Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | December 4, 2007

Puh-lease: closed sessions, blocked sidewalks, spineless council members

It’s time for a round-up of recent local news items that made me shake my head, roll my eyes and utter a two-syllable “Puh-lease.”

•••

Gilroy Councilman Dion Bracco’s reaction to Councilman Perry Woodward’s proposal for an open government ordinance had me shaking my head.

Woodward’s proposal includes these ideas, which I heartily endorse:

• Speeding resident access to public documents
• Indexing documents held by the city
• Training city department heads on open government law
• Creating an open government commission
• Requiring an open-session vote before council can move to closed session with the city attorney
• Videotaping closed session discussions about legal and personnel matters and union negotiations; tapes would be released after each matter is resolved

That last item has Bracco especially worried, although he seems to think that the open government commission is a silly idea, comparing commissioners to Maytag repairmen with little to do. Pardon my eye roll, but is Bracco talking about Gilroy, the city with secret retirements, secret double-dipping, secret contracts, and secret police chief hiring panels, to name just a few closed-government incidents involving only one city department?

On the videotaping proposal, Bracco told reporter Chris Bone, “That would change the whole dynamic of the closed session because (council members) would have to be careful of what they said.”

Puh-lease. That’s the point of the proposal. It’s good for residents and taxpayers when council members are careful of what they say in closed sessions. Council members need to stay on the narrow closed-session topic at hand and not drift into policy matters or uncomfortable issues, which state law requires be discussed in open session where the public can monitor their words and deeds.

I suspect that videotaping closed sessions is the most critical of all of the important open-government ideas in Woodward’s proposed ordinance. I hope it isn’t scuttled by uncomfortable council members spoiled by years of not having to watch their words.

•••

Every time I have to step off a sidewalk to avoid a truck or trash can blocking my safe route, I roll my eyes at the inconsiderate boors who put them there.

Toters on sidewalk

Truck blocking sidewalk

My neighborhood is adjacent to an elementary school. Lots of little kids walk to school along these sidewalks. Moms push babies in strollers. But on trash day in my neighborhood, whole sections of sidewalk are impassable due to toters and bins placed on the sidewalk instead of on the street in front of the curb.

In addition to forcing children, dog walkers and folks in wheelchairs from the relative safety of a sidewalk and into the street, these unthinking people are risking their trash collection for the week. After all, an equally inconsiderate person can park on the street in front of their sidewalk-bound toters and bins, thus preventing trash collectors from hauling their trash away.

Vehicles parked in driveways and stretching across sidewalks are another frequent problem. I don’t know if the drivers are so lazy that they can’t walk the few extra steps required if they park on the street when there’s not enough room in the driveway, or just plain rude.

Either way, I shake my head and utter a two-syllable “puh-lease” every time I see it.

I haven’t done any research, but I suspect that Morgan Hill has an ordinance that makes it illegal to obstruct sidewalks.

But it shouldn’t require an ordinance to keep sidewalks clear of trash toters, recycling bins and monster truck beds. It should require only a modicum of common sense and a whit of consideration for your fellow man.

Both of which, clearly and sadly, are in very short supply.

•••

News that Morgan Hill City Council quickly shot down Councilman Mark Grzan’s compromise proposal for trails near Jackson Oaks elicited an unsurprised “puh-lease” from me.

Mayor Steve Tate and Council members Marby Lee, Larry Carr and Greg Sellers voted to reject a proposal from the Parks and Recreation Commission to consider three possible trail configurations near Jackson Oaks.

I shake my head whenever fear mongering of the sort that the Jackson Oaks residents who opposed the trails so blatantly and shamelessly employed succeeds. I shake my head often, because fear mongering succeeds frequently.

We see the terrible consequences of making decisions based on fear rather than facts on a national and international scale, but we refuse to learn the lesson or apply it locally.

Now, sadly, it’s likely that generations of Morgan Hill residents will be unable to access these public lands thanks to noisy, fear-mongering NIMBYism and four council members who lacked the spine to stand up to it.

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