Council's average Joes creating big fear factor

Television executives who produce those mean-spirited reality shows

could save a bundle on production cost. All they need to do is

rebroadcast the Glendale City Council meetings. The way our council

conducts the city's business, along with their apparent lack of

respect for the citizenry, has huge entertainment value.

Those who watch the council meetings on Channel 6 each Tuesday

night will agree. Our City Council has become a knot of grumpy and

mean-spirited curmudgeons. Everyone knows that public speaking can be

an intimidating endeavor, under the best of circumstances. If you

choose to speak before our City Council, you can add the risk of

being publicly humiliated to your anxiety. Here are a few good

examples.

There is a lady who speaks on a regular basis. It is apparent that

she is a kind soul who has a good heart. She is concerned about our

city, but is most disturbed that our natural resources are being

destroyed. English is her second language and she struggles with

words, often using the wrong ones, but we get the gist of what she is

trying to tell us. Do our councilmen offer a sympathetic ear or try

to ascertain her meaning? No! Instead they snicker, they roll their

eyes, and they make jokes at her expense. What bad form!

There are citizens, just like you and me, who volunteer their time

to serve as city commissioners. One such volunteer appeared before

the council to explain why her Design Review Board had turned down a

development project. Some council members disagreed with her decision

and commenced to berate her. (Paraphrasing here) "What expertise did

you use in making your decision? Are you an engineer or an

architect?" She left the podium, close to tears. But she bravely

reappeared at the next council meeting to dress down the council for

their abhorrent behavior. Good for you!

Most recently, a mild-mannered fellow appeared before the council

to speak about the construction of a new house on Cascadia Drive.

Cascadia is a narrow, winding road that does not allow easy access

for fire trucks. The fire hydrant closest to the proposed project has

little water pressure.

Since the gentleman lived next door, he wanted to express his

concern that the existing homes lack adequate fire protection and the

council should consider these facts before approving yet another

house. This gentleman happens to be in the fire protection business.

He came to offer his professional opinion to the council and advised

them to seek independent advice. However, his efforts were not

appreciated. The man was pounded with bombastic comments and

questions. (Again paraphrasing) "Are you calling our fire marshal a

liar? Do you expect us to consider your opinion over his? This

project has a sprinkler system. Does your home have a sprinkler

system? Do you have fire retardant landscaping? I understand that you

are remodeling your house. How big will it be? How many square feet

do you have? What size lot do you have? Are you meeting all the

current codes?"

The council tried its best to portray him as a hypocrite, a man

who had the gall to add to his own house but then oppose any new

construction. They failed. The man kept his composure and answered

each barbed question with a reasonable answer. It was interesting to

note that when the flurry of questions subsided and the councilmen's

conjectures were proved false, they did not apologize to the man.

They just grunted and move on.

The City Council has every right to weigh what the city staff and

the citizens of Glendale tell them, and to make the decision they

deem appropriate. That's their job, and if we don't like it, we can

tell them so at the voting booth next year. However, when our

citizens are publicly humiliated so councilmen can grandstand, it is

appalling, inexcusable and embarrassing for our city.

So let the public beware. If you choose to enter the lion's den

and speak before our City Council, you should understand the ground

rules.

You are given five minutes to present your idea or concern.

Your presentation can be disrupted at any time by any council

member who disagrees with you.

If they don't like what you have to say, be prepared for hardball

questions designed to throw you off your point. You are not allowed

to respond when the council misrepresents your position or impugns

your motives or your character.

You should not expect to have the last word.

To be fair, there are people who have appeared before the council

and were allowed to present their views. If you take the brave step

to speak, you should know, however, that it's a crapshoot. You may

escape their ridicule, or not. Also, to be fair, I should mention

that Frank Quintero has shown himself less likely to engage in this

objectionable behavior, although as mayor and holder of the gavel, he

has the authority to stop it.

Those of you who are fans of reality TV should tune in to our City

Council meetings on Tuesday, or catch the reruns Friday nights. You

will see many of the same embarrassing activities. The nasty

"American Idol" judge might seem like a nice guy when compared with

some of our councilmen. The "stab you in the back" politics

demonstrated by the survivors on the deserted island are tame when

measured against the bizarre scenes played out each week in the

Glendale City Council chambers.

Do we have a new form of reality TV here, or just a sad

commentary?

STEVE HEDRICK

Glendale

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