How much is too much when it comes to building permit fees for a city trying to bounce back from bankruptcy?
Tuesday Stockton’s City Council members took harsh criticism for what some in the public see as them dragging their heels — not acting on fee cuts that could help save their city.
“It just dramatically drops off … as the fees go up. Staff recommended huge building increases that destroyed the housing economy,” said Tom Ruemmler of Stockton.
“You want to listen to staff? You are the leaders. We elect y’all. We don’t elect staff. You guys let staff manipulate the hell out of you, and we go short in the neighborhood,” said former Stockton Councilman Ralph Lee White.
Right now, building permit fees in the city of Stockton range between $52,000 and $54,000 — a hurdle too high for many builders to clear, thus keeping the jobs they could bring out of Stockton.
Proposals for a $17,000 cut have been before the council since early in the summer, but there’s been some confusion over scheduling of council study sessions on the matter and if public workshops were required.
Tuesday, in the face of a public that wouldn’t let them wait any longer, the council took a big step forward and set Oct. 13 for a possible vote to reduce the fees.
Council members also heard a strong word from the public about another piece of business that has been dragged out — action on an independent audit.
Given the city’s past problems with bankruptcy and transparency, Measure A Oversight Committee members were pushing for $20,000 to be spent on an auditor who hasn’t worked with the city before.
Council members eventually voted to start the bid process to find that auditor.