Humbled to Serve

Citrus Heights, CA  |  Story and photos by Shaunna Boyd
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Newly elected council member Porsche Middleton recites the oath of office.

City Council Affirms New Member and Votes to Annex into SacRT

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) - The Citrus Heights City Council meeting on December 13 began with the certification of the November 6 election results. Outgoing councilmember Al Fox was recognized by the Council for his dedicated service, and he was presented with a proclamation acknowledging his passion for civic engagement. Mayor Steve Miller and Vice Mayor Jeannie Bruins were both re-elected to the City Council and recited the oath of office. Newly elected council member Porsche Middleton took the oath of office and then took her seat on the Council, saying she was “honored and humbled to serve.” Miller nominated Bruins to take over as mayor for the new term and she was unanimously approved by the Council. Mayor Bruins then nominated council member Jeff Slowey for vice mayor, and he was also unanimously approved.

Citrus Heights Chief of Police Ronald Lawrence introduced a new K-9 officer, a two-year-old black lab named Farley. Partnered with Officer Dave Moranz, Farley is a drug-detention dog who has been on the job for just a few weeks. In that short time, he has already alerted on numerous drug shipments, leading to multiple arrests.

The Council unanimously voted to establish an ordinance for the preservation of street trees and landmark trees, which was a necessary step in order for the city to submit an application for the honorary designation of Tree City, USA. To qualify, a city must have a street tree ordinance, have a dedicated tree department, expend money on tree care and preservation, and celebrate Arbor Day. The city held their first Arbor Day celebration this year and has plans for a much bigger celebration in 2019.

City staff explained that homeless shelters in the county are currently at about 90% capacity, and this problem becomes more critical during the winter months. A state program, Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP), would provide additional funding to expand existing shelters and create some new shelters throughout the county. To qualify for HEAP funding, the city must declare shelter crisis, which states that a significant number of persons in the city do not have the ability to obtain shelter and that the situation is a threat to their health and safety. Approximately 8% of the county’s homeless population lives in Citrus Heights. Sacramento County, the City of Sacramento, and the City of Elk Grove have all already declared shelter crisis, and Rancho Cordova is also expected to declare. All the participating jurisdictions will have input on how the funds are spent, and regional collaboration will ensure that the homeless population is better served throughout the county. The motion was unanimously approved by the Council.

Citrus Heights has been contracting with SacRT for transit service since 2001. Based on a transit management study, the city recently created a comprehensive transit plan evaluating the various transportation options: continue contracting service with SacRT, create a stand-alone transit system within the city, or annex into SacRT. The plan identified annexation as the preferred option, stating that it is the most cost-effective solution and has the most long-term benefits. The city negotiated with SacRT to ensure Citrus Heights will receive service that is equal to or better than that received under contract and to increase the city’s voting shares on the SacRT board. 

Mike Barnbaum, community ambassador for SacRT, spoke in support of annexation, stating that annexing all the areas in the region “will create a unified regional transit system” and “will ensure the competitiveness of Sacramento County and the region.”

Vice Mayor Slowey acknowledged that Elk Grove set up a stand-alone transit system but will probably be annexing into SacRT soon as well. “Doing it on our own, we would need transfer agreements with other areas. And it’s more expensive to run it ourselves. Joining a larger organization, we’ll get access to better service…What’s best for the region is best for Citrus Heights.”

Council member Daniels agreed that is beneficial to pursue regional solutions—“if it works.” He voiced concern about giving up local control and the difficulty of detaching from SacRT if the city isn’t happy with the service it receives. Folsom is annexing into SacRT, and Daniels recommended waiting “to see how Folsom is treated.” Daniels thinks the future of transportation might be microtransit, and he suggested using the dedicated local transportation funds to subsidize Lyft or Uber rides for residents instead of buying into a regional bus system.  He said, “I won’t support it. It’s not the right time.”

Mayor Bruins agreed that “transportation is evolving. And we need a seat at the table so we can help design the future.” She called for a vote and the motion passed 4 to 1.