Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Happenings: Public Safety, Public Nuisance

NOTE: Blogger isn't preserving my formatting into distinct paragraphs. I fear you'll have to wade through this one big block of text. I was a little late getting to tonight’s City Council meeting[1], but it seems they had a late start anyhow. I tuned in just in time to see an elementary school class getting its picture taken with the City Council; it seems the CC had been the focus of a letter-writing lesson. The class was there to see government in action, witnessing more government inaction instead, as is the norm for the start of these meetings. . After Mrs. Vasquez’s second-graders had their photo taken, new LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby was recognized and welcomed to the community. He said that Santa Clarita was the first of 58 cities served to invite him out—that’s just how Claritans roll. Chief Osby used the word “strategic” rather frequently, as in strategic plans to deal with budget cuts and Santa Clarita’s strategic place in the county. A number of firefighters joined him for the obligatory photo with the City Seal (the round, not flippery, sort). The second-grade kids and their parents took the shuffling about as a chance to flee the chamber. “Bam! They saw an opportunity and they bailed!” guffawed Councilmember Ferry, lustily, wondering whether the firemen would be savvy enough to do the same (they did). The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life was recognized next. A passionate speaker said that since its first year of participation, Santa Claritans have raised $4.3M for the cause. During councilmember reports, Ferry continued with his unofficial job in hospital PR. He read the news that Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital had been ranked 21st out of 138 hospitals in the Los Angeles region by US News & World Report[2]. Providence Holy Cross, the preferred choice of many Claritans, was 18th on the list. So, at least by USNWR standards, the hospitals are closely ranked. Mayor Pro-tem Laurie Ender talked about all of Santa Clarita’s trees in recognition of the City’s 21st consecutive “Tree City USA” award and the approach of the Earth Arbor Day celebration. This Saturday at Central Park, there will be 1000 free tress and 1000 free bags of mulch distributed. Councilmember Bob Kellar spoke about the funeral services for US Army Spc. Rudy Acosta, saying he had never been prouder of Santa Clarita than when he saw the massive show of support. Councilmember Laurene Weste gave an update on the community gardens. She said they have been very successful and that people are adding “amazing personal flair” with everything from stained glass to hummingbird feeders. She then read some basic facts on the Civil War (e.g., it changed America forever, has been known by many different names) that she thought were important to have on the record in light of the Battle of Fort Sumter being fought on April 12th, 1861--150 years ago today. Finally, Mayor McLean said that there will be a new Metrolink schedule implemented in May providing more trains for those commuting from the Antelope and Santa Clarita Valleys to LA. She mentioned a drive-thru car wash at the Hyatt on April 17th to benefit Bryan Stow, the paramedic who was severely beaten after a Dodger Stadium baseball game. McLean also said that she was applying for a new library card in preparation for the library takeover by LSSI. “The application is extremely simple and very easy,” she said, redundantly. You can get your application at santaclaritalibrary.com, where there are ungrammatical advertisements for the revamped libraries (they omit hyphens and have unorthodox capitalization). The Consent Calendar was approved without discussion. The only major item was the second reading and adoption of the ordinance to regulate mobile billboards. Two public hearings on annexations followed, the first for prezoning the area of Norland Road/Robinson Ranch, and the second for approving the annexation of Elsmere Canyon. McLean called the latter achievement “fantastically wonderful,” a sentiment with which we can all agree. If you’ll recall, there was an agenda item some weeks ago that pertained to landscaping some on-ramps and off-ramps—a $260,000 contract. An out-of-town company, Valley Crest Design, submitted a higher bid than a local company, Santa Clarita Landscape Development, but they were selected by staff on the basis of more experience. This led Bob Kellar and Laurie Ender to vote no on contracting with the out-of-towners while McLean and Weste voted in favor. Since Ferry was gone, City Attorney Joe Montes opined that the two votes were all that was needed to break the tie and award the contract to Valley Crest Design. The issue was revisited this evening. Curtis Nay, Assistant City Engineer, came forward with new information about how Valley Crest had scored a 92 on questions relating to qualifications, experience, and expertise whereas the local Santa Clarita Landscape Development, Inc. scored in the 60s. He added that, though located in Santa Ana, Valley Crest would likely use local sub-consultants and thus benefit local workers. It was the kind of information that could have averted the whole kerfuffle in the first place. Kellar thanked Nay for the update, and said he was now in agreement with staff’s choice of Valley Crest. There was one public speaker, Alan Ferdman. He recalled his reaction to the 2-2 vote on the initial measure, “I was astonished; a tie represents a majority—how can this be?” Based on official FAQs for city governments, Ferdman concluded that Montes was “misinformed” in his opinion on the number of votes needed for the ordinance. Montes countered that there wasn’t a specific code section for this type of ordinance, and the City would do well to clarify its policy on ties over such ordinances. Ferdman was rather dramatic when talking about the implications of the purportedly mistaken legal opinion, and this inspired a defensive response from the City Council. Bob Kellar said Ferdman had made an “unnecessary attack,” and McLean said “Some of those remarks from Mr. Ferdman were unwarranted…as usual,” with her usual eye-roll. In new business, the City Council discussed formation of a Public Safety Sub-Committee composed of two coulcilmembers who would meet regulalrly with Captain Paul Becker. It was Bob Kellar’s idea from back in January, and he thought monthly meetings would be a swell idae. I thought the plan would be enthusiastically embraced. However, the other members of the City Council seemed to be advocating a more reasonable position than Kellar. Unusual, I know. They reminded him that Becker had a lot of people to report to already: he spoke with Pulskamp almost daily, by Pulskamp’s account; there were County officials to answer to; and he already offered regular updates before the whole City Council. “I’m not sure there’s a need for it,” summarized McLean, who seemed to prefer updates delivered to the public and whole City Council. Kellar insisted that the sub-committee and monthly meetings were warranted, arguing that if the City has a vector control sub-committee, it should certainly have on devoted to public safety. (Apparently, there are about two-dozen sub-committees, and Ferry thought it was time to clean house and get defunct committees “off the books.”) Ultimately, staff will return with information on the parameters of such a sub-committee and what purposes or needs it would fill. During Public Participation, a speaker compared the City’s LSSI dealings with how the Democrats rammed healthcare reform through the US Congress against public opinion, an analogy that none of the City Council Republicans likely found very flattering. Scott Wilk asked the City Council to emphasize the need to be involved with California’s redistricting efforts. “Our population’s only large enough for about one-half of an assembly seat” said Wilk, and on Saturday, April 30th, there will be hearings in San Fernando that will shape our future representation. It’s a date cunningly set to coincide with the Cowboy Festival, when SCV power players will be preoccupied with Baxter Back and buffalo tri-tip. Valerie Thomas spoked next, and said that she wished the City would answer more questions about the LSSI library takeover. “Councilmembers, you are our elected representatives. Please represent us.” She said that they presently don’t, and “treat the public at best as nuisances.” Finally, David Gauny read aloud from City Council norms and procedures in response to McLean’s dig at Alan Ferdman. He found some gems, such as “Council will make the public feel welcome,” and “Council should not make snappy, sarcastic remarks.” Ken Pulskamp responded to the library by spouting the usual bullshit about extensive public outreach and involvement in the library takeover process. To be fair, there was extensive public participation—the City just didn’t act in a way that made it seem like they had been listening. Regarding Valerie Thomas’s perception of being thought of as a nuisance, Pulskamp said “I take offense at that.” He said he can’t always respond immediately to the hundred or so emails he receives every day, but does his best to address every question in a timely manner. Mayor McLean agreed that her words to Ferdman hadn’t been the best, but said “When we are constantly attacked, and things are taken out of context, […] we get a little frustrated.” She closed with a little mock martyrdom, saying “I should have sat here and listened to you berate us.” The meeting ended shortly before 8:00. [1]Here is the agenda. [2]US News rankings

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

McLean - Yes, you should have.

All of the Council have fought tooth and nail to be there and yet they constantly seemed surprised that they have to actually deal with the public. Suck it up, or go home.