City of Mission Viejo blows off transparency in government

During the 2002 election the “grass roots” of our city united and supported three winners including Trish Kelley in her first campaign at city government. Steve Greenhut labeled this shocking outcome as the “Revolution in Mission Viejo” where we trounced a sitting mayor and mayor pro tem. During the campaign I made a request to Trish to emulate other cities in allowing members of the public to pull routine Consent Calendar items for discussion. I felt that we were promised “open government,” and transparency surely is a major part of that operation. She responded by placing this on her agenda and it was approved by the council.

Prior to the 2002 election we were only permitted to discuss Consent Calendar items under Public Comments where no action can be taken. Furthermore, with a three minute time limit, if you had concerns with one or more items, including a non agendized public comment, it diluted your opportunity to get your message out.

Fast forward to the Mission Viejo city council meeting of April 16th that includes Item #26 under City Attorney Report which reads:

“Revision to City Council Meeting Process Regarding Limiting Removal of Agenda Items to the Members of the City Council and Review of City Council-City Manager Management Procedures (0410-90)

Recommended action: (1) Revising Council Policy 0400-3 Regarding City Council Meeting Protocols That Will Allow Only City Council Members to Remove Agenda Items for Discussion…”

In the Executive Summary it reads: In order to facilitate focusing on existing and new policy matters and to recognize that the City Council will reassert exclusive jurisdiction over removing business items form the agenda, the Council has indicated its interest in revising its meeting conduct policy regarding public comment and “new idea” consideration.

In attachment #1 it reads:

“1. The City Council will again reserve to itself the exclusive right to remove agenda items for greater discussion. If the City Council members do not believe an item requires specific discussion than no other person may remove an item from the agenda.”

To sum it up. Unless you have a friend on the council willing to pull an item the door for discussion is closed. Oh yes, they will revert back to forcing resident comments only at Public comment section in order to “comport with state law regarding open meetings while ensuring an efficient and orderly business meeting of the city council.”

This is a test. For those current Mission Viejo council members seeking higher office, or re-election next year, perhaps you can show your cards by your vote on Monday. We await that outcome. Each of you campaigned on “open government” yet now plan to shut if off. We’ll be watching and listening.

PS: Let me add that this current “open government” that we have enjoyed over the past four years has not been abused with respect to any excessive requests by members of the public!

Reader comments welcome.

About Larry Gilbert