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THOUSAND OAKS : Time Runs Out on Bid to Cancel Timer

A revolt against Thousand Oaks’ purchase of a $2,700 system to time speakers at public meetings fizzled when a majority of council members refused to reconsider the issue.

As a result, the fancy digital timer will be used in the new council chambers at the Civic Arts Plaza. Public speakers will see a clock counting down how many seconds remain in their allotted time.

City Manager Grant Brimhall has touted the timer as an improvement over the current system, which is somewhat imprecise. Speakers now see a green light for the bulk of their time, a yellow warning light with one minute to go and finally a red light indicating “stop.”

Because the lights are small and perched on the edge of the podium, speakers often forget to check them. And even when residents do look at the lights, they have trouble pacing themselves because they don’t know exactly how much time remains, Brimhall said.

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But the council’s most regular visitor, activist Ekbal Quidwai, has railed against the sophisticated timer as an unnecessary expense and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

He offered the council an inexpensive digital clock as a substitute for the costly system and faxed officials a survey indicating that neighboring cities use far less intricate timing devices.

Quidwai’s arguments earned some high-level backing this week when Mayor Elois Zeanah urged her colleagues to reconsider the purchase.

Originally, Zeanah had voted to buy the timer, but only because she believed that the council’s finance committee supported the purchase. As it turned out, the committee had never reviewed the issue.

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Claiming that she had been misled, Zeanah called for a new vote.

But all four of her colleagues instead supported a motion by Alex Fiore to table the issue indefinitely, letting the purchase stand.


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