Posted 10/15/11 – In the interest of transparency, this will also be read at the Sierra Madre City Council Meeting on October 25th. Thanks, Pat Alcorn
At the October 11th Sierra Madre City Council Meeting, Councilmember Walsh blasted the General Plan Update Committee, specifically Chair Denise Delmar for wanting to hold secret meetings, for wanting to violate the Brown Act and for not being transparent in the Committee’s business. Walsh, in her rant also urged Councilmember MacGillivray to step down as liaison because MacGillivray perpetrated the notion that the General Plan was a document of the people rather than the responsibility of the City Council.
In her “Lookie here” moment, as she describes it in her written statement, Walsh said, “folks in the audience can continue to come to the microphone and repeat the plan is the people’s plan and not the City Council’s as you have many times, and you will continue to be wrong. And after tonight you will just look foolish.”
Contrary to that assertion, the State of California’s General Plan Guidelines are very extensive as to the broad issues that are to be covered in a General Plan. Amongst them is Chapter 8: Public Participation which quite clearly demands a broad involvement of the public in the process. It is also made quite clear that the General Plan is not the product of a single governing body. i.e. a city council
It is the duty as an elected representative to listen to the citizens of Sierra Madre. It is also incumbent to be respectful and courteous to the public as they express their opinions. The disdain in calling the citizens foolish for expressing their opinions at a City Council Meeting or any public meeting is not only arrogant and disrespectful, but a slap in the face to all who wish to become involved in their City’s government.
The accusations made of the GPUC of not being transparent and of wanting to conduct “secret meetings” is blatantly false. But, Lookie here – all meetings of the GPUC are open to the public. These meetings are advertised and posted. No action is taken by any group outside of the GPUC meetings. These meetings have input from committee members as well as the general public. A concerted effort has been made to encourage participation by all the public. General public members are encouraged to speak on items on the agenda and otherwise bring up items of their concern. This is indeed a people’s document in every sense of the word. This document is not the City Council’s document – the Council will read, discuss, and take additional input from the public at a public hearing after approval of the Planning Commission. Then and only then can the Council vote to approve.
When the GPUC was first appointed there was frustration on the parts of both the Committee and the City Staff because there were not enough hours or days available by staff to schedule regular meetings in which the staff could attend. Chair Delmar explored a way to meet without staff and without violating the Brown Act. Legal Council ruled against those options. However it was determined that sub-committees could be formed to study and make recommendations to the Committee as a whole. Their out-put is discussed thoroughly at a regular GPUC meeting. This has helped speed up the process immeasurably.
The Committee was also concerned as how to adequately plan for community involvement including community meetings and not take valuable time away from working on the actual plan and without violating the Brown act. With the blessing of the Sierra Madre Legal Council, a citizen’s volunteer group (not committee) was formed to assist the Committee.
A meeting of this group of volunteers was first held in a private home, with attendant publicity appearing in the Mt. Views News and on the SierraMadreNews.Net, in addition to reminders at City Council Meetings and at the GPUC. This was not a secret meeting — it was well publicized
Thirty-two people attended that meeting and participated in a lively, open discussion. That meeting was attended by a wide spectrum of citizens including then-Mayor Joe Mosca, Bill Coburn and citizens from all walks of Sierra Madre. Susan Henderson (publisher of the Mountain Views News) expressed her regrets but indicated she intended to be involved. Subsequent volunteer group meetings assisted the GPUC in planning their two Community Forums and these volunteers also assisted in widely disseminating literature, questionnaires, posters, flyers and yard signs. None of this could have been done by the nine member committee alone, nor could staff.
The hard work by each and every Committee Member, the volunteers and all of the citizens expressing their opinions through the questionnaires, meetings, forums and public hearings will make the General Plan Update a robust document that broadly represents all the interests of the community, indeed, a People’s Document, and we, the people, are not foolish nor are we wrong for our participation.