|View last night's City Council meeting - click here|
Last night's "Special Meeting" of the City Council kind of snuck up on me. But it was a full-blooded confab with a lot of issues being discussed nonetheless. The one I'd like to focus on here is the CC's consideration of putting the Sierra Madre Library matter to an advisory vote of the people, rather than just treating it to a few rounds of the usual surveys and artfully marketed dog and pony shows.
I brought up the possibility of a vote at the recent Library forum, something that was greeted with keen interest by the City Manager. And as promised he did bring to the attention of the City Council.
Here is how the Agenda Report on the matter reads (link):
Trying to get ahead of events yesterday afternoon, I emailed City Manager Engeland with a question. It turned into the following brief conversation.
Tattler: Any news on the next Library forum yet? Has a date been set? Location? If there is a publicity piece I'd love to see it. Couple of folks asking.
City Manager Engeland: We haven't scheduled yet for two reasons: 1. We are trying to determine a timeline for a firm to complete renderings at the recreation center, and 2. Council will be discussing a ballot item or survey on this topic at tonight's council meeting. If they approve one of them it may change when we schedule it.
Tattler: What's the vibe on the ballot item?
City Manager Engeland: It'll be a good debate. Some like the ballot question, some like the survey.
Tattler: Some residents are skeptical about surveys. They have been used too often in the past. Those people won't answer them.
City Manager Engeland: It's from the national research center and would be statistically significant. However, that is the argument against the survey. It would count 1500 responses, but not everyone would get to answer. A ballot measure would give us much less information because we only get one question instead of 40, but everyone gets to vote.
Tattler: 'Yes vs. No' might not give you much nuanced information, but the result would only require a minimal amount of analysis.
The exchange ended there. As many readers of this blog would have predicted had I posted about this yesterday, the City Council, and after much conversation, decided to go forward with the survey and postponed any decision regarding anyone voting on the Library question. Postponement on this matter is tantamount to an outright rejection in my opinion. But done in what I am sure they believe was the nicest of ways.
As we saw with surveys that were conducted before each of the three attempts to raise utility taxes over the last several election cycles, the results can be interpreted to favor whatever it is City Hall wants. And while it is certainly to the credit of the City Manager for bringing a vote on the Library up, that would be a far more difficult thing to control should it happen.
Even with an advisory ballot the wishes of the people would be crystal clear. Something that could effectively reduce the City Council's role to near irrelevance.
There is also the matter of a survey that only goes out to 1,500 residents. Doesn't this make it a poll? A survey by definition should include as many residents as possible.
Who picks the mailing list? Those folks opposed to razing the Library and moving the books into the YAC are often the least likely to be on City Hall's radar. A vote is far more private and open to everyone except kids and felons.
Plus anything can happen with a vote. And you know how the City Council feels about control. Democracy has apparently become dangerous in Sierra Madre, just like it has in so many other places.
I think what is obvious from the City Council's discussion last night is they want to go ahead with this move. They are also very concerned about how the public has reacted so far to the possibility of the Library having a fatal run-in with a bulldozer, along with the property being sold off to a developer. Things that make any such vote problematic for them.
The vote issue will come up again at a future City Council get together. But I doubt this ballot measure will happen unless a lot of people get well up into their faces about it.
Here is a rather cheap offer I received yesterday.
Hello, My name is Kelly Hammond and I'm with Perennial Relations, a PR firm in NYC.
I have a client who is in the beauty industry, and is interested in doing a blog post on sierramadretattler.blogspot.com.
We're happy to write the post on any topic you suggest, or have you write the post that we'll sponsor (please just let us approve the topic prior to writing). One important note is we'll need a text link back to my client's website within the article.
I'm authorized to offer up to $40 for the post, and can pay via Paypal or check. Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing from you!
Obviously the purpose here is that link back to the beauty site of the unnamed company. I seriously doubt they care about what topic is covered. But look, it's not like I am averse to taking their money. I like cash just as much as anyone else.
But $40? Puhleeze. The price of The Tattler's soul starts at five figures. Anything less will not be considered.