Opinion: Another bad idea from the city council

By Ed Martin, The Leader Editor

In the history of our species there have been many original and brilliant ideas, many of which have changed mankind. Of the four ideas listed below, which one fails the "good idea" test?

  1. Steve Jobs creating the Iphone
  2. Immigration reform
  3. Creation of The Leader
  4. Mayor Billy Siegel and Council Member John Gordon’s creation of a city council liaison?

If you consider items one, two or three as good ideas, you’re 100 percent correct and you deserve recognition as one of the truly enlightened of Lemoore. You earn exalted status if you agree with item three.

 If you think item four is a good idea, well, perhaps, you’re just a bad test taker, having a lousy day, or your medication just wore off.

The answer of course is item four. It fails the good idea test, and in a very dramatic way.

At their last meeting, council members, in a 3-2 vote (members Willard Rodarmel and Lois Wynne dissented) approved an idea from Gordon and Siegel to create a “liaison” whose main function would be to sit in on meetings with the Lemoore City Manager.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work: The Council liaison could be any council member or a member of the public. The liaison would be notified by the city manager of all important meetings related to city business and may attend and participate in the meetings with the city manager.

The premise presumably is to ensure that council members and the public are informed of important daily city business proceedings, and to provide council members with accurate, complete information, something they say they’ve been lacking from previous staff.

Both council members think it’s a good idea and that’s what worries me. So far, in their short tenures in the majority, the mayor and Gordon have convinced other members to fire one of the most competent city managers in California, eliminated the planning department on the false proposition that it was not needed, hired the engineering firm of Quad Knopf to oversee the planning department at a cost of approximately $100,000 a year for about 10-15 hours per week, and declared the mayor’s birthday as a city holiday.

The last item was of course completely made up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it makes it onto a future agenda.

Joining the majority in this vote was newcomer Eddie Neal. The Leader urges Neal to reconsider his decision because it sets a poor precedent and would create an untenable situation for city staff, particularly the city manager, whomever is selected to replace former city manager, Jeff Briltz.

Furthermore, I find it difficult to believe that a competent city manager would support such a liaison, whose job it would be to look over his or her shoulder. In a city manager, city council form of government, which Lemoore is, a competent city manager doesn’t need a liaison looking over his shoulder and second guessing him.

That liaison, which could be a member of the public or a council member, could very well fall into the hands of the mayor. Fellow council member Gordon has recommended Siegel take the job.

Such a liaison would also send a message to staff that the council doesn’t trust it, which in the opinion of The Leader is exactly the message some council members are sending.

 There are members of the public who see a liaison as nothing more than a power grab, something Siegel says isn’t the case. He says the council liaison is simply about improving communication – with the council and the people of Lemoore.
The mayor, in council meetings, has often repeated the tiresome mantra that his goal as a city leader is to listen to what the people have to say, and act accordingly. Unfortunately, this mantra flies in the face of the facts. It’s not the people of Lemoore he’s listening to, but rather the business and development community.

In The Leader’s opinion, our mayor and his cronies have sadly ignored the wishes of the public in order to further their own narrow agenda. The thing is, we’ re not exactly sure what that agenda is other than creating a “business-friendly” climate that welcomes businesses and developers by apparently easing the financial burden of the city’s planning and building requirements.

At last month’s public hearing, in which nearly 200 persons attended, each speaker derided the council’s proposal to eliminate the city’s planning department. Many citizens, including some very prominent ones, opposed the council’s proposal and suggested the council apply the brakes and wait for the new city manager to study the issue and deliver a more reasonable proposal to council.

Not one person in the audience spoke in favor of eliminating the planning department. Is this truly an example of our local leaders listening to Lemoore’s citizens, when a room full of citizens disagree with the mayor and not one person supported him?

“The people tell the city government what they want to do,” said Siegel at the last city council meeting. Apparently the mayor needs to work on his listening skills because he basically ignored the large crowd of citizens and voted to eliminate the planning department anyway.

 On the other hand, in a recent council meeting, he enthusiastically cited “positive” responses from the business/development community regarding the council’s decision to eliminate the planning department, and used those cryptic responses to further bolster his argument that the planning department had to go.

Gordon also seems to possess an over reliance on the words of developers, citing instances when developers told him the former city manager failed to forward important information to council members. Again, having a council, any council, rely on the remarks of a few developers, some of whom have financial dealings with the city, is a slap in the face to the public at large, most of whom aren’t developers.

Who are these business interests and developers? And where were they during the public hearing?

A citizen recently asked the mayor how he intends to improve communication to the public in light of the proposed liaison. He didn’t really have an effective answer, or I didn’t hear it.

The Leader offers a suggestion. In an effort to help our mayor improve his communication skills with the public, we’re open to offering him his own column, in which everything this so-called liaison learns, can be properly forwarded to the public in a timely and meaningful way. Keep in mind the editor of The Leader has a responsibility to edit it.

All the mayor has to do is call me. I will be waiting patiently by my phone. He has my number.


Comments powered by Disqus