Ph D Edward C Caprielian, Management Consultant/University Professor over 7 years ago

Public Engagement and Budget Reform in Manhattan Beach – Embrace It!

The demise of California Redevelopment Agencies and the resulting loss of revenue for local governments should serve as the ultimate wake-up reality call to expect continued state take-aways and diminished funding from the state for core municipal services.

Consequently, the survival of local government will increasingly rely on public support for increased revenues. To meet this challenge, local governments across California are turning to public engagement in budgeting – i.e., efforts to help residents better understand public sector financing so that they are better equipped to make well-informed decisions at the ballot box.

Approaches to public engagement in local budgeting include education and outreach, advisory committees, workshops, and public forums. Numerous proven benefits throughout California include helping set priorities, identifying cost savings, maintaining civility, creating a continuing dialogue, and limiting the amount of special interest lobbying at the final city council budget meetings.

The Manhattan Beach City Council has failed to initiate public engagement in budgeting because it fears public input, access to information, and empowering residents to make effective recommendations. Public engagement requires public ownership and ownership occurs when public deliberation results in jointly prioritized or agreed upon ideas and recommendations. It should be a key element of much needed budget reforms in our city to ensure financial accountability.

Public engagement in budgeting is the new reality and the new challenge for the survival of local government. Embrace it.

Edward C. Caprielian, Ph.D. Manhattan Beach

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Ph D Edward C Caprielian, Management Consultant/University Professor over 7 years ago

The residents of Manhattan Beach need to recognize the recent and continued hypocrisy of the Manhattan Beach City Council’s so-called commitment to open government, in this instance by deceptive measures to gag the voices of residents.

Specifically, under the guise of improving meeting management, the City Council this month passed measures reinforcing its prior actions to silence opposition (e.g. via limiting residents to one three-minute comment by grouping numerous policy issues under one agenda item). In addition, in act of cowardice, it reneged on a commitment to allow public comment on policy decisions made at its meetings prior to their conclusion.

Further, the Council failed to address strengthening required speech protections under California’s open government law, the Brown Act, but rather trampled the spirit of this law to silence speech and redress of grievances. It also passed a protocol for implementing California’s Public Records Act on access to information but omitted a specific deadline for obtaining requested documents.

It has been nearly 100 days since the Daily Breeze editorial, “MB needs to better manage its meetings,” chided the Council on problems that still remain – late meetings; postponing of agenda items; lack of transparency; and how “council members themselves contribute to the interminable length of the meetings by each making extensive remarks before every vote.”

The measures to silence residents is antithetical to addressing the real source of these problems, namely, the City Council’s failure to address its deficiencies in holding itself accountable to policymaking roles and responsibilities; and, holding the city manager and staff accountable for policy implementation.

As the Daily Breeze stated, “Manhattan Beach is a first-class city. It deserves first-class meeting management,” not practices that “actually work against open government by dissuading regular citizens from attending.”

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Ph D Edward C Caprielian, Management Consultant/University Professor over 7 years ago

Forces against open government

The ironic, but on-point, article headline, “City Council imposes 15-minute rule while embracing transparency” (The Beach Reporter, Oct. 3), illustrates the continued hypocrisy of the Manhattan Beach City Council’s commitment to open government by imposing duplicitous measures to gag the voices of residents.

Specifically, under the guise of improving meeting management, the time limits reinforce other actions to silence opposition (e.g. via limiting residents to one three-minute comment by grouping numerous policy issues under one agenda item). Further, the council failed to address strengthening required speech protections under California’s open meeting laws, but rather trampled the spirit of these laws to silence speech and redress of grievances. In addition, in an act of cowardice, it reneged on a commitment to allow public comment on policy decisions made at its meetings prior to their conclusion.

It has been nearly 100 days since the Daily Breeze editorial, “MB needs to better manage its meetings,” chided the council on problems that still remain – late meetings; postponing of agenda items; lack of transparency; and how “council members themselves contribute to the interminable length of the meetings by each making extensive remarks before every vote.”

The measures to silence residents is antithetical to addressing the real source of these problems, namely, the City Council’s failure to address its deficiencies in holding itself accountable to policymaking roles and responsibilities and holding the city manager and staff accountable for policy implementation. As the Daily Breeze stated, “Manhattan Beach is a first-class city. It deserves first-class meeting management.”

Edward Caprielian

Manhattan Beach

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Holding Community Meetings without posting detailed agendas in advance gives the community absolutely no chance to provide cogent and meaningful input. This has been discussed many, many times, yet the practice continues unchanged. Is the intent merely to hold a community meeting for the sole purpose of being able to then claim prior community involvement in subsequent staff decision making ... or is the intent to actually engage the community in that decision making? You have the information -- share it already! (C'mon folks -- this is public engagement 101, and you're not only failing miserably, you insist on continuing to so fail, even when such simple yet critical corrective action is repeatedly brought to your attention. For just the latest in a looong series of such blatant failures, see http://www.citymb.info/city-services/city-calendar-month-view/-item-27625 )

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Ph D Edward C Caprielian, Management Consultant/University Professor over 7 years ago

“Manhattan Beach has been nicknamed the ‘Pearl of the South Bay’ for its beauty and desirability.” (Wikipedia) Further, we deservedly have pride in our volunteer and philanthropic organizations whose generosity and contributions illustrate our characteristics as an ideal community defined by Stephen Covey (“7 Habits of Highly Effective People”): principled-centered goodness; being of one heart with a common vision and direction; and, one mind with an approach to problem solving that is synergistic, not adversarial.

However, the flawed iridescence of our “Pearl” is inadequate resident participation in our city’s governance – a flaw not sufficiently addressed by city council candidates. In the previous election, 21.41 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Perhaps only 50-100 residents actively attend city council meetings and organize to shape our city’s mission; challenge councilmembers when their policy decisions are imperfect; or, praise their gems.

The main culprit for the flaw are 15 past years of city councils directed by a former city manager and city attorney to minimize engagement of residents in public policymaking – allowing only comments at council meetings to pacify the “gadflies,” the civic activists often denigrated by councilmembers.

To magnify the iridescence of our “Pearl” requires “public engagement” by councilmembers, i.e. delegating authority to residents through education, outreach, dialogue, and empowerment in the public policymaking arenas such as strategic planning, labor relations, budgeting, community development, and in the often stated but neglected goal of “maintaining our small beach-town character.” Then our “Pearl” will attain the metaphor of it being something truly rare and admirable.

Edward C. Caprielian, Ph.D. Manhattan Beach

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The Agenda is Posted. Why Isn't the Opportunity Available for Public Comment on the Agenda Items for the Closed Sessions?

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Enough about "Open Government." The Manhattan Beach City Council is clearly moving to increase steps to gag residents into submission even as it, the City Council, falters more and more into irrelevance. At least it should have the decency to post a sign outside the MB Council Chambers, "Public Not Wanted!"

Edward C. Caprielian, Ph.D.

Edward C. Caprielian, Ph.D.

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November 15, 2013

City Council of Manhattan Beach Manhattan Beach City Hall 1400 Highland Avenue Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Greetings!

Is the departure of City Manager Carmany an absurdity of illogical actions by the Manhattan Beach City Council as epitomized in the novel, “Catch 22?” The senselessness begins by the City Council hiring Carmany as city manager in December 2010 under a contract that renews automatically yearly unless non-renewal is noticed12 months in advance; or, if the Council dismisses Carmany for cause.

During the next three years, the City Council, in closed session, conducts 13 performance reviews of City Manager Carmany but never finalizes his appraisal or establishes cause for dismissal that would result in no severance pay and benefits. In addition, the City Council contracts a consultant for $13,500 to advise it on finalizing Carmany’s appraisal but to no avail.

Last week, the City Council dismissed Carmany without cause. Under the contract, his severance includes a year’s salary of well-over $200,000 plus benefits plus payouts of accrued vacation and sick leave, and a portion of increased equity in his home financed in part by city residents.

It now appears that former City Manager Dolan, fired due to alleged and then admitted sexual misconduct, and now former City Manager Carmany, fired under pleasantry euphemisms shadowing his incompetence, are competing for who walks away with the highest severance jackpot of over $250,000 of our tax dollars.

We deserve a better explanation from Councilmembers Lesser, Howorth, and Powell (at the helm during most of Carmany’s tenure) than “the Council has decided to move in a new direction,” hopefully not further “Catch-22” absurdities.

Sincerely,

Edward C. Caprielian, Ph.D.

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The following is a Letter to the Editor appearing in the November 14, 2013 issue of the Daily Breeze submitted by Nelle Overstreet, a Manhattan Beach resident in response to the DB October 31 article, “City facilities, parking structures need millions in repairs.”

Since we do live by the ocean, it is expected that Manhattan Beach structures will deteriorate over a shorter time than those inland.  Those conditions should have been taken into consideration before they reached their current state of disrepair.

The consultants reported 23 out of 43 facilities were in very poor, poor or fair condition.  The penultimate was to read that our 8-year-old police/fire department building was in need of $1.8 million in repairs over the next 10 years due to:  “The building was not built up to code; it was not inspected properly…”  This should be unacceptable to the citizens of Manhattan Beach who depend upon our City Hall denizens to see to our city’s interests.  Who OK’d this mess?  Who allowed it to be approved along the way?  The blame should not just be put on the contractor, but also on those in City Hall responsible for this fiasco.  Someone needs to step up to the plate and accept responsibility.  Citizens are owed an explanation from past and present City Councils.

Nelle Overstreet, Manhattan Beach

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The following is a Letter to the Editor appearing in the November 14, 2013 issue of the Daily Breeze submitted by Nelle Overstreet, a Manhattan Beach resident in response to the DB October 31 article, “City facilities, parking structures need millions in repairs.”

Since we do live by the ocean, it is expected that Manhattan Beach structures will deteriorate over a shorter time than those inland.  Those conditions should have been taken into consideration before they reached their current state of disrepair.

The consultants reported 23 out of 43 facilities were in very poor, poor or fair condition.  The penultimate was to read that our 8-year-old police/fire department building was in need of $1.8 million in repairs over the next 10 years due to:  “The building was not built up to code; it was not inspected properly…”  This should be unacceptable to the citizens of Manhattan Beach who depend upon our City Hall denizens to see to our city’s interests.  Who OK’d this mess?  Who allowed it to be approved along the way?  The blame should not just be put on the contractor, but also on those in City Hall responsible for this fiasco.  Someone needs to step up to the plate and accept responsibility.  Citizens are owed an explanation from past and present City Councils.

Nelle Overstreet, Manhattan Beach

0 Comments 1 Agree Created