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Mayor Moves To Minimize Citizens Comments On The General Plan

Thursday, July 9, Mayor was interviewed by the San Bernardino County Sentinel (link here) concerning the action he took to move the oral communications portion of city council meetings (general comments) to the last item on the agenda.

Many citizens agree this is an obvious attempt to control the large crowd expected to attend the council meeting this Monday, July 13 hoping to voice their objections to the new General Plan.

From the article: “Mayor Musser insisted there was no ulterior motive to the change being incorporated into the council meeting agendas which included separating public comment into two sessions. ‘We made that change to accommodate people rather than to exclude them,’ Musser insisted. ‘We are experimenting to see what works best. Nothing is set in concrete. We used to have the public comment section right up front and now we have oral communications for things not listed on the agenda at the end. We might go back to the way it was before, but we are trying this out. BUT WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO DO IS GET PEOPLE WHO HAVE COME FOR A SPECIFIC ITEM ON THE AGENDA OUT OF THERE SOONER…SOMETIMES THEY WOULD HAVE TO STAY UNTIL IT WAS VERY LATE AT NIGHT BEFORE WE WOULD GET TO THE ITEM THEY HAD COME FOR.’ “ (capitalization added for emphasis)

At a previous council meeting on May 11, Mayor announced he was thinking of changing the COUNCIL communications where each member makes announcements and comments, to the beginning of the agenda. The following transcript was taken from the video of the meeting (video time 173:36)
“Council, I talked to the City Manager about this, and , uh, I don’t quite like where we have the Council Communications. Look how many are out there. And the people on television are half asleep. (laugh) Maybe asleep (laugh). So, uh, I would like to move this, not tonight, in the future, somewhere up on the agenda, maybe after oral communications but before we do business, and try that for a while and let’s see how that happens. Rather than having it at the end, so give me feedback, it’s not a decision tonight, just an idea, we’re not changing anything. We’re just moving it on the agenda that’s already there. So I would be open to that.”

Council member Debbie Stone replies:
“I will say thank you very much for asking the council about changing something like this. And I think it is a great idea. I would support you in doing so.”

He made the change on the May 26 council meeting agenda saying: (video time: 85:02)
“We are going to take a new format tonight. We’ve always done our Council Communications at the very end. And it is not quite fair to the council because most of you are not here. (laugh) And most of the people at home are asleep watching television. So we are going to put the council right here, right after the public has spoken and they can give their reply or plans or whatever they wish to speak and it’s before our consent calendar. We are doing this tonight because Council Communications it right next on our agenda. Yup! That’s the way it is on our agenda.”

To the Sentinel reporter, Mayor insisted that he had no ulterior motive for changing the public comments to the end of the agenda. But now you have read his explanation of why he changed the Council’s comments to the beginning of the agenda, you can clearly see that he DID have ulterior motives regarding the citizen comments:

1. Mayor said he is trying to get those who wish to speak about agenda items (those items the CITY said are important) out of the meeting sooner so they don’t have to stay the long hours waiting or their turn to speak. So, it sounds like the citizens that have something to say on a topic that is NOT on the agenda, (like we are running out of water) are much less important and deserve to be at the end of the meeting. Mayor has forgotten that he wanted to be elected to stay to 11 pm or whatever time it takes to do the work. We chose to elect him to stay until 11 pm at night. Many of us cannot be on the council even if we would like to. Mayor, this is YOUR JOB to stay until the business is done – you should not hold any citizens hostage to the end of the meeting.

2. From his experience, if most of the audience is gone by the end of the meeting and those who were watching the meeting at home on cable have gone to bed by then, those speaking on the General Plan who had to wait until the end will have less opportunity to make more citizens aware of the devastating issues in the plan. They will be speaking to a non-existing audience- just council and staff.

3. The Mayor is hoping the large crowd objecting to the plan will get tired of waiting and go home (especially those who have jobs that require they arise early) greatly limiting the number who eventually speak.

4. Because this particular agenda is extremely full of city business, those making comments will be very fatigued from sitting for hours before they can comment. Mayor must be hoping that he will curb their passion when they speak and that the audience will not be as animated which would tone down raucous outbursts.

Mayor and his staff have planned for a large crowd of upset citizens. They know we are coming. They want to “handle” us. We are now the enemy. Staff has worked 7 years to pass THEIR plan and doesn’t want anything to derail the process. They now have a willing city council that has become their first line of defense. NOT ONE ON THE COUNCIL HAS INITIATED A TOWN HALL MEETING. They have dug in and will be silent until the clock runs out on July 22nd – only 11 days left and they are home free.

The Planning Commission and the City Council have made a grave mistake in not questioning the motives of the plan that has known consequences devastating to every city where it has been tried. WAKE UP COMMISSION AND COUNCIL. DO THE RIGHT THING.

If they stop the plan now and hold town hall meetings, it will take more work and money. They will have to admit they made a mistake spending 1.5 million on implementing a political philosophy. But they can save their jobs and the city by admitting to their negligence and do what is right. They swore an oath to protect the citizens from enemies foreign and domestic – this is an enemy that has infiltrated our city. They need to prove to us that they have integrity and stand up and fight this corruption. They need to fight for US...not the staff.