Voting cards, hiring chief constable among Barstow council agenda items

Barstow’s elected council will consider many substantive items at its first public meeting in more than a month on Monday, including a new police chief, mayor-related tax dollar spending and a new map that will guide the next decade. municipal elections.

Monday evening marks the first public meeting the city council has held since Jan. 3 due to the closure of city offices and businesses that Barstow instituted Jan. 10-18, citing the spread of COVID-19, the latest day marking what would have been the second public council meeting of the new year.

In turn, a 600-plus-page agenda covers a slew of presentations and votes that members of the public can expect to contribute to on Monday.

The meeting is expected to be open to the public at City Hall at 7 p.m. Monday, or any time after a closed session between City Council and Barstow’s lawyers adjourns, according to the agenda delivered. public by the city last Thursday evening.

(The confidential session begins at 6 p.m. and focuses on three ongoing lawsuits alleging unlawful conduct by Mayor Paul Courtney and other city staff: one filed by former mayor Nikki Salas last April; another filed in June by former Deputy City Manager Cindy Prothro; and a third filed in September by former Economic Development Administrator Amanda Hernandez)

Barstow City Council will consider four potential maps on February 7, one of which will be used to set new district boundaries in the next decade's municipal elections.

A new electoral map

City Council will hold its third of four legally required public hearings in the process of redistricting or drawing new lines to define which district each Barstow voter will vote in over the next decade.

California election law requires all cities to adopt new boundaries for electoral districts within their city limits after the publication of a new US census, which takes place once a decade. The most recent population count came out late last year, showing a 12.3% increase in Barstow’s population since 2010 to around 25,415.

The goal is to make each electoral district “substantially equal in population” under constitutional laws and voting rights, the agenda says, including respecting “the integrity of neighborhoods or local communities” without “favoring or discriminate against a political party or an incumbent (member of the municipal council).

Barstow’s current electoral map contains four districts. The city council comprises four members of the district council and a mayor elected “at-large”.

This means that a city-wide vote tally elects the mayor while voters elect the other four council members in each district of the city. Apart from certain ceremonial powers, the mayor has been designated essentially the same role as any other member of the city council in terms of making policy and reaching agreements, and separate powers exist for employees who are hired into management and city staff.

The Monday evening meeting is “intended to focus on presenting four draft maps for the public and Council to review, provide feedback and narrow down to a final map for adoption,” according to the agenda.

Barstow last year approved a contract for private assistance in the redistricting process with Redistricting Insights LLC, a Sacramento-area consulting firm. The four proposed cards that will be presented on Monday mark some of the results of the contract.

Barstow City Council will consider four potential maps on February 7, one of which will be used to set new district boundaries in the next decade's municipal elections.

A proposed map defines much of the western part of Barstow as District 1, currently the seat of Councilman Tim Silva – who will not stand for re-election this year – and much of the eastern part as District 2, now the seat of Pro Tem Mayor James Noble. In this scenario, Districts 3 (Councillor Barbara Rose) and 4 (Councillor Marilyn Dyer-Kruse) would occupy dense pockets in the heart of the city.

Barstow City Council will consider four potential maps on February 7, one of which will be used to set new district boundaries in the next decade's municipal elections.

Another proposed map sets up a similar district split, but with District 4 taking up much of the eastern portion and District 1 taking up one of the dense pockets in the center of Barstow. In a different proposal, District 1 would occupy both the lower-density eastern and western regions of the city.

Barstow City Council will consider four potential maps on February 7, one of which will be used to set new district boundaries in the next decade's municipal elections.

Following the councils and discussed soliciting public comment on the four proposed district maps on Monday evening, it plans to hold its final public hearing to adopt a final map at the next public council meeting on February 22.

The agenda also notes that Barstow could hold a referendum on the 2022 ballot in which voters could decide to eliminate the post of general mayor and create a fifth electoral district in Barstow. However, this decision can only be considered after the end of the current redistricting process.

A new police chief

The city council will also consider approving a contract for a new official police chief, Andrew Espinoza Jr., who took over as acting last October following the retirement of Barstow’s longtime police chief. , Albert Ramírez.

Espinoza served as captain at the BPD for more than five years prior to his current role as acting chief.

He began his law enforcement career with the Barstow Department in 1999, according to the Agenda, which cites his past roles as ranging from patrol officer to commander of special response and administrative divisions.

Espinoza holds an associate’s degree in social science from Barstow Community College, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Chapman University, and a master’s degree in public administration from California State University-Long Beach.

The contract to be reviewed Monday evening would make Espinoza the official chief of police for Barstow for the next four years, with a termination date set for February 7, 2026.

Espinoza’s salary under the deal would start at more than $187,000 a year, plus an “education salary” bonus each month (based on his master’s degree) of 3%, or about $5,630. He will receive annual salary increases based on the cost of living, as is standard for Barstow police union employees.

Under the proposed deal, Espinoza would receive a 2.5% raise after earning an executive management certificate after two years as police chief.

Espinoza has received support from some Barstow residents, including critics who accuse the mayor of seeking undue influence in the department after he and Councilor Rose held a town hall late last December to discuss local policing with the public .

The department has also faced controversy during its few months under Espinoza’s acting leadership, including a fight between Barstow officers and local attendants at the wedding party last month, which a witness said. captured on tape first reported by TMZ.

A Barstow man and other civilians involved in the chaotic scene have since filed suit against the city, seeking more than $2 million and alleging they were injured by excessive force by police.

Scrutinizing the expenses related to the mayor

The final item on Monday’s City Council agenda marks one of many issues that the four-member District Council and public critics have lobbied Mayor Courtney on in recent months.

City Council will consider two ratepayer refund requests filed with the city last year with a close connection to the mayor:

  • A $1,065 expense report Courtney filed for gas in his vehicle on various records he attributes to City Council business between March and September.
  • A $110 invoice from PACE Services Corp. – Courtney is the company’s janitorial managing director, chief financial officer and director for years – to “clean up and sanitize the cell outfit @ Barstow Police Department” on July 5th.

These expense reports were included among a long list of items at a meeting last year that the city council approves as standard practice. Board members Rose and Silva withdrew the items with a motion that they be reconsidered at a future meeting.

One of the main issues Rose has had with the vehicle-related requests is that Courtney requested them on October 29, more than a month after she completed the rides in question. She and other council members questioned whether a 30-day provision in the municipal code nullified the city’s ability to reimburse Courtney for rides that occur later and raised separate concerns about city officials. using personal vehicles to conduct city business.

The reimbursement of PACE Services is also questioned on the basis of this provision of 30 days. Additionally, the expenses are tied to public criticism and lawsuit allegations that the mayor sought improper influence with the city’s police department.

Monday’s meeting could end late, as was often the case in 2021, the inaugural year of service for Mayor Courtney and councilors Rose and Dyer-Kruse. Barstow’s law states that the city council must pass a specific motion to continue a meeting after 11 p.m. if additional time is needed to go through a full agenda, which may be necessary for mayor refunds to be considered. .

Charlie McGee covers the town of Barstow and its surrounding communities for the Daily Press. He is also a member of the Report for America corps of the GroundTruth Project, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization dedicated to supporting the next generation of journalists in the United States and around the world. McGee can be reached at 760-955-5341 or cmcgee@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @bycharliemcgee.