Friday, September 29, 2023

Townhall 9.27.23 Summary

On Wednesday I hosted a townhall in order to take questions from the community.  Typically during regular Council meetings, Councilmembers are limited in how they can engage with the public.  Dialogue is generally restricted, and we can only address items that are on the agenda.   I wanted to provide an opportunity to have an actual dialogue where folks could ask questions and actually get responses.
The event was targeted for 1.5 hours, but went a little over 2.  For the most part the event went well.  There were a variety of questions from participants, ranging from the general budget outlook, specific budget actions as it relates to pension costs, Council behavior and decorum, current and historical activity related to the Olivia project, and questions regarding the newly adopted Master Fee Schedule.
Prior to the start of the Townhall, I noticed both Councilmembers Cloven and Tillman were in the audience.  I inquired whether it was permissible that a quorum of the Council was present and Councilmember Tillman indicated she had vetted it and stated that as long as she didn’t participate it was within the constraints of the Brown Act.  This is why I found it odd that throughout the evening, it appeared that Tillman was feeding questions to Tamara Steiner, the editor of the Pioneer.  During the Q&A period, Tillman became so animated that she raised her hand to speak, but then seemed to remember she couldn’t participate and instead appeared to whisper in Steiner’s ear.  I asked rhetorically if that was collusion, though it does call into question the objectivity of the Pioneer when its editor allows herself to be used as a mouthpiece for a sitting Councilmember.
There were questions that discussed decorum and my role as Mayor in enforcing it.  Things like cell phone usage, and how Councilmembers engage with staff and others.  To these I generally responded that while I am presiding over the meeting in my role as Mayor, all five Councilmembers are equals and I do not have the ability to direct someone else’s behavior.  In addition, while some may support interceding more forcefully when there are incidents they disagree with, I asked folks to consider if they would feel differently if that were to be applied to incidents they agreed with.  If I were to step in and stop one Councilmember, I would be in position to do that for all Councilmembers and that was not something I think I or others would be comfortable with. 
There were also questions around the newly adopted Master Fee Schedule.  Some were of a similar flavor that had been asked and answered already in different fora.  Others took objection to my article in the Pioneer where I detailed how the CBCA had for the past 15 years, had charges for use of city facilities waived entirely and simultaneously charged vendors a base rate and a percentage of their sales for the privilege of using those same facilities and streets.  I had earlier made a revenue sharing proposal however it was rejected without discussion and no counter proposal has been made. 
I have been trying for months to meet with the CBCA leadership to discuss the potential of a new MUA that is mutually beneficial to the CBCA, the City, and the taxpayers of our community.  After proposing several dates, the latest communication I received indicated it may be “a while” due to medical reasons.  I will continue to seek out a time where we can come together and work towards the betterment of our community.
With the questions around decorum and the deriding of certain behaviors, I found it incongruous when an audience member loudly stated, “you’re full of shit!”  I identified that comment specifically as an example of the behavior that folks had previously criticized, but no admonishment was forthcoming.
Overall, excluding the aforementioned cursing, I thought the Townhall was a productive Q&A session and look forward to more opportunities to address folk’s questions.  Feel free to reach out directly and I will try to address any questions you may have.