Intimidate Open Government..Restrict "routine" Consent Calendar items

At the May 21st Mission Viejo City Council meeting I questioned a recent majority vote to change the prior City Policy where any member of the public could turn in a speakers slip requesting to address items appearing on the Consent Calendar

Let’s discuss why it’s important to reverse that action.

Several years ago, after challenging council member Susan Withrow for office, I had submitted an item for discussion. She told me that it’s possible that no member of that council would pull the item. And I recall a time when they didn’t.

Another episode occurred after John Paul Ledesma was elected in 1998. I finally had someone to ask and he obliged. On June 19th 2000 we had a “routine” Consent Calendar ready for approval that he pulled for me. That council was approving a Contract with architect LPA for $501,000 to expand the library. I asked the council to justify placing this item on the Consent Calendar where the public is not guaranteed an opportunity to discuss such items unless pulled by a member of the council or staff. We never held a Public Hearing on this item nor did it ever appear under “New Business.”

At the June 26th 2000 Planning Commission meeting I asked Chairperson Emmy Day if they had ever seen drawings or sketches of the expansion to which she asked staff to respond. Community Dev. Director Chuck Wilson admitted that at that time no drawings had ever been provided. Therefore council approved a project without any discussion of how we intend to finance it, how many new staff would be required, what the interior would look like, what furniture and fixtures it would contain, etc.

Fast forward to Jan 6, 2003 when the new council took office.

Note: Watchdogs in Mission Viejo worked tirelessly to remove our sitting mayor and mayor pro tem in the Nov 2002 election. We united and supported the three winners which included incumbent John Paul Ledesma and newcomers Lance MaClean and Trish Kelley. I served as Trish’s campaign manager in that election. During the campaign I had requested that our policy on Consent Calendar items be revised so that anyone could pull items they wished to discuss.

That new council included both Trish Kelley and Lance MacLean were part of the 5-0 vote to allow the public to pull Consent Calendar items which is common practice in OC. At the very next meeting, Jan 20th, I pulled routine Consent Calendar items 6, 7 and 8 which were Check Registers containing three pending payments to Granich Construction for clean up of alleged illegal dumping at Lower Curtis Park for which our former city manager never issued a police report.
Those invoices totaled over $120,000. Over the next five days members of the Committee for Integrity in Government, including current Mayor Reavis, and Rick Reavis, joined me at the site to take photos of that activity. A Granich employee told me they were compacting the earth to a depth of 20 feet. Our photos include one of myself in an excavation nine feet deep. To me this was a stealth project for which the final cost, when we stopped the project, was around $200,000.

At a recent council meeting Trish Kelley, Lance MaClean and Frank Ury voted to change the Consent Calendar policy reverting back to the days before the 2002 Revolution in the Mission Viejo election. Although there has not been any abuse of this policy they recently attended a workshop with a facilitator and this is the result. So Trish and Lance flip on their prior vote without justification. This only proves that you cannot trust your elected officials to stick to prior commitments.

Having just returned from a trip outside the country, what if I returned over the weekend and had a concern about an item that appeared the following Monday. I should not be expected to chase down a willing council member on the weekend or Monday morning to discuss said issues to request their support. As it now stands only they can pull these items.

I commend Mayor Reavis and Mayor Pro-Tem, JP for their consistency in voting for the prior policy that has not been abused this year.
To reassure transparency and open government, the public should demand that the majority reverse this recent policy revision.

Following is a Mission Viejo City link to our May 21st council meeting. You can view and hear my Public Comments of the above by simply clicking on the link and when prompted “jump to” scroll down to Public Comments where I have three minutes to address any non-agendized items. You should also take note that there is no staff report on Public Comment items.

Furthermore, you will notice that none of the three present members responded after I spoke. Give them their three minutes and hopefully they will go away. Sadly, that’s the attitude of many council members.

Unfortunately you cannot clearly view the 15 photos of the “alleged” illegal dumping where we observed a huge CAT excavating and separating dirt or the huge compactor at work. Also included were photos of dump trucks spreading the earth and later another vehicle watering it down.

About Larry Gilbert