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Council Takes Steps to Curb Own Agenda Items
 

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By Jorge Casuso

September 17, 2021 -- The City Council on Tuesday took steps to stem the flood of items, many of them administrative, individual Councilmembers themselves place on meeting agendas.

Under the approved meeting rules, Council members should first consult with the City Manager to see if the item can be placed on the agenda as a Staff Administrative item.

Over the past four meetings, Councilmembers have placed 20 items -- which are usually reserved to express policy positions, make appointments and disburse small amounts of funding -- on the agenda, many of them administrative.

The discussion became testy when Phil Brock, whose name appears on half of the agenda items placed over the past two months, mounted a vigorous defense, citing the City's lack of action on issues that concern residents.

"If you try and shut me up you can, but I'll bring more up then," Brock said. "I'm not going to shut up.

"I'm going to try and represent the residents who elected me and the residents who voted against me," Brock said. "They need help."

Brock placed five items on Tuesday's agenda, dealing with everything from forgiving parking tickets and resuming cash payments on buses to placing restrictions on amplified sound and calming traffic on a street in Ocean Park.

Mayor Sue Himmelrich noted that one of Brock's items -- to review safety and security measures Downtown -- was scheduled to be heard at the next Council meeting September 28.

Brock said the agenda item was necessary to call attention to an issue that has been a major concern for Promenade merchants.

"They have asked for a year without any help from the City Council," Brock said. "At some point someone has to give them a voice.

"If I had thought that the City government would have handled this, I would not have put it on as a 13 (Councilmember) item."

Interim City Manager John Jalili noted the controversy stirred by a 13 item placed on the May 11 agenda to cover the historic mural at City Hall ("Council Votes to Cover Historic Mural in City Hall Lobby," May 14, 2021).

"We have been getting a lot of complaints on the process, how the public didn't get to participate," Jalili said.

Councilmember Oscar de la Torre, who placed the item on the agenda, said the mural, which many deem racist, had been the subject of protests over the past six years with no action taken.

"There was a long trajectory on how this decision was made," said de la Torre, who led protests of the mural in 2015 and 2017. "I had exhausted every remedy."

Himmelrich noted that Councilmember administrative items are often meant to send a message "saying staff isn't doing what they're supposed to be doing."

Trying to address the many resident concerns in a City full of involved citizens is "sort of like sticking your finger in the dyke."

Councilmember Gleam Davis noted that 13 items are heard at the tail end of meetings, are not accompanied by staff reports and get scant public input.

"We're actually making policy without staff reports or public comments," Davis said.


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