The City of Seaside has established a number of “core values” including accountability to the public, excellent customer service, ethical behavior, respect, and honesty/integrity. [A full list is available on the City’s web page for core values. ]
Before I became mayor in 2010, there was significant evidence that a number of these core values were being ignored. This was particularly egregious for the council, which frequently all but ignored public comment and even “pushed back” at times. The public also complained about being treated rudely or unfairly by City staff, particularly in situations where the City collects fees.
In a strategic planning and team-building session in early 2011, I was happy that the newly seated council agreed that things needed to improve. To underscore the entire Cityâ€™s commitment to the stated values (which have been fairly consistent over the years), we added a goal: “enhance engagement of the public.”
We achieved great success with that goal and rather than resisting it, made a great many decisions with incorporation of public input. Monterey County Weekly actually actually commented on how much better things had become in their 2012 endorsement of me.
Unfortunately, with the seating of a new council in 2012, things rapidly slipped backward. The goal â€œenhance engagement of the publicâ€ was officially dropped. A number of council members and the newly seated Mayor indicated “that has been done.” Of course this is a goal which needs constant care.
Sadly, we are now back to the council ignoring significant amounts of public input. Worse, certain members of the council now often refute public testimony and the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” is that the same members often distort public comment by grossly misquoting public testimony, taking comments out of context or addressing only a selected part of the testimony.
Particularly “good” examples of this relate to any criticism of budgetary concerns. Even with official documentation from City financial managers showing that the City spends more money than it takes in, at least one policy maker denies a problem and categorically states “the budget is structurally balanced.” [This is impossible by definition. Detailed analysis of Seaside’s budget problems are on the Fiscal Responsibility page. ]
Not only does this not engage concerned and informed members of the public, it actually violates virtually every core value the City claims to embrace.