The Price of Complacency (2-27-2023)
How Yucaipa became entrenched with cronyism, opportunism, and a free-for-all of forces who are out to make a buck at the cost of the citizens of Yucaipa, its resources, and its beautiful surroundings.
Two years ago, the City Council started looking at an initiative of local wine makers attempting to make Yucaipa a dedicated wine making area (DOC or AOC), such as in the Temecula region. This idea initially had broad popular support because having vineyards as neighbors has a much lower impact than having housing tracts in one’s backyard. A committee was formed and soon after began working on figuring out how to bring vineyards to Yucaipa. This was where the attention of many citizens dropped and complacently set in because most everybody believed that like in the past, a diverse and competent committee would discuss the pros and cons of individual measures and come up with another great plan to make Yucaipa an even more attractive place to live.
Unfortunately, the committee was stacked with developers (some even from out of town) wine makers, Bobby Duncan and David Avila, but only a few regular citizens who did not have an obvious conflict of interest. Over the next two years and largely out of the limelight of the public, a plan was crafted that would require the City to make dramatic changes to the General Plan from 2016, make wholesale zoning changes from rural living with a maximum of one structure per acre to a conglomerate of dense housing tracts (half or less than quarter acre lots) including land for agriculture and commercial purposes - initially boutique wineries. The fact that this would ultimately have a huge impact on not only the North Bench, but all of Yucaipa became clear much too late.
So, what was Bobby Duncan’s role? – Bobby Duncan was instrumental in peddling support for his (hidden) agenda and having the “right” members appointed to the committee, people who would favor changing the General Plan so that developers can take advantage of one of the last gorgeous open spaces in our area.
Since Yucaipa woke up to these developer-funded changes in September 2022, the pace has only accelerated, especially after the November election that gave Bobby Duncan and his backers even more power as we have reported before. The whole operation feels like a bad dream, a hostile coup , where control of City Council and City Hall have been taken over, disregarding the will and interest of the people in what seems to solely benefit a few, while plundering Yucaipa’s rich resources and its common good. The many private meetings behind closed doors; the variety of Brown Act violations; the speed with which City Hall was “cleansed” of any level-headed staff who dared to speak up or raise a concern; the questionable appointment of Chris Mann and his actions that predate his employment; and the outrageous contract that the City bestowed upon Chris Mann, prove that this is not fiction, but unfortunately the sad truth.
“cleaned” from any level headed staff who dared to speak up or rise a question, the illegal appointment of Chris Mann and his actions that predate his employment, and the outrageous contract with that the City cemented the employment with Chris Mann, prove that this is not fiction, but unfortunately the sad truth.
Below are a couple of bullet points that summarize these and other statements.
- A pro-development, anti-General Plan voting bloc has been formed (Bobby Duncan, Justin Beaver, and Matt Garner). The election was funded almost entirely by forces that are from out of town but have a business interest in Yucaipa.
- Even before the election in November 2022, there were various Brown Act violations involving council members (Bobby Duncan and Justing Beaver) who wanted to make city staff changes (aka fire people, which is how Duncan liked to refer to this).
- Right after the candidates for city council were presented to the citizens of Yucaipa and in an open forum, candidate Matt Garner was pulled aside and asked if he would support replacing our city manager if he (Garner) was elected. He assured Mr. Beaver and Mr. Duncan that he would be happy to support that effort.
- On October 24th, 2022, the entire City Council recommended and voted to approve extending Ray Casey’s City Manager contract through June 30th, 2024. The Council commended Ray for doing such an outstanding job over the years.
- On January 9th, 2023, during the very first City Council meeting following the election, the newly elected Council listened for over an hour to the citizens of Yucaipa pleading to keep their city manager but then ignored them and firing Ray Casey and David Snow during a closed session.
- This new City Council violated Municipal City Code 2.08.080 subsection C, which requires that a City Manager may not be removed for 90 days after an election, when they voted 3-2 to “retire” Ray Casey and fire City Attorney Mr. Snow (4-1).
- Municipal City Code 2.08.080 subsection A, requires that a City Manager must be removed during a regular public meeting. Instead, they voted during a closed session, to “retire” Mr. Casey and Mr. Snow, all without cause and explanation.
- The new City Council violated subsection A of Municipal City Code 2.08.080 that requires that they must give the City Manager a 30-day notice of intention to dismiss. They gave no notice.
- This “retirement” costs the Yucaipa at least $300,000 for Mr. Casey alone. – We will be watching closely for future treasurer’s reports!
- Following Mr. Casey and Mr. Snow’s “retirement”, no job posting was advertised for either the position of a City Manager or City Attorney.
- Without announcing or any vetting, and despite the late hour, following that January 9th, 2023 closed session, the Council voted 4-1 to hire Mr. Chris Mann as the new City Manager and to hire Mr. Steven Graham as the new City Attorney (5:0). Both were brought in from the parking lot and told they had the jobs.
- Chis Mann began almost immediately firing or demoting long-time Yucaipa city staff.
- Chris Mann also began bringing in outside staff who were loyal to him to City Hall; these are all people who have largely no knowledge of Yucaipa.
- These “new hires”, who have no proper experience, will cost the City over $675,000 a year. – Again, we will be reading the future treasurer’s reports closely.
What is the purpose of all this?
- Change the General Plan and increase the permissible density for new developments, especially in the North Bench – against the wishes and interests of the citizens.
- Making it easier for developers to obtain variances from the General Plan – This affects all areas of Yucaipa!
- Silence any opposition in the city.
- No opposition means less resources are needed for new developments, which results in greater profits for developers.
- Developers are not the only ones who benefit; the entire local construction industry will have a windfall, but only during the construction phase.
Why does this matter?
Recent events have obliterated the belief in a fair and just local government.
- Trust and goodwill in City Hall and City Council that took decades to be established have evaporated in a short moment.
- What is happening is against the wishes of the citizens and against the best interests of Yucaipa. Otherwise, why conduct it behind closed doors at break-neck speed, without public input, and as much as possible out of the public eye?
- The proposed changes will have a negative impact on the culture of Yucaipa, a city that is revered everywhere else. Officials from other cities cannot believe that Yucaipa is on such a self-destructive path.
- The planned changes destroy the rural way of life, some of the last truly open areas in Yucaipa and the North Bench.
- The benefits will flow to a few Yucaipans, but mostly to large foreign corporations that are behind the developers, many of whom are out of town.
- Open space for which Yucaipa is famous, will be irrevocably lost, and Yucaipa will become like any other city in the Inland Empire where the wolves were put in charge of the herd, instead of the shepherds.
- If this development continues, then mid- to long term this could result in house values dropping because Yucaipa will forever have lost its appeal as a small town with a rural community.
Yucaipa will be left to:
- Bear the increased traffic, air-pollution, noise, light-pollution, and many more negative effects that come with too many people and too little room.
- Costs for such items such as building new or extending existing infrastructure (streets, utilities, schools, police, and fire stations, medical facilities, etc.)
- Search for water: There is already a water shortage, massive housing development will only worsen this condition.
- … and many other future expenses, because the developers will have moved on to greener pastures when these expenses come to fruition.
What can you do?
- You are not powerless. If you have inside information, have seen, read, or heard something about what Duncan, Beaver, or Garner are planning, please speak up, now is the time! It is apparent that they have been planning to upset Yucaipa’s City Hall for a long time, there is no time to lose.
- You can talk to your friends and neighbors, or you can send an email with your information to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can specify if you want this information to be anonymous or if you are OK with having your name attached to it.
- As always, please be mindful and truthful about what you report, this is a very important matter.
Your Friends of the North Bench