Friday, August 24, 2007

Happenings: McFarland's Most Ethical News Conference

NOTE(8/25/07): It seems that when I refer to "Mayor McLean's email" (paragraph 6) that I should really say "the email sent by an unidentified party using Mayor McLean's email address." The packet of emails I received at the news conference did not contain page 8 of a PDF now posted on SCVTalk. On that page, Ken Pulskamp said the email in question was sent out before the Mayor had "an opportunity to review and/or approve the message." In short, one oughtn't assume that an email from Mayor McLean was sent by her even if it came from her email addy. Finally, to correct Bruce McFarland on SCVTalk, those associated with IHeartSCV are not "emissaries" of SCVTalk, much to that site's relief, I'm sure.

With classes not yet in session and work in the afternoon, I stand in the enviable position of being able to attend “news conferences” like the one held by Bruce McFarland & Co. at 11am this morning. (The always charming Gail Ortiz, City Communications Division Manager, may or may not have met/identified two individuals associated with IHeartSCV at said conference; we'll leave that for her to decide.)

McFarland, a decidedly liberal Claritan, never met a problem he couldn’t solve with an acronym. In 2005, for example, he formed “Santa Clarita For Separation of Church and State” (SCSCS[1]) in response to then-Mayor Cameron Smyth’s prayer breakfast. I’m not sure how many members it included at the height of its power, but I imagine I could have counted them using approximately one-fifth of the fingers on my right hand.

Today, however, he came to City Hall with more than a half-dozen supporters to promote his newest effort, scvEthics.com. The website includes a form[2] that will allow any Claritan with Internet access and time to kill to report “questionable activities” they observe. Remarks Jeff at SCVTalk: “McFarland says the tattle form is ‘absolutely needed to restore confidence in our local government’ and he will apparently accept anonymous complaints, fake names, second-hand accounts, and hearsay from people who fill out the form. Yeah, this couldn't possibly be abused."[3] McFarland addressed this issue today, suggesting that City employees might feel more comfortable blowing whistles and reporting wrong-doings if they can do so without fear of being named and known. Again, "Yeah, this couldn't possibly be abused."

The news conference, held in the lobby of City Hall, began with the formal introduction of the SCV Ethics Alliance. According to McFarland, the group wants to work towards making City actions more transparent and people in power more accountable, saying that "We have no mechanism to find out what really happens."

The focus of the conference then shifted--shockingly--to the Henry Mayo expansion issue, and we were given four pages of email correspondence between Mayor McLean and Bill Reynolds on the topic. Reynolds voiced serious concern about the City's actions regarding the hospital in a July 11th email, writing "City planning personnel have done an extremely poor job as evidenced time and time again ... [the plans] are in obvious violation of the City of Santa Clarita's own 'Bill of Rights'." McLean--or one of her assistants--sent back a lengthy email responding to these concerns.

Things almost got interesting when McFarland suggested that the email from McLean might contain "factual inaccuracies." He was careful to qualify his accusations by saying "I'm just asking questions," but much of what he said was downright factual. For example, the July 24th response email from Mayor McLean states "One of the two problem intersections [for the hospital] will be corrected by another project currently before the City Planning Commission." From this quotation alone, it seems that Mayor McLean is counting her eggs before they hatch. She assumes the City Planning Commission will approve a project that removes an objection to hospital construction while the project is still being considered by the Commission.

Unfortunately for McFarland, none of the problems he's discovered are of the big, flashy variety. They involve things like saying "mixed use corridor" to defend the project instead of using legitimate zoning terms and the finer details of assessing noise impact. Thus, while his complaints are legitimate, they aren't the sort of things to get most people fired up. In fact, even our attention spans proved sorely lacking and we left for Pei Wei before the news conference was completely over. The real media was there, so if we missed anything I'm sure you'll hear about it.

The Henry Mayo issue is going to be the meat of the next Council Meeting (August 28th) according to the agenda that was released yesterday. I have no doubts that we're going to hear a lot from the new Alliance that has charged itself with making SCV more ethical.


[1]The group’s website can be found here and an interview regarding this group and its goals can be found at http://www.scvhistory.com/scvhistory/signal/newsmaker/sg052205.htm
[2]Seen something questionable? First, tell me. Then, tell McFarland on this form
[3] From the August 21st News Brief, here

3 comments:

Jeff said...

I think Bruce was referring to Calli, who occasionally writes articles for SCVTalk. She was also at the press conference.

A Santa Claritan said...

Perhaps even Bruce wasn’t sure to whom he was referring. He notes you, your purported “emissary”, and my accusation of his propensity towards acronyms ("You're right, I love a good acronym", where I assume "you" is IHeartSCV based on my blog post, unless you[Jeff] have made similar suggestions) all in that same post.

With all the ambiguous pronouns from Bruce and emails-from- McLean's-email-address-but-not-McLean-herself, I'm not sure what to think. I suspect Bruce will hit the highlights from the email at Tuesday's Council Meeting.

shecky said...

Is there no one out there that can enjoy a well-made frankfurter?