Kotyuk and Miller butt heads; city suggests drone control
■ Kyle Selby / Reporter
“I was very, very confused,” City Councilman Alonso Ledezma uttered Tuesday night at the San Jacinto City Council meeting. He wasn’t alone, as many spectators from the pubic scratched their heads trying to make sense of the heated argument between City Councilmen Andrew Kotyuk and Scott Miller. But before we get to that, let’s review everything else that happened during the meeting.
A brief presentation by Cal Fire Fire Chief Bill Weiser revealed that 770 infants had been safely surrendered in California and abandonment has decreased by 80 percent since the Safely Surrendered Baby law was passed in 2001.
City Councilman Scott Miller then invited the department coordinator of the Mt. San Jacinto College Automotive Program, Robert Pensiero, to present an overview of what his courses offer college students in the valley. Pensiero clarified, however, that he is working on partnering with San Jacinto High School so that his program can allow students to start earning college credits in high school. He promised that MSJC students can earn a 20-unit certificate for taking five of his basic automotive courses.
Next, former planning commissioner Leticia Arciniega was recognized for her excellent work by the entire City Council, as each of them praised her dedication to the city. They presented her with a plaque and took a group photo shortly afterward (pictured).
City Manager Rob Johnson began the penultimate presentation by introducing San Jacinto’s new Director of Community Development and Planning, Travis Randall. Randall comes from the city of Riverside with 12 years of experience moving up the ranks from planning technician to assistant planner, associate planner, senior planner, and principal planner.
Finally, Councilman Miller reminded everybody that Bob Stangel, “all-time winning” MSJC football coach passed away Feb. 14, just a few months after his wife. He got his final wish however, which was to be with his wife again on Valentine’s Day.
During Public Comment, disabled San Jacinto citizen Larry Tucker offered choice words for the council, claiming that they sit on the dais like gods, while the city’s streets remain dangerous for handicapped individuals, suggesting the implementation of more sidewalks.
Steve Norman from the Hemet Gate Keepers introduced himself next, proposing a potential partnership with the city of San Jacinto.
Finally, Nancy Moore and her husband took to the podium to request a proper business license for her cannabis clinic in town. Behind her were several of her patients vouching for her and her life-changing services.
Miller vs. Kotyuk
When it came time for the Council to approve the items listed on the consent calendar, including the minutes from the last three City Council meetings, Councilman Miller made an objection.
“My motion was to not take any action, so I don’t understand how we got from ‘not taking action,’ to ‘taking action’ that we’re a non-sanctuary city,” expressed Miller. He of course was talking about the City Council meeting held on Dec. 19, 2017, in which the City Council discussed whether or not the city of San Jacinto should be a sanctuary city, an agenda item originally brought to council by Kotyuk. By the end of that particular discussion, the entire Council (sans Mayor Pro Tem Russ Utz who was absent) unanimously agreed to take no action, and to never bring the discussion before Council again, with a 4-0 vote. But just after Miller made that very motion during that December meeting, Councilman Kotyuk asked for clarification, inquiring whether the motion was that the city would remain a “non-sanctuary city.” City Attorney Mike Maurer verified, yes, taking no action would mean that San Jacinto would not be declared a sanctuary city. This clarification statement was transcribed into the meeting minutes, right above the motion proposed by Miller.
As the council reviewed the meeting’s minutes, they were all quick to point out that a clarification statement was not commonplace on a typical meeting minutes transcription. Maurer acknowledged that, and informed the council that it is their preference whether to leave or redact the statement from the recorded minutes. Mayor Crystal Ruiz suggested that the Council compare it to the other meeting minutes, and decide whether a recorded clarification statement was necessary. To that, Kotyuk sang a resounding yes.
“I think there’s a legal responsibility,” Kotyuk protested. “The motion was vague. Per the Brown Act, I asked for clarification because it wasn’t clear to me, and the city attorney gave an answer. That’s part of the record and clarifying what that motion was. That’s why it’s significant, and it should be included.”
While Kotyuk gave a fair rebuttal, Miller still didn’t budge, and refused to approve the minutes as presented.
“I am not sure that everybody on this council understood that when we took the vote on that agenda item, according to this statement, we were declaring San Jacinto to be a non-sanctuary city,” retorted Miller. Miller was suggesting that because of the additional clarification statement listed within the minutes, the motion appeared as if it was a vote for San Jacinto to be named a non-sanctuary city, rather than their unanimous decision to not take action at all, as intended.
After a half-hour session of Kotyuk and Miller talking over each other while the rest of the City Council and staff sat by uncomfortably, Kotyuk’s cool-headed demeanor shifted when Maurer began to dismiss the clarification statement as an official part of the motion.
“You can’t give me an answer and clarify what a motion means, and later say, ‘well, maybe it didn’t mean that’,” he told the city attorney. “It’s on the recording, and if you verify that’s what a motion means and we vote on it, then that’s what it means.”
Maurer calmly tried to explain that he had only tried to provide clarification, and Mayor Ruiz tried to end the discussion by tabling the item altogether. But after Miller and Kotyuk protested even that, Ledezma eventually spoke up and motioned to approve the minutes as recorded. Utz and Miller abstained from the 3-2 vote, in favor of Kotyuk, Ruiz, and Ledezma. The minutes were approved.
Travis McClean came before the City Council months ago in regards to a disturbance caused by local “drone enthusiasts” who gather at a park across from his house. He named instances where drones have crashed into neighbors’ trees, losing control, and flying around his house, making a noise exceeding 65 decibels, the maximum noise allowance as stated in the city ordinance. This was brought back to Council Tuesday night, to which they suggested creating a system of guidelines and regulations for registering drones in the city. The city plans to submit a city ordinance to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to ensure that it is consistent with the FAA’s authority over unmanned aircraft systems.
Next, Johnson and Kotyuk discussed introducing electronic signage to the city, much to the rest of the Council’s approval.
The City Manager Update wrapped the meeting, as Johnson briefly touched on categorizing upcoming city events as either Signature Events, Partner Events, or Community Events. He concluded with his regular announcement of project updates, including the newly approved 92 RSI Communities tract homes, the brand new San Jacinto Power website, and the anticipation of the new and improved city website, which is expected to launch in May.
The meeting adjourned in honor of Coach Bob Stangel, and the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.