attorney Lynch.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA:
Moved by Mayor Pro Tem Stern and seconded by Councilman Wolowicz to approve the Agenda. Hearing no objection, Mayor Long so ordered.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru reported that she had no requests to speak on this item.
Channel 33 Council Workshop (305)
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru stated that she distributed late correspondence to the City Council and had five requests to speak on this item.
Mayor Long indicated that before Council heard the staff report and listened to the public speakers regarding cable television Channel 33, some of the Council members may have opening comments to make on the topic at hand.
Councilman Clark asserted that Channel 33 should be viewed as an enterprise with an accompanying vision, business plan and mission statement. He felt it important for Channel 33 to move beyond an enriched training opportunity for a relatively small number of interns and provide an expanded benefit to the City and the peninsula as a whole. He suggested that if the cable channel is going to be an asset for the entire community, financial participation and endorsement of other public entities would be necessary, including the other incorporated cities, the school district and the library district. He also felt that endowments or corporate sponsorships from South Bay businesses might also be possible. He reported interest from the Annenberg Foundation and noted that Interim City Manager Bussey had suggested the possibility of creating a Joint Powers Authority to oversee the operation of the channel. He also proposed that Channel 33 partner with the school district in order to offer a curriculum course at Peninsula and Palos Verdes High Schools to provide direct benefits to youth in the community.
Councilman Wolowicz observed that there was overwhelming support for Channel 33 and he felt that disseminating governmental and community information was an important function of the channel. He expressed support for Councilman Clark’s comments regarding seeking outside financing and partnerships to support for the channel
Mayor Pro Tem Stern commended the people involved in the effort over the last four years to launch the channel. He indicated that he has not formulated an opinion about the form of governance for the channel, but felt it worthwhile to approach the other peninsula cities. He stressed the challenge of funding the channel given the city’s other budget constraints and priorities. He agreed that maximizing the public benefit and appeal of the channel was also important.
Mayor Long endorsed his colleagues’ comments and pointed out that the City collected significant franchise fees from Cox each year and he noted the importance of considering how those are spent. He expressed an interest in seeking financial support for it from other cities on the peninsula that benefit from its programming.
Interim City Manager Bussey provided an overview of suggested options for the future operation of the channel regarding its funding and governance, noting that there were many other options available, including continuing with the status quo. He noted that General Manager Gabriella Holt is requesting a funding increase during the current fiscal year, which would be used to purchase additional equipment for the channel, and is suggesting that this same amount be carried forward into the next fiscal year, where it would be used to fund personnel costs. He emphasized that any decision the Council made at the workshop regarding funding increases during the current fiscal year would not have a dramatic impact on the Council’s later decision regarding the funding of the channel in the next fiscal year. However, in answer to the question from Mayor Long, he noted that Council could consider directing staff to include a preliminary amount of additional funding for the channel in the draft FY 07-08 Budget for discussion purposes during the upcoming budget review process.
Councilman Clark felt it important that before moving forward with a discussion of the channel’s budget and governance that the Council affirm whether it believes the pilot project should be a long term enterprise or not. He thanked the volunteers, especially Gabriella Holt, for their hard work and dedication to getting the channel up and running successfully.
Gabriella Holt, Channel 33 General Manager, thanked the Council for its support for launching the channel, acknowledged the volunteers who have helped make it a success and noted the positive response she has received from the community. She then presented a short film highlighting the benefits of local programming and Channel 33 in particular. She noted that The Gas Company and Torrance Memorial Hospital are some of the channel’s major sponsors and she presented examples of several public service announcements and other programming that had aired on Channel 33.
Mayor Long requested that General Manager Holt summarize her budget requests and the rationale behind them.
General Manager Holt indicated that television stations are moving from analog technology to digital technology, which makes their operation more efficient, higher in quality and lower in cost. She clarified for Mayor Long that the operation of the station is all digital, although the proposed equipment purchases will provide further enhancements. She explained that the industry must move to digital technology by 2008 and the new state franchises require video service providers to provide interconnectivity to local access channels as part of their bundled services, which will expand the exposure of local channels beyond the current subscribers to cable television.
Mayor Pro Tem Stern noted that the City no longer has a public access channel through its current cable television franchise agreement and asked to what extent the educational access channel could address this need.
General Manager Holt explained that when the City had a public access channel, the cable operator was required to provide a production studio, training and equipment so that anyone could learn how to produce their own programming and then send it to any public access channel in the country to be aired. She added that the content on a public access channel can not be controlled, only the time a program is aired. She explained that the City’s original franchise included both a public access and a government access channel, but when the City renewed the franchise agreement in 2000, in lieu of a public access channel the City reserved the right to launch an educational access channel, plus the right to a third channel for education and government in the future.
Mayor Long noted that establishing another access channel was not on the agenda.
Councilman Clark questioned the demarcation between the government channel and the education channel.
Interim City Manager Bussey acknowledged some overlap between the two types of channels but he noted that the education channel has more latitude and airs community related items that are not directly related to local government.
Councilman Clark questioned whether it would be possible to require the cable operator to televise additional City commission meetings.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru indicated that there is no mechanism in place in the current franchise agreement for the cable operator to provide this service at no additional cost; however, she indicated that it could be possible if the City paid for it separately. She indicated that another possibility would be to have Channel 33 tape the additional advisory meetings, which could then be broadcast on either Channel 33 or government access Channel 35.
In response to a question from Councilman Wolowicz about televising additional City Commission and Committee meetings, General Manager Holt indicated that Channel 33 could produce whatever the City wanted but noted that it would require additional resources. She added that while it is cost effective for the channel to air programming that comes from outside sources, costs start to differ when the number of locally produced programs increases.
In response to Councilman Wolowicz’s question about what type of programming included in the proposed increase from 20 programs to 100 programs per year of local programming, General Manager Holt indicated that it could including airing additional city meetings, but noted that by law access channels have to provide at least 8 hours per week of locally generated programming and for an educational channel that excludes televised meetings. She added that if the community doesn’t know how to produce the minimum number of program hours to keep the channel viable, the City has an obligation to provide it.
Responding to concerns from Councilman Wolowicz about the changing nature of cable company obligations, City Attorney Lynch indicated that any other video service provider that obtains a state franchise to provide video services in the City has to provide local access service as well.
General Manager Holt noted that under the previous system of individual cable television franchises, the level of support for local access varied greatly from one community to another, based on a city’s negotiation skills. She indicated that state franchising has leveled the playing field so that every jurisdiction will receive the same level of support from the video service providers and cities will also receive a 1% PEG access free in addition to the standard franchise fee that can be used to pay for equipment for local access channels.
Responding to Mayor Pro Tem Stern, Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru explained that the audio/video equipment at Hesse Park that is used to broadcast City Council and Planning Commission meetings belongs to the City but that Cox Communications is the only one that has access to it.
Ken Dyda, Rancho Palos Verdes, Peninsula Seniors, indicated that Channel 33 is a valuable community-wide service that acts as a conduit for delivering information about available services to a broad audience in a timely manner.
Marty Dodell, Rancho Palos Verdes, Peninsula Seniors, explained how Peninsula Seniors takes advantage of Channel 33 by broadcasting their weekly lecture series and promoting diversity. He expressed support for the channel as a valuable resource to the City.
Ken Dyda speaking for Ann Shaw, Rancho Palos Verdes, Peninsula Seniors, summarized many of the services provided by Peninsula Seniors and he indicated that Channel 33 was very important as it provides a means to alert the community that these services are available.
Councilman Clark questioned how they proposed balancing usage of the channel in the midst of competing worthwhile services and organizations.
Mr. Dyda suggested that came down to a matter of governance for the channel.
Jarel Wheaton, Rancho Palos Verdes, Peninsula Seniors, reported that Gabriella Holt had invited everyone to volunteer and his wife now works alongside the many high school students who volunteer at Channel 33. He indicated that expanded locally developed content benefits the community by highlighting local organizations that help the community; encourages others to help; and allows residents to become aware of available services. He felt the money spent was an investment in the community and he noted the important training offered to the City’s youth.
Councilman Wolowicz agreed with the importance of working with the youth of the City.
RECESS AND RECONVENE:
Mayor Long called a brief recess from 10:50 P.M. to 11:00 P.M.
Liz Brown Swanson, Rancho Palos Verdes, Southern California Regional
Richard Smith, Rancho Palos Verdes, Emergency Preparedness Committee, indicated that one of the Committee’s tasks is outreach to the community and explained that the Committee has worked to create several Public Service Announcements regarding emergency preparedness. He felt that General Manager Holt had helped the Emergency Preparedness Committee greatly and that the channel provided an important source for information about what is going on in the community. He added that the channel is an outlet for other non-commercial entities to distribute information to the community and an important way to disseminate City information as well.
John McTaggart, Rancho Palos Verdes, expressed disappointment that a copy of the channel’s budget was not available and he indicated that he could not comment on the budget without seeing it.
Mr. McTaggart felt that broadcasting every public City meeting should be the primary programming for the channel along with programming for seniors. He asserted that the City should have control over the programming and he did not support the concept of a JPA as that would take away control from the City.
Mayor Long indicated that the City spent about $1 per resident but the amount collected by the franchise fees from cable subscribers is about $11 per resident. He questioned what Mr. McTaggart felt the appropriate level of spending should be in exchange for the taxes paid.
Mr. McTaggart explained that he could not comment without seeing the figures, but noted that the franchise fee is also based on revenues from the sale of advertisements, so the actual amount is greater than 5% of subscriber fees.
Mayor Long summarized that the decision points before the Council were to: 1) determine whether Channel 33 should be an ongoing enterprise of the City; 2) consider the General Manager’s budget requests; and 3) provide direction to staff regarding the future governance of the channel.
Referring to the General Manager’s proposed salary of $100,000 with a “donated back” amount of $55,000, Councilman Wolowicz clarified that while he did not take issue with the concept of a $45,000 salary for the General Manager, the City could not contract with an independent contractor or employee and then require the person to donate a portion of their salary back to the City. He noted that the amount shown was intended to be commensurate to what the City would have to pay for this type of service.
General Manager Holt explained that the $100,000 figure is the market rate amount the City would have to pay for a General Manager if she no longer performed that function. She stated that as long as she was in the position, she would not draw a salary or compensation, and those funds would be reinvested back into the channel or perhaps not expended at all. She stated that the identified amount was the cheapest the City could hope to expend to obtain the same level of service, even taking sponsorships into consideration.
Mayor Long clarified that General Manager Holt was requesting a budget increase through the end of June of 2007 in the amount of $51,200, the bulk of which is for equipment purchases, and the request for $145,200 would be a preliminary amount to be included in the FY 07-08 budget that Council will subsequently consider.
Interim City Manager Bussey noted that the line items included in the FY 07-08 budget may differ slightly from the example provided in the staff report.
Mayor Long suggested that, based on the indication from the current General Manager that she would continue to perform this function on a volunteer basis, the City could budget $100,200 for the channel’s operation and budget nothing for the General Manager’s salary and subsequently add it through a budget adjustment if General Manager Holt became unable to fulfill that function in the future.
General Manager Holt indicated that many Executive Directors of non-profits do not draw a salary but one is included in the budget and it is considered an in-kind contribution for the purposes to qualifying for grants that require a local match.
Councilman Wolowicz noted that a total expenditure of $145,200 was being proposed, of which $45,000 was being subtracted, leaving $102,000, which is $57,500 over the channel’s current budget. He received verification from staff that this was the increment that the Council was looking at for the remainder of the current fiscal year.
Each Councilmember acknowledged that Channel 33 had become a community asset providing information, emergency notifications, cultural diversity, and more, and all felt the channel should be broadened to take advantage of the potential.
Moved by Councilman Clark that Channel 33 be moved from a pilot project to an ongoing enterprise and direct staff to bring back to the Council a vision statement, mission statement and business plan for the enterprise. Mayor Pro Tem Stern seconded the motion. The roll call vote was as following:
AYES: Clark, Stern, Wolowicz and Mayor Long
Mayor Pro Tem Stern stated that he was prepared to support the proposed budget adjustments to accept the $5,400 in donations collected and expend $51,000 to purchase the equipment listed on circle page 30 of the staff report, but noted that he was not prepared that day to act on the proposed budget for FY 07-08. He expressed an interest in continuing to explore the budgetary needs of the channel noting that maximizing revenue and minimizing costs was the focus.
Councilman Wolowicz expressed concern that the Council was not considering additional operating expenses related to the remainder of FY 06-07 above the $5,400 in donations and the $51,000 for equipment purchases already discussed.
General Manager Holt clarified that she was not requesting additional operating funds for FY 06-07, but presented the proposed budget model as part of the staff report so that Council could fold it into its discussion for the next fiscal year if it chose to go forward with the channel. She clarified that the $51,000 would be used in FY 06-07 to further automate the channel, making its operation much easier and cost effective in the future.
Councilman Wolowicz noted that he wanted to see sponsorships pursued and incorporated into the business plan for FY 07-08.
Councilman Clark felt the next year’s budget could not truly be discussed without a business plan which will need to address sponsorships, staffing, and programming evolution among other topics.
Moved by Mayor Pro Tem Stern and seconded by Councilman Clark to: 1) ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2007-03, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES, AMENDING RESOLUTION NO. 2006-41, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FY 06-07, TO AMEND THE GENERAL FUND, CHANNEL 33 FUND AND EQUIPMENT REPLACEMENT FUND BUDGETS in the amount of $51,000 and direct staff to develop a proposed budget for FY 07-08 for consideration during the upcoming budget cycle that includes a business plan that addresses sponsorships, programming, etc. for Council consideration; and, 2) ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2007-04, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES, AMENDING RESOLUTION NO. 2006-41, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FY 06-07, TO AMEND THE GENERAL FUND AND CHANNEL 33 FUND to authorize spending $5,400 during FY 06-07 that were collected from donations and sponsorships during FY 05-06. A roll call vote reflected the following:
AYES: Clark, Stern, Wolowicz and Mayor Long
Mayor Long turned the discussion to the issue of future governance for the channel.
Mayor Pro Tem Stern felt it important to institutionalize the channel as he did not feel past operating practices were optimal for creating a viable long term institution. He expressed interest in looking at working with other cities on the peninsula that enjoy the benefits of the channel and possibly soliciting financial support for the channel from other cities and the school district.
Interim City Manager Bussey suggested communication with community colleges and the county who may also have interest in the channel.
Mayor Long reported correspondence with the Library Board which has expressed a preliminary interest in participating in a JPA with the City and he felt that would ultimately allow a better chance of getting grants and recognition that the channel is a peninsula-wide institution.
Councilman Clark pointed out that the enterprise had been established by the City of Rancho Palos Verdes at its own expense and he acknowledged that there were many
issues connected to a JPA including what kind of control the City would have over the assets or whether they would become assets of the JPA. He felt it important to discuss where the channel fit within the structure of the City and suggested that it become part of the Information/Technology Department.
Councilman Wolowicz believed it would take up to a year to establish a JPA and he proposed that the channel be its own department reporting to the City Manager. He supported an advisory committee comprised of experts to advise the channel and he pointed out that while the current General Manager is a volunteer, once the station is formalized the position this position will become an independent contractor.
Mayor Pro Tem Stern and Councilman Clark wanted to see a staff assessment of the benefits and costs of incorporating the channel in the Information/Technology Department or having it become a separate department reporting to the City Manager.
Councilman Wolowicz expressed concern about expediting the study and moving forward with integrating the channel into the structure of City’s organization.
Moved by Councilman Wolowicz and seconded by Mayor Long to direct staff to study and bring back in late February or early March alternatives to integrate Channel 33 into an existing City department or to create a separate department, a proposal to form an advisory oversight committee for Channel 33 and the staffing needs and costs associated with these short-term governance structures. A roll call vote reflected the following:
AYES: Clark, Stern, Wolowicz and Mayor Long
Moved by Councilman Clark and seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Stern to direct staff to explore long-term governance of Channel 33 and bring back alternatives, including the formation of a joint powers authority, for Council consideration. A roll call vote reflected the following:
AYES: Clark, Stern, Wolowicz and Mayor Long
Mayor Long indicated that he was most interested in exploring the JPA with other entities on the peninsula.
At 12:02 P.M. Mayor Long declared the meeting adjourned to Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 6:00 p.m. at Fred Hesse Community Park for an adjourned regular meeting.
/s/ Thomas D. Long
/s/ Carla Morreale