Our Readers Write: Council can't rush ordinances

LA Canada

Democracy is under attack. What we have seen in Congress and the state Legislature is now happening in our La Cañada Flintridge City Council. Democratic processes for the approval and implementation of laws are being abandoned in favor of accelerated processes that remove significant opportunity for public response — accelerated processes not allowed by Constitution or law.

In a recent case the LCF City Council passed an "urgency measure" to allow use of fields for a softball tournament on two Sundays, contrary to LCF ordinances citing as grounds "an immediate threat to public welfare." The California Government Code provides for urgency measures when needed to protect pending zoning ordinances. "Urgency ordinances" are allowed to protect against immediate threats to public peace, public safety or public health — but not threats to public welfare. Hence this City Council resolution fails to qualify for any sort of "urgency" and cannot cause the change to go into effect immediately — or even in time for the tournament.

The issue concerning the La Cañada Junior Baseball/Softball Assn. tournament has had proper public hearings, and the permits ought to be issued. The permits could probably be issued under the loophole created by an "emergency use" clause in the existing city ordinance. Direction from the City Council would strengthen that position.

The only concern here is that the "urgency" aspect of the current resolution sets a precedent allowing our City Council to put most any law on the books with only 72 hours' advance notice. We didn't like it when Congress rushed a major law into effect without allowing for public response. We won't like it when our City Council starts rushing local ordinances into effect without waiting for public response. Neither of these is appropriate in a democracy.

James Stoker

Board endorses education reform On May 19 the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board held a special meeting to consider a resolution in favor of the California Legislative Analyst's Office recommendations regarding educational reform. The resolution passed unanimously.

The California Legislative Analyst's Office has made recommendations on legislation that would provide local school boards with greater flexibility and control over local staffing decisions.

Issues addressed include: 1) eliminate the March 15 layoff notification date; 2) allow teacher performance to be a factor in the layoff decision in addition to seniority; 3) allow low-performing schools to be exempt from seniority criteria for layoff; 4) remove the requirement to first hire laid-off teachers as substitutes; 5) extend the probationary period for new teachers; and 6) modify the timelines, pay requirements, and hearing requirements for dismissal of teachers.

Legislative bills related to teacher layoffs and dismissals that would provide school districts with greater flexibility and control over local staffing decisions have emerged as central issues in this year's education policy debate in Sacramento. Under current law, the layoff, transfer, assignment, reassignment and reappointment of teachers must occur strictly on the basis of seniority.

Public education is in trouble, not only in California but throughout the nation. School districts need flexibility in order to weather the storm; therefore a number of educational reforms are being considered. This situation is actually a great window of opportunity for making long-needed changes.

The education code and law in California have advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side they codify many policies for running school districts. It would be far too cumbersome if our school district and each individual school district formed its own codes for each detail of public education.

On the negative side, some details of school law and education code are archaic, nonproductive and indeed inhibit good education of the California K-12 students as well as not being in the best interest of teachers. Current law regarding seniority is among the roadblocks complicating progress. Emerging bills address these issues.

Supt. Jim Stratton, Board Vice President Scott Tracy and I meet monthly with the superintendents and two board members of Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena and South Pasadena. We five districts comprise the Five Star Coalition to lobby the state concerning our common interests. Each of these districts is considering resolutions similar to ours.

We cannot lose this opportunity for positive policy change in K-12 education. Our board is being proactive on these issues. I encourage you to contact our state legislators and show your support for these needed changes.

Jeanne Broberg

La Cañada

Editor's note: Broberg is president of the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board.

Kudos to City Hall officials, staff A lot of work goes on behind the scenes at our city government level. What's presented at the regularly scheduled council and commission meetings is invariably the result of hours of hard work, from research and analysis to monitoring public policy at other government levels and even to good old-fashioned listening to the people. I appreciated all of this at the most recent City Council meeting.

City Manager Mark Alexander and the other department heads work hard to present our council with all the information it needs to make key decisions. Earlier this year Edward Hitti's public works department dealt with the rain and mud. Now Robert Stanley's planning department is stepping up and addressing the zoning changes needed for affected homeowners to rebuild. Fred Buss, senior planner, gave an impressive report to council that was comprehensive and efficiently delivered. Good job!

Wes Seastrom and Pat Anderson, representing the LCF Chamber of Commerce, added their sensible and timely views regarding the issue. More behind-the-scenes work — thanks to them.

Next I was reminded that our council members do so much more than show up on Monday nights. During her recently concluded year as mayor, Laura Olhasso probably lost count of the days, evenings and hours needed to lead our city through the aftermath of the runaway truck accident and the mudslides as well as other demanding issues. I wish our new mayor, Donald Voss, a tragedy-free year, but I'm confident he has the same commitment to put in the long hours if it becomes necessary.

Dave Spence and the other council members also reported on the regional government meetings they attended where policies affecting La Cañada Flintridge are discussed with other agencies. More work behind the scenes.

Finally, new commission members were appointed by the council. To those applicants not appointed, Councilman Steve Del Guercio specifically offered thanks for their interest and commitment and encouraged them to reapply in the future.

To all those involved in keeping our city and community working so well, thanks for all the hard work — behind the scenes and after hours.

Daniel Baker

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