June 21, 2023 — Madera City Council
Documented by Ramiro Merino
What happened: At the June 21 Madera City Council meeting, more than a dozen community members commented on the possibility of a pride-flag raising ceremony at city hall, but City Attorney Hilda Montoy advised the council against responding or taking any action because the city lacks a flag policy.
There was a mixture of support and opposition from the public who lined up for their turn to voice their opinion at the podium.
“Flags mean so much for marginalized communities. I have attended many flag-raising ceremonies across the Central Valley,” said resident Jennifer McQueen. “When you support youth, you support who they are.”
Other residents like Regina Florenti said she felt raising the pride flag at city hall was unnecessary. “What people do in their private life should be private and not flown for everyone to see,” she said.
To address the lack of a flag policy and previous requests for one by the council, the outgoing city attorney and city staff presented a preliminary draft of a protocols guidebook with specific policies and procedures for conducting meetings, allowable expenses and reimbursements, ceremonial documents, use of city facilities, support of special events, a flag policy and code of conduct.
Council members expressed concerns about how long the review and approval process would take. Mayor Santos Garcia asked how long it would take and Montoy said they are two months away from being able to approve a flag policy.
“I have a sense of urgency because if you saw the last two meetings, we’ve had a packed house,” Garcia said referring to the many members of the public in attendance.
When Council member Jose Rodriguez asked if the council can still discuss the flag-raising policy at the meeting, Montoy replied that they “did not feel prepared at this time to engage on that topic tonight.”
When Rodriguez asked if the council can respond to the public comments, Montoy requested that they wait, “because of the way the report is written and where we’re asking for direction. It focuses on those other items for tonight.”
Council member Steve Montes requested that a comment period be added to the agenda for the next meeting to give council members more time to review the guidelines.
Mayor Pro Tem Elsa Mejia said she commended the members of the public who came out to express their views on their “civility and decorum.”
And also: During a budget update, Director of Financial Services Mike Lima said that city fees have not been increased since July 2018 and council members said they would support a fee increase of between 6% and 8% to account for an increase in city costs.
Lima said the increases would apply to items such as building permit fees, park rental rates and participation fees for youth sports, but do not include drainage, water, sewer and solid waste, which must go through a Proposition 218 process and be decided on by voters.
When Montoy asked if a fee study would be done, Lima said that recent salary increases alone would justify an increase in fees between 6% and 10%.
“Obviously a rate study is the better way to go, but at this time we don’t have time to get a rate study done in time for the budget,” Lima said. “But we feel we have enough justification to raise the fee.”
Council member Rodriguez asked for Lima to provide information on the deficit that is being incurred by the city and he said that he would do so.
Council member Cece Gallegos said that the public was not happy when they increased sewer and water rates after not raising them for more than 15 years and that she would support an increase of 8%.
Other council members said they support a 6% increase.
“I am in support of the least amount of impact,” Rodriguez said.
Up next: The Madera City Council are scheduled to meet again on July 19.