Nov 10 2011

Opinion: Council Loses Confidence of Voter

The following letter was received on November 8, 2011 from a Piedmont resident.

I have voted, in one election or another, for each of the current Piedmont City Council members and contributed time and or money to at least two of their campaigns.  I certainly did not do so because I agree with them on all issues.  I, and I suspect others who voted for them, did so because we trusted them to expect and consider objective staff reports, to listen carefully to public testimony, to understand what it would be like to be hurt by their decisions, and to explain how, despite that hurt, their vote furthered the general welfare.

I believe the Council has betrayed this trust by allowing sports club lawyers to prepare staff reports that will guide city decisions regarding Blair Park. This ceding of public authority to private parties violates our trust not only because it renders future staff reports useless, but also because the Council made the concession behind closed doors, without notice of its intent, and without reporting the result.  Indeed I, like all Piedmonters other than the sports club lobbyists and lawyers, had to use a public records request to learn of the Council’s decision.

Instead of explaining, after the fact, why they betrayed our trust, the Council let the City Attorney opine in the press that the process used to make this concession somehow complied with the letter, if not the spirit, of the law.  Combining this opinion with the recent Audit Committee report on undergrounding implies a sad turn of events in Piedmont’s governance.  It appears that misleading the public, ceding to lobbyists the public authority to prepare staff reports, and conducting Council business behind closed doors should be acceptable to Piedmonters because doing so, in the City Attorney’s opinion, does not violate the law.

I cannot know if others who have voted for this Council share my concern about this turn of events. I urge those who do, however, to join me in respectfully asking the City Council for an explanation of this betrayal of trust.

Ralph Catalano

(This statement expresses the personal opinions of the author.  All statements made are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.)

6 Responses to “Opinion: Council Loses Confidence of Voter”

  1. Jack Abramoff would be proud of our city council, while the rest of us are not!

  2. I also feel betrayed because the City Council’s process regarding the development of Moraga Canyon has been deeply flawed from the start. Instead of deciding how best to use our last open space at Blair Park, to invite dialogue and consider various options, the Council chose to move forward to accept the “gift.” They didn’t even bother to require a Needs Assessment! Money corrupts the democratic process; it is the wrong way to decide public policy.

  3. RIGHT ON, Ralph Catalano!

  4. Dear Editor,

    Thank you so much for printing Ralph Catalano’s thoughtful letter outlining the lack of transparency as a style of governing adopted by not only our elected officials, but our public employees, as well.

    It’s going to take a focused and thoughtful effort on all of our part to upend this insidious culture of concealment and boot out the folks who operate as if they “know best” for the city. Why hasn’t the proposed development of Blair Park been put to a city-vote?

    Denise Bostrom

  5. Thank-you, Mr Catalano, for expressing so well my own thoughts and opinions regarding those elected and not elected to handle the business of Piedmont these past years. I share your concerns and hope more and more others educate themselves as to what has been going on. Share this website, too.

  6. Dr. Catalano’s letter points to something that is almost lost in the flurry regarding environmental impact studies and other particulars related to Blair Park. At the heart of the recreational stadium project is not a “gift” to the city, but rather a privatization of public space and public process. The recent actions of the City Council represent an outsourcing of civic authority and an abdication of civic responsibility.

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