Setting the record straight in Arroyo Grande
October 24, 2016
OPINION by LEANN AKINS
I am writing to help set the record straight about “the lack of civility” in the Arroyo Grande political landscape.
Mayor Jim Hill and various citizens have been accused of being uncivil to staff and members of the council during meetings and during public comment. These accusations have a shaky foundation built upon a letter from the JPIA, sent to the mayor, the AG City Council, and the city manager on Dec. 16, 2015.
“We have recently learned of and observed derogatory comments made by council members towards the city manager and members of staff. Our concern is that such comments made in a public setting could lead to allegations of harassment and a hostile workplace at your city…The Authority’s Healthy Member Protocol was developed to address such issues, and can assist in returning members to good governance.” The letter says.
Mayor Hill’s opponent Richard Waller alludes to this letter on his recent mailer and has often stated that Mayor Hill is uncivil in his communications with staff and points to this letter as proof. What he does not share with you however, is that the JPIA letter never outright stated that a hostile work environment existed or that any harassment had taken place.
Mr. Waller also conveniently fails to mention the JPIA sent a second letter dated Jan. 11, apologizing for the first letter being misconstrued.
“I recently learned that the December 16th, 2015 letter that our Assistant Executive Officer, Norman Lefmann, sent to you is circulating and becoming an issue of debate in your community. Our letter was sent to you to offer our assistance, as we have done many times in the past with other members of the California JPIA. I am truly sorry that this may have been misconstrued, and I am in the hopes that this will serve to further clarify the intent of the letter,” wrote JPIA Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Shull.
Keep in mind, the JPIA is an organization which helps its “members prevent losses that may cost the member agencies and their citizenry money.” They monitor council and staff effectiveness to ensure that our city is not involved in costly litigations or suits which are unnecessary. Also note that no action, aside from the two letters, was taken by the JPIA–also a fact Mr. Waller fails to mention.
Mr. Waller, and his mailer, intentionally misleads voters into believing that Mayor Hill specifically was accused of creating a hostile environment, when he was not.
So does incivility exist in Arroyo Grande politics? I would say that it does, but not for the reasons Mr. Waller and others in Arroyo Grande are stating.
I would ask you to look very closely at the source of the incivility. I would ask you to review city council meetings found on the city website and observe how council members interact and speak with each other. Observe council members using biting language and to whom it is directed. I would encourage you to continue to ask of the candidates running for city council, who has what to lose and what to gain in this election.
I would also ask you to consider if the issue of civility is the main issue facing Arroyo Grande, or if this issue was fabricated and is being used because a lack of knowledge and solutions related to true issues facing Arroyo Grande are present in certain campaigns.
Sometimes we have to peel back the surface noise and discover the reality. I would suggest the issue of civility is a prime example of that this election year in the City of Arroyo Grande.
LeAnn Akins is an Arroyo Grande resident and a candidate for the Arroyo Grande City Council.