Monday, March 15, 2010

Update on Flood Insurance

At tonight's 7:30 pm Council Meeting we will also be getting an update on the flood mapping and the possibility of required flood insurance in Foster City.

I have written about this issue previously and if you want to see what I wrote you can go to my earlier post on the issue.

Not much has changed since I wrote that post but I do plan to ask the City Council to place on its agenda establishing an ad hoc committee to proactively deal with this issue and I am also intending on asking them to allow me to become more directly involved.

I continue to think this is a key issue for property owners in Foster City and I want to make sure that we are doing all that we can.

If you agree, come and show your support.

Trash Collection Rates

Tonight at our 7:30 meeting, the City Council will be taking public comment on the upcoming trash collection rates.

Foster City has the lowest solid waste collection rates of any comparable city. However, as we move towards a better recycling system in 2012 and increased costs for ever less landfill space, the overall cost of trash collection is increasing.

Foster City does not make any profit on the collection of trash. We do, however, have a balancing account which is used to pay what the City is billed if the rates it bills to property owners in insufficient. We had such a situation this past year and used some of the balancing account.

In addition, starting in 2012 we are planning toward better recycling, including the recycling of food waste products. This too will result in increased costs for trash collection. Overall, we are expecting the costs to increase about 15% above and beyond the general 3% yearly increase that we have been experiencing.

Following a study session earlier this year, the City is recommending that for the upcoming year trash collection rates be increased by 4% with continuing increases over the next few years. This will require us to further deplete the balancing account, but will smooth out the impact on property owners. However, Foster City should still have among the lowest trash collection rates in the County.

If you want to learn more about this issue, come to the Council Chambers tonight starting at 7:30. See you there.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Fourth of July and FCTV - What Do You Think?

On January 25th, we held the first in what will be a series of study sessions to discuss the 2010-2011 City budget and underlying policy. The good news is that Foster City has strong reserves, projected to be $21.1 million by June 30, and we expect to be able to balance the budget for 2010-2011 without using our reserves. The bad news is that beginning in the 2011-2012 fiscal year we are looking at a $2 million structural deficit going forward. While we do have reserves that can be used to cover a shortfall, clearly it would not be prudent to simply spend the money without regard to whether it truly needs to be spent or not.

To say the City is well managed is an understatement. Throughout the course of the year, Jim Hardy, our City Manager, and his remarkable staff, are constantly looking at programs, services and individual jobs, to see if there are ways we can do things in a more efficient manner. In that undertaking, this year alone, departments have been consolidated, certain vacant positions have been left open and a small amount of work has been contracted to outside vendors. All of this has resulted in a substantial reduction in expenses and a better than expected 2009-2010. Thank you Jim and staff!

However, in order to do our job as Council Members, which is to make sure that we spend your tax dollars cautiously and wisely, we look at policy. Thus, back in January we looked at a number of areas in which Foster City spends more than other cities or provides program subsidies. While it would seem easy to say that if we do not need something we should not be paying for it, some of these expenses are important because they make Foster City the type of city that we love living in.

The most significant examples are the three major special events, the 4th of July Celebration; Arts & Wine Festival and the Summer Concert Series. The 4th of July Festival costs the City about $90,000; Arts & Wine about $20,000 and the Summer Concert Series about $15,000. The numbers, however, are not the real story. When you ask some people, they view the fireworks show as a Foster City institution. Others love the pancake breakfast and daytime events but loathe the nighttime traffic. Still others see the whole thing as a nuisance. The truth, however, is that feedback comes from only a handful of people and we really remain in the dark on the true desire of the City as a whole. In other words, the problem is communication.

That takes me to the next budget and policy issue, Foster City TV. Our staff tells us that we spend $245,000 each year on FCTV $171,500 of which comes out of our general fund. The next highest spending city, Millbrae, spends $63,700 each year, while Belmont and San Carlos spend $28,000 and about $21,000 respectively. It would seem clear from these numbers that we are spending too much. But are we? Is FCTV the primary means by which people learn of events in Foster City? Do people watch City Council or Planning Commission meetings on FCTV? Do they watch the original programming that it does? Again, the issue is communication. How do we have effective communication not only towards the residents but feedback from them as well?

As Council Members we will make decisions that we believe are in the best interests of all the residents, but as the new guy, it sure would help me if I could hear what people think. Do you want the 4th of July Festival to continue? Do you watch FCTV? Do you use the senior and youth programs that the City subsidizes? Do you use the Foster City Connection Shuttle or the Senior Express Shuttle and how important are they to your daily life? Have you taken the CERT training or do you plan to? Do you know what it is? Would you like to find out more? Again, the problem is communication and I need your help.

Please tell me how I can communicate better with you. You can reach me by email at or by phone at (650) 286-3504, post a comment on my blog at or go to the blog and click on the link to sign up for my newsletter. Thank you.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

We Need Your Help

As many of you know, the State Legislature is attempting to balance its budget by taking money from local governments. This year, the State is set to take, not borrow, $5.6 million from Foster City alone. Next year they will be taking at least another $1.2 million. None of this will be repaid!

Although Foster City is in good financial health, local funds are used for public safety (police and fire), road maintenance and improvements, parks, recreation and many, many important services that effect all of our daily lives. In order to prevent local governments from being put in the same position as the State, we need your help to protect local revenues and to keep them local.

The League of California Cities has put together a petition to put a measure on the November ballot to stop the State from taking local funds. We need all registered voters to sign that petition and to protect not only Foster City's funds, but the funds of every City in our State.

The State Legislature has taken the position that any money that is not already allocated to a specific purpose is "in play." Thus, unless we act quickly and affirmatively this will not be the only local funds that the State will look to grab.

Please help stop this and if you have not already done so, and you are a registered voter, please sign the petition supporting this ballot measure. There should be blank petitions at the Foster City Chamber of Commerce office, but if you cannot find a petition to sign, let me know and I will take care of it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this email and for helping us to stop the State's taking of our local money.

If you know others who may be interested in helping, please forward this email to them.

Charlie Bronitsky

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fighting Against Flood Insurance

As many of you already know, one of the issues that I think is of major importance to Foster City residents is whether or not we, as Foster City property owners, are going to be required to purchase flood insurance later this year when the revised flood maps are expected to be issued by FEMA. For those of you who are not aware of this issue, I think it is important that you become aware of it and if you are so inclined, work with us as we continue to try to solve this problem.

Back in April of 2008 FEMA released preliminary drafts of revised Flood Insurance Rate Maps for San Mateo County. Although Foster City’s levees were re-certified by FEMA in July 2007, it was determined that a section of levee within the City of San Mateo did not meet FEMA’s requirements for adequate flood protection. This resulted in the revised maps showing all of Foster City to be in a Special Flood Hazard Zone, which, in turn, would require most of us to purchase flood insurance by the time the maps become final in about September of this year.

As part of a diligent effort to assess and resolve the problem, City Council members met with San Mateo’s City Council members to discuss a solution. San Mateo has since proceeded with its levee improvements project and is currently working on getting the necessary permits from various regulatory agencies. In addition, San Mateo formed a special assessment district to fund the work so that once the agencies have approved the work, there is money to pay for it. San Mateo also obtained a Conditional Letter of Map Revisions, which assures that map revisions will be issued once the improvements are completed. What this means is that upon completion of San Mateo’s levee improvements, Foster City would no longer be classified as a Special Flood Hazard Zone and flood insurance would not be required.

The problem today lies in the fact that there are myriad State and Federal agencies that are required to give approval to any construction project effecting the Bay, and the speed at which the review and approval process works has been challenging. Our congressional representative, Jackie Speier, has provided valuable assistance in working with FEMA and the various regulatory agencies in an attempt to expedite San Mateo’s project and to see if accommodations can be made by FEMA to delay the finalizing of the new flood map or otherwise create a short exemption. To date, however, we are still awaiting a formal response.

Thus, despite the fact that the existing system of levees, lagoon and pumps that protect our community continues to afford excellent protection from flooding, and despite San Mateo’s best and diligent efforts to improve the San Mateo levees, we remain at the mercy of the regulatory agencies required to review and issue permits for the work. This feeling of frustration is something that all of us have felt at least once in dealing with a governmental agency, although hopefully never with Foster City, and we are now suffering a similar fate as a community.

The City Council will continue to work diligently on this matter and we have all dedicated ourselves to doing all that we can to stop flood insurance from becoming mandatory for our community. There is additional information available on our website, where there is a link for information pertaining to this issue, and we are expecting to get another update at a City Council meeting in March, so keep your eyes on the agendas.

I hope to see many of you at the City Council meeting when we hear the update and I am looking forward to hearing at that time from those of you who may have some ideas on alternative ways to deal with this potential problem. This is an issue that could affect a large number of us and it is important for everyone to stay informed and to get involved if they so choose. Working together, however, I remain confident that this is an issue we can resolve in a manner beneficial to us all.