Leftover shoe goo, yes, but who’s goo is it?
April 1, 2016
OPINION BY LEANN AKINS
This letter is in response to Bob Cuddy’s March 24 opinion piece entitled “Leftover shoo goo.” While Mr. Cuddy has correctly identified there are issues presenting themselves within the City of Arroyo Grande and its city council, he has misidentified the reasons behind the issues.
Cuddy points only to two people, Mayor Jim Hill and Council Member Tim Brown and castigates them while doing so.
What people should know about Mayor Hill and Council Member Brown:
- They are concerned about their city.
- They invest in people, not in tactics which divide or limit a growth mind-set.
- They respect people because they take time to listen.
- They ask questions that should be asked of staff because they expect excellence and transparency.
Mayor Hill and Council Member Brown have worked tirelessly over the last year in asking tough questions of the South Sanitation District Board of Directors. They have worked to rectify the sanitation district dysfunction which has plagued the district for years.
The release of the long over-due independent audit completed by Carl Knudson in January 2016, revealed what was assumed regarding mismanagement and malfeasance over the course of two decades. Without their participation, and those of concerned and vocal community members, this audit would not have been completed, nor steps taken to remedy the past practices of the sanitation district.
Even Director Matt Guerrero spoke about the 180 degree turnaround at the plant. Mayor Hill and Council Member Brown have insisted on transparency in the books and the daily operations of the plant.
Mayor Hill and Council Member Brown asked important questions around who is responsible for setting a city council agenda. These questions have been raised because items Mayor Hill requested be added to the agenda were left off the agenda. Two examples of this include the Brisco exit closure and the performance review of Dianne Thompson, our City Manager.
Both items were later discussed during special meetings, costing the taxpayers of Arroyo Grande money. Money, consequently we do not have.
Public notices are required for any sort of public hearing. Questions were also raised about the notifications regarding the Brisco closure in particular. The question I have for Mr. Cuddy and others reading this is, what is wrong with civic leaders asking questions about processes and procedures, when the goal behind the question is to have the best outcome for the community?
Should our elected officials turn a blind eye when processes and procedures meant to protect and inform the public are being circumvented, ignored, or at best loosely followed?
Mayor Hill and Council Member Brown have also asked tough questions regarding the budget of the City of Arroyo Grande.
What people may not realize is that while we are meeting our expenses, we are doing so because we are dipping into our reserves. At one point, our reserves will run out; we cannot sustain our expenses with our current revenue or by using our reserves. Both Mayor Hill and Council Member Brown have requested that reason prevail and for the city and council to work together to find areas which need to be cut back.
Other members of the staff and council avoid this issue and ignore the reality of our budgetary gaps. I will remind readers that not many citizens were (or are) aware of the $17 million unfunded Pers liability as well as zero capital improvement funds set aside for the upkeep and maintenance of city owned properties and equipment until Mayor Hill was seated in November 2014.
Maybe readers are equally unaware of the fact that Director of Public Works Jeff English and his team at the city have created a detailed accounting of capital improvements needed within the city (this accounting is still in process). What is important to know is there is no money set aside for these improvements—this is goo left from many prior city councils and does not belong on the doorstep of Mayor Hill as a problem he created; it is one he inherited.
Aside from attempting to set the record straight and share examples of why Mayor Hill and Council Member Brown are examples of positive local leadership, I want to take an opportunity to state that we in Arroyo Grande have an opportunity to move forward—from November 2014 to today (and beyond). Are we going to continue to live in the past, or are we going to make a conscious choice to embrace and recognize positive changes that are present and that are still possible?
Our city has an opportunity to make needed changes in several areas and continue to embrace tradition that fosters community and Arroyo Grande as a small town. I hope as a community, we choose not to miss the opportunity. We have many challenges to face and we to face them together.
Finally, I would ask all readers to understand that while Mayor Hill has made changes which are positive, he has been able to accomplish these because others have backed his efforts. It takes more than one person to make a positive impact. Also know that when passing judgements about decisions made at the council level—it takes three votes for anything to move forward.
For any positive or negative action taken by the council, it is not an action taken by an individual, but by a group.
I would also comment on the idea of getting involved with the local political scene in Arroyo Grande is important for all residents to do, whether it is involvement by staying informed, by attending meetings, or by looking for opportunities to serve. We need people to share their time, knowledge, skills, and talents with our community in order to continue to grow and succeed as a city.
While members of our community have been ridiculed for their opinions, ideas, and participation, it is an important aspect of our democratic roots and one which we should take very seriously. People need to participate and rather than paying attention to voices that chide and attempt to derail public participation, we should all learn from the people who are getting involved in positive ways in our community.
Our community leaders need us to get involved and stay involved. Our community needs you to get involved and stay involved as well. If you want to get involved, but aren’t quite sure how, find me Facebook—I am sure we can find a way for you to get involved!
Look for opportunities to meet your neighbors and Mayor Hill at several events in the coming months.