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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Ph D Edward C Caprielian, Management Consultant/University Professor over 6 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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Ph D Edward C Caprielian, Management Consultant/University Professor over 6 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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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 6 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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Ph D Edward C Caprielian, Management Consultant/University Professor over 6 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 6 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 6 years ago

October 11, 2013

Manhattan Beach City Council:

I am extremely displeased that the second “Audience Participation” is now limited to Non-Agenda Items. At the August meeting on Meeting Management, you agreed it would allow comments on all items, especially those discussed during the meeting, thereby allowing public comment on agreement or disagreement with decisions made at the meeting. It is a further example, along with time limits on speech and grouping of agenda items, of how the past and present MBCC, under the guise of improving meeting management, has decreased open government, transparency, civic participation, and community engagement in Manhattan Beach, including blaming the public rather than your own governance incompetency. This reversal represents pure cowardice and hypocrisy by the Manhattan Beach City Council.

Edward C. Caprielian, Ph.D. (310) 546-2345 ed@eccphd.com

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Ph D Edward C Caprielian, Management Consultant/University Professor over 6 years ago

The corruption in Bell is “American as apple pie.” It is typical in low socio-economic communities in Southeast Los Angeles County and in cities as Manhattan Beach with wealthy, highly educated populations.

The commonality is lack of citizen oversight. As emphasized in a recent Daily Breeze editorial (“Bell corruption closer than we want to know”), “You’ll never know unless you pay attention to what your electeds are up to.” (March 26)

Why the lack of “attention”? In Manhattan Beach, as across the nation, elected officials, by limiting public engagement, fail to see their role as servants not masters thereby generating public apathy and disengagement.

For example, Manhattan Beach residents can only sadly claim, “We’re no worse than Los Angeles,” because, recently, in both cities, only 21 percent of registered voters turned out on Election Day. Indeed, the turnout in our seven municipal elections during 2001-2013 has been 19.1, 21.5, 29.5, 22.5, 24.03, 21.41, and 21.84 percent. Voter apathy is a clear indicator that prior Manhattan Beach City Councils have consistently discouraged public engagement thereby failing to gain the attention and commitment of our residents to care about public policymaking. The current Manhattan Beach City Council needs to acknowledge these past failures and demonstrate by action, not only words, that it will “walk the talk” to gain that attention, commitment, and caring. Further, “We the People” (U.S. Constitution) must insist that in delegating authority to our elected officials, do not give up our right to decide what is good for the people.

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Ph D Edward C Caprielian, Management Consultant/University Professor over 6 years ago

To counteract resident alienation, the Manhattan Beach City Council (MBCC) should employ public engagement strategies to increase civic involvement by residents in the deliberation of public policymaking thereby promoting the overall public interest rather than of a minority of interests (e.g. those of real estate developers, architects, contractors, and realtors).

A resident significantly impacted by a major neighborhood construction project appeared before the MBCC pleading for its intervention. Yet, the same resident rejected the responsibility of the MBCC to promote civic engagement but rather stated:

“…[A] few weeks ago you wrote of voter apathy and seemed to blame it on City Council's behavior. I believe our local voter apathy is based on self-centered APATHY…Our residents are too interested in throwing parties in their mcmansions, earning money to pay for their mcmansions, showing off their BMW's and designer duds, taking Johnny to soccer practice, etc. Think about how many garages you pass with the Beach Reporter lying outside all week. City Council's fault?”

The resident is not alone. In a survey of elected officials, 87% viewed the public as disengaged but still valuing yet cautious of deliberative processes. Therefore, are we in a “chicken or egg” quandary? How do we ensure the MBCC meets its governance responsibilities to promote our community’s public interest?

Perhaps the answer is inherent in approximately only 20% of those registered voting in the last municipal election meaning each member of the MBCC did “not” receive votes by over 80% of registered voters. Representative government? No way!

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