Atascadero City Council shuts off dialog with public

August 3, 2011

OPINION By DAVID BROADWATER

From now on, when Atascaderans give public comments during Community Forum at City Council meetings, they can no longer receive the customary and occasional responses from council and staff members allowed by California’s open meeting law.

Previously, under the Brown Act, in response to questions and matters raised regarding non-agenda issues, the public could expect those assembled officials may ask to clarify a question, direct people to information, briefly discuss matters raised, or direct an issue to be a subject of a staff report or agenda item at a future meeting.

Those responses are now banned.

Under a prohibition suddenly announced and unilaterally instituted by the Mayor Tom O’Malley at the July 12 Council meeting, none of those responses will be allowed during Council meetings – turning what was once a two-way street into a one-way alley. There was no public notice about these major restrictions, nothing on any agenda, no opportunity for public comment, and no discussion, motion, vote or explanation of the rationale for them.

This prohibition is destructive to the ability of the public to participate in the governmental decision-making process (the purpose of the Brown Act), undermines the motivation to participate in Council meetings, subverts the government’s capacity to respond to emerging issues, and prevents public servants from performing their duties.

Furthermore, the restrictions were concocted behind closed doors, well in advance of the July 12 meeting, as evidenced by the agenda for that meeting posted on July 5. The description of Community Forum on that agenda was changed in a manner identical to the response ban implemented a week later, i.e. no response to questions, no discussion, and termination of previously permitted agendizing of matters raised.

Apparently, more than one week prior to July 5, some members of city management, staff and/or council discussed, deliberated and decided upon this prohibition, completely out of public view, in violation of the Brown Act.

At their August 9 meeting, the Council will hear from citizens demanding this prohibition be immediately declared null and void, that the full range of legally permissible responses be restored, and that any future such restrictions be considered the right way – in public, on the record and subject to public comment.

People concerned about this can attend that meeting at 6:00 p.m. or email the Councilmembers: citycouncil@atascadero.org, tomalley@atascadero.org, bkelley@atascadero.org, jclay@atascadero.org,rfonzi@atascadero.org, bsturtevant@atascadero.org

David Broadwater is a long time Atascadero resident and a local activist.


18 Comments

  1. mbactivist1 says:

    Atascadero, you are not alone. In Morro Bay, during City Council meeting public comment, Yates has actually tried to stop people from saying things he doesn’t want them to say, and has also been known to exhibit a very sarcastic attitude when responding to public comment made by people he appears to feel threatened by.

    Yates also tried to fire the entire Planning Commission when they found fault with an environmental impact report for a project he was pushing – and that report had a lot of faults to find. The Coastal Commission staff wrote a 12-page report about how bad it was.

    Our arrogant local politicians have no interest in residents’ views or concerns. One of the current Morro Bay City Council members was overheard, in a conversation with a high-ranking City employee, referring to local activists as “gnats”.

    Such is life in our unbelievably corrupt county. The best thing to do is to complain state and federal agencies. We have had some success with that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

    • justme says:

      Yeah, Yates is known too party too much if he wants to be responsible to his town (that partys too much also).
      He’s gotta take care of his lungs a litttle better let’s say.

      MB politics today-up in smoke.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  2. easymoney says:

    Another in a long line of disconnect with the public process by Atown.
    Next they’ll be charging us to make public comment in a supposedly open meeting?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  3. Nancy says:

    This is almost hysterical, everybody in Atascadero who pay’s attention to our local gov or anyone who attends the BOS or Water Control Board meetings knows that when Dave B accuses you of doing something wrong, it’s because you definitely did it.

    Mike Brennler always has his documentation and usually tells anyone watching the City Council meetings right where they can go and see the information for themselves, like with all this excessive vacation time, general paid leave, extra pay and benefits that they hide from the public, it’s right there once we know enough to look at it (thanks Mike).

    So now the City Council has decided that they just won’t answer any questions! That’s unbelievable, they are so bad that they won’t answer any public questions on TV! We all need to make a stink about this, that IS NOT OK. I expect answers and if they are too embarrassed then they need to step down.

    STEP ON DOWN and collect your prize, you deserve a good swift kick in the behind. Here it comes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  4. Cindy says:

    I really wish David would run for City Council, he is known as a big tenacious pain in the butt and their are many people who would vote for him. Let’s just say he has a reputation that you have to respect, even if you don’t like him, because if he can’t prove it, he doesn’t say it and when it comes to organizing, he is generally neutral. I really believe he could take an election with no problem. He has always said that he likes the freedom to speak out when and where he wants and that taking on a public position would hinder his cause.

    I say it’s now or never, we need him where he can call the shot’s. He would straighten out the Brown Act Violators immediately, in fact, they wouldn’t dare, not under his watchful eye.

    DAVID BROADWATER for A-TOWN MAYOR. It would be too good to be true and we could all LOAO at the clowns currently running the “show”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

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