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Coonerty Uses New Consent Agenda Gag Rule
At the 3-25 Santa Cruz City Council meeting, Mayor Ryan Coonerty refused to allow members of the public to pull items off the 16-item Consent Agenda for public comment and individual vote. Instead he implemented a "public comment limit" of two minutes for the entire 16-items (or a little over 6 seconds for each item if one wanted to talk on each one). This is the first time Coonerty has so clearly activated this new power of the Council to deny the public the right to speak on nearly half the agenda items. I filed a Brown Act complaint, demanding that the items he refused to have removed be reheard with public comment permitted, as is required by state law.
THE GAG RULE CRACKDOWN
Vehicle dweller Donna Deiss is an elderly disabled woman, who used to head TRUSC (Tenant's Rights Union of Santa Cruz) before she lost her housing. She now lives in a vehicle and is trying to organize RV-dwellers with the organization LIVE (Living In Vehicles Excellently). (Donna can be contacted at spiritdancerocean [at] yahoo.com )
She and her citizen advocate Jhond Golder asked to speak on item #3. This was a Council vote on Deiss's claim against the city for $30, the price of the ticket that Chief Ranger John Wallace gave her last August for having her RV in Parking Lot A out near Lighthouse Field (see: "Coastal Access Denied to Motorhomes and Trailers in Santa Cruz" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/08/30/18444952.php )
Golder, who has himself been hassled by Wallace in the past and is helping Deiss pursue a lawsuit, also asked to have the item removed from the Consent Agenda for public comment. (Removing the item, means giving it individual time for public hearing rather than being passed with a simple yes vote with the rest of the Consent agenda). City Council refused to allow this under Coonerty's new rule.
NEW POLICE SUBSTATION, SUBSIDIES TO DOWNTOWN MERCHANTS, NOT TO BE DISCUSSED
I also tried to speak on the issue as well as on agenda item #7--the City's $400,000 Soquel Garage Upgrade benefitting business tenants there--now boosted another $110,000 on a "cost overrun". The 500 grand will go to fund "commercial space for incubator size tenants, a police substation, and additional space for Oswald Restaurant." Nothing for new bathrooms. No clear indication of why the heavy boost in cost. I was also interested in asking some questions about the police substation. I was not allowed to do so.
Councilmember Rotkin confided in the public afterwards that if any members of the public had any questions about the "false claims" raised by us as we asked to be allowed to speak on this items, they should contact him privately.
Government in private by conference with Councilmember (Shadow Mayor?) Rotkin seems to be the new sleek solution to dealing with unwanted public comment.
The Afternoon Agenda, as usual, was packed with items, and only two items were on the evening agenda--where in the past most important business was done (at a time actually accessible to working members of the public).
SHRINKING PUBLIC COMMENT BIT BY BIT
Coonerty's new rule banning the public from requiring public comment on Consent Agenda items is nearly unique to City Councils throughout California. This is because the Brown Act requires a period of comment on each agenda item. Two weeks ago Coonerty and Rotkin backpedaled on the rule. They allowed everyone who wanted to pull an item from the agenda to speak on it separately. This time all requests were denied. Not one Council member objected to this procedure.
BACKGROUND OF THE DEISS TICKET AND HAUNTING HISTORICAL PARALLELS
Golder himself may be posting a story on the bizarre saga of Deiss's recent day in Judge Tom Kelly's court. The bottom line is that Ranger Wallace gave Deiss citations for violating a "no RVs" sign he had just posted, that has since been found to be unjustified and so painted over by the park rangers.
Superintendent Steve Hammack of City Parks and Rec was asked to provide the specific law under which the sign was posted. He and Rec Boss Dannettee Shoemaker responded that there were no public records on the matter ("Superintendant Hammack Stonewalls on RV Ban in Coastal Parking Lots" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/09/12/18447267.php ). When Deiss attempted to have the ticket reviewed, the reviewer was none other than John Wallace himself.
In the 2006 "review" of the unconstitutional undercover political surveillance of DIY Last Night for New Years 2006, the same police official who authorized the investigation (Deputy-Chief Kevin Vogel) investigated himself and, found himself not guilty of any misconduct. This was upheld by Police Chief Howard Skerry, then-Mayor Cynthia Mathews, and City manager-for-Life Dick Wilson. ("Investigation Reveals More SCPD Spying" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/02/14/18023101.php ) It's comforting to see the same gang is still in charge using the same self-ratifying procedures (officials investigating their own misconduct).
Try and bring it up at City Council; Mayor Coonerty loyally censors you and moves on.