So for those of you who do not know, I have recently
resigned my appointment to the Planning Commission. Now I believe that you are
due an explanation since it was just last year I was asking for your support.
For you to know my thinking I feel that I must set the stage a bit first.
Upon being appointed to the Planning Commission, I was sworn in and immediately took my seat on the dais. The minutes were read, the calendar approved, the agenda items listed and we were off to the races. There were a few conversations with the chair, who directed me to other city’s websites, to learn what it was to be a Planning Commissioner. I read, and took the test for, the Code of Ethics . . . twice. I sat through a Brown Act lecture, then reread the material again so that I really understood it. (Or thought that I did.) I even went onto the League of Cities website to read more about Planning Commissions in general. Here’s the thing, none of it helped me. You see, here in Vallejo we do things differently. So with no real training, and in my rugged way, I jumped in with both feet wanting to be a productive part of the process. To lend my experience with construction, as well as my studies in Decision Making. It turns out that being a true skeptic helps a lot. Fast forward a year later, the new Chair tells me in a private conversation that I am developing a reputation for being a trouble maker. Hmm . . . I want to be of service but arguing from the dais is not the reputation that I want. I choose to be of a more quiet service to our community and that is why I resigned. Also, I do not agree with how limited Commissioners, and Council Members, are right now.
Some of you may have heard of the Laws of Decorum that were
passed with regards to some Commissioner’s bad behavior. All in all this is not a bad sentiment. But as
with all good laws a little something extra was thrown in . . . for good
measure. Previous to the passage of this law any Council Member, or
Commissioner, could add items to the public agenda for discussion. Seems about
right. Elected officials, and their appointees, should be able to direct the
public discussion in response to requests for their neighbors. Well, because we
do things differently in Vallejo that is no longer the case. With the passage
of this ordinance, the City Manager now controls the agenda, not only for the
City Council but for all of the Commissions as well. Let this sink in. The next
mayor you elect has no authority to direct the public conversation. And with it
taking 4 votes to remove the City Manager, this is not going to change anytime
A quick example of how this effected the Planning Commission
is this: On a discussion about when
Commissioners receive answers to their written questions, (we oftentimes get
them by email barely an hour before the meeting, not enough time to fully
digest nor respond,) a majority of the Commissioners voted for a rule change to
allow more time. Our request is then to be presented to the City Council for
their consideration. Now this exact process is specifically written into this
new ordinance. Here is the thing. The
City Manager refused to place it on the Council Agenda. We Commissioners have no recourse so, even
though we followed the law, the City Manager blocked our majority vote.
“What does this all have to do with the upcoming Mayoral and
Council election?” you ask.
I know, like, and respect Hakeem Brown. We have had a few
substantial conversations and I find him to have a bright and curious mind.
Over the last two years he has shown himself a committed Council Member willing
to serve our community. In this short time, he has sought out knowledge by attending
multiple City Council conferences throughout the State and Country. His desire
to learn about his job is admirable. Of the conversations he and I have had, we
have agreed on somethings and disagreed on others. This is exactly how it is
supposed to be. A healthy difference of opinion is what makes our form of
government work. The thing is, I wish he had more experience. I want his voice
on our City Council, but I feel hard pressed to consider him for Mayor with
only 2 years of governing experience.
Robert McConnell, on the other hand, spent numerous years on
the Planning Commission and another 8 years as a Council Member. He served in
the military, studied law and is a practicing bankruptcy attorney. What does
this mean for Vallejo though? It means that not only does he have the
experience with the process of governing, and I assure you it is all about the
process, he has an expert knowledge of how laws are written, read, interpreted
and often misinterpreted. He also has an expert knowledge of financial management
and is often the lone voice recommending greater conservatism in budgeting
discussions. There is another bankruptcy looming for Vallejo, make no mistake
about it, and with it our collective livelihoods. With this knowledge, I am
just not comfortable giving the top elected job to someone with little
experience and no real knowledge of how the system, the Law, works. No matter
how much respect I have for him as a person.
Council Member Brown, your voice is needed now more than
ever. I am glad you hold a seat on our Council and wish you to do so for at
least another 4 years. Your commitment to learning the system will undoubtedly
only add to your qualifications.
This being said, I endorse ROBERT McCONNELL for Mayor of Vallejo. His lifetime of legal experience, combined with his decades long commitment to the City of Vallejo, make him easily the best person to correct the mis-directions in the way our local ordinances have been written. His presence, on all the committees, that the Mayor sits on throughout the County, will bring reassurance to our municipal neighbors that Vallejo is headed in the right direction. His command of fiscal management techniques and law is arguably the most important skill set we could ask for in a candidate.
This election can change the way America, and Vallejo, are
administered in the years to come. Please consider my words.
Until the next time,