Should public meetings continue without the public?

23 Apr

One of the most frustrating aspects of the current health crisis is there seem to be no consistent rules for anything.  The Establishment seems to be making it up as they go along.

Here in Chico, COnVID Czar Mark Orme is making the rules, having been handed the whip by everybody’s favorite Mistress of Mayhem, Ann Schwab. Orme has called for “remote meetings” of various boards and commissions, including City Council. He has suspended “parts” of the Brown Act (!). He has decided that the public can only comment by computer, and he’s chosen an online system  that doesn’t work.  The public must either chime in ahead of time on Chico Engaged! or comment via email, a special address that feeds live to the clerks.

I have to say, the clerks are trying hard to make this work, but it’s not. For one thing, council keeps calling “special” meetings, with only 24 hours notice, so that kind of puts a kink in getting your comments in ahead. Does that matter? Does council actually read the comments on Chico Engaged? Did they read this one?

“John Maxon 19 days ago

I could not agree more. Get rid of those who cannot live in civilized society

John owner of

Grease trap Cleaning Cincinnati Ohio Grease trap Pumping South Bend Indiana Excavation Contractor Evansville Indiana Mold Removal Dayton Ohio”

John is obviously following the blogger’s advice – comment on other websites, especially the free ones! There are at least a dozen spam ads on that website, scattered across various postings. 

I don’t believe council members read every comment posted on Chico Engaged for any agenda item. I don’t believe they read all the emails either, it’s not possible, even for a speed reader. At the first meeting the clerk read them aloud, but that was probably almost as onerous for council as having to actually listen to members of the public, so they stopped that. Now the clerks have to decide whether comments are “pro” or “con” and tally them as such. Wow, so much for all those eloquent speeches we’ve got used to over the years. Hey folks, don’t waste your time, just type in PRO or CON. 

 

I don’t believe they should  be holding meetings right now, there has not been anything on these agendas that should qualify for a “Special”, let alone an “Emergency” meeting (1 hour notice). 

As one local gadfly noted: 

“On March 12, during the Emergency Agenda, the City council passed the following motion:

‘To limit city council meetings to one meeting a month; Those meetings should only be held if there are essential government operations that need to be discussed; insure that only essential city staff need to attend these meetings; and ask staff to address how we can provide safe space for the public to interact with the council during those essential meetings. This will remain in effect for the duration of the Butte County Local State of Emergency. The next scheduled meeting on March 17 should be rescheduled.’

Since that time there have been two ‘Special Meetings’ on March 25 and last night 4/21 and a regular meeting on April 7. That’s four meetings in under 6 weeks. The non-emergency schedule is three meetings in six weeks. Notice a problem?

Regular meetings require 72 hour notice. Special meetings require on 24 hour notice. Emergency meetings require 1 hour notice. We have had one emergency meeting, two special meetings and one regular meeting. All but the first one had no public in attendance.”

Yesterday morning (4/22) there was a “remote”  Finance Committee meeting. There was nothing on that agenda that required immediate action, just updates, reports included in the agenda. Except for the General Services Director’s report, which should be included in the written reports, but for some reason is not.  

The meeting was live streamed, and I was told I would be able to watch it and comment with the link provided. But when I tried to tune into the website at 8:15 for the 8:30 am meeting, it demanded a password. By the time I got the city IT guy to give me the freaking password, the committee had already heard, discussed, and voted on the first item. He and the clerk were flustered, I could tell they had not worked out all the bugs. 

I watched the rest of the meeting – I’ll blog the finance reports later, very interesting.

There’s no conversation with the public. These committee meetings used to be where citizens could actually engage these people on specific issues before the full council is called to make a decision.  Where we could ask questions. Too many questions. 

So, I had to wonder – what is the county doing? Cause they actually have WORK going on, you know, fixing roads, etc.  They actually have essential business to discuss.  I found they also have a totally different online comment mechanism, way better than the city. Here’s the agenda for next Tuesday (4/28/20) , and you  can comment on various items any time after they post the agenda.  Check it out. 

https://buttecounty.granicusideas.com/meetings/506-board-of-supervisors-meeting/agenda_items?page=3

 

The meeting will be live streamed – here’s the link to the main page, you will see the video link on Thursday when the meeting begins. 

http://www.buttecounty.net/boardofsupervisors/boardmeetings

Next time – the finance reports. 

 

 

 

4 Responses to “Should public meetings continue without the public?”

  1. paul April 24, 2020 at 7:07 am #

    saw this this morning
    As the fiscal year draws to a close, Chico city staff is trying to determine what can be done in the midst of a pandemic, without being sure how great a hit city revenue will ultimately take.

    “We have a difficult challenge before us on the financial front,” City Manager Mark Orme said, with a projected loss of about $3 million expected “from what we anticipated would be coming in” in 2020.

    “We’re anticipating more than that in losses in the next fiscal year,” he added.

    It will take time to know how great the financial crisis facing the city is. Orme said already, over a dozen city staff positions have been terminated “because of this situation” and the anticipated financial impacts. These layoffs took place starting in early March:

    Juanita you said this for years
    you are correct
    Paul

    • Juanita Sumner April 25, 2020 at 5:54 am #

      Thanks for commenting Paul.

      Yes, Mark Orme just threw a bunch of interns and part-timers under the bus to show us he’s going to cut services if we don’t pony up for his tax measure.

      What Orme doesn’t say, is that the “losses” are only projected – they over project the coming revenues, and when that doesn’t happen, they call it a “loss”. Unfortunately, they spend based on projections, so it puts us in the red when they knowingly make overly-optimistic projections. I think they do that so we’ll feel pressure to pass their sales tax increase measure.

      If you listen to the whole conversation at the Finance Committee meeting (which should be available on the website), you’ll hear Dowell say over and over that revenues are ahead of budget and we’re still in the black. But then he and Constantin go on to predict gloom and doom in the economy. Just like they said the Camp Fire evacuees were going to put us in the red, instead, they put us ahead of budget.

      Like Slippin’ Jimmy, city management will say whatever they have to just to get what they want – money to pay their pensions and 457 Plans.

  2. Scott Rushing April 27, 2020 at 7:50 pm #

    Hi Juanita: Another great editorial. My vent is against CPD. Watch Orme use his super-secret new power try to justify the hiring of Matt Madden, O’Brien’s hand-picked successor, as the new chief. Watch Orme and Madden try to cut back on needed training to “save money” then together ask for more cops, more salary, and more lethal toys.

    The killings of Desmond Phillips and Tyler Rushing, and prior killings, have quietly cost Chicoans probably millions of dollars in legal fees, staff time, settlement fees, increased insurance premiums.

    Scott

    Scott

    On Thu, Apr 23, 2020 at 2:18 PM Chico Taxpayers Association wrote:

    > Juanita Sumner posted: “One of the most frustrating aspects of the current > health crisis is there seem to be no consistent rules for anything. The > Establishment seems to be making it up as they go along. Here in Chico, > COnVID Czar Mark Orme is making the rules, having been han” >

    • Juanita Sumner April 28, 2020 at 5:51 am #

      Thanks for that heads up Scott – of course, I’d heard nothing about this from city of Chico.

      I think we need to change the charter to elect the police chief and other city officers, like the clerk, maybe even the manager. What does it matter electing a bunch of idiots who just do what the manager says?

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