(June 20, 2006) -- Mayor O'Neill left two appointments unfilled in her choices for Charter Commissions coming to the City Council today (June 20)...and we suggest the Council leave one more unfilled so incoming Mayor Bob Foster can make a meritorious appointment.
In our opinion, Harry Saltzgaver does not deserve reappointment to the Parks and Recreation Commission based on his recent conduct at a formal public hearing (that we believe the incumbent Mayor should have ruled out of order and probably would have if a private citizen had done what her appointee did in his capacity as a Parks and Recreation Commissioner.)
For the record, Commissioner Saltzgaver's behavior did not appear to sit well with at least two Councilmembers. To their credit, Councilmembers Bonnie Lowenthal and Patrick O'Donnell commended the appellants after Saltzgaver unleashed the statement below in his official Commission capacity. It took place at a formal public hearing hearing (hearing!) on an appeal brought by Ann Cantrell and Joe Weinstein regarding an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on a proposed sports park to be built on now polluted industrial land.
Mr. Saltzgaver: My name's Harry Saltzgaver...I'm here before you today as Vice President of the Parks and Recreation Commission.
I actually don't really feel the need to argue the merits of the EIR or the proposed land use. I am very comfortable in taking the word of true experts and true environmentalists who have spent years working on this project as opposed to self-made environmentalists who in fact are willing to say just about anything to stop a project.
Let's take this apart. At the outset, an ad hominem [on the person] style of argument is generally considered the lowest form of public discourse. It tells the audience that regardless of what's said, the person making the attack has no real arguments [ad factum] on the facts/merits. In this case, Commissioner Saltzgaver attacked the appellants, not their arguments.
He then continued:
"I actually don't really feel the need to argue the merits of the EIR or the proposed land use." Huh? So why was he there, using his official City Commission capacity to attack LB residents who WERE there to deal with the merits of the EIR and proposed land use?
For this reason alone, we believe the Council is justified in not extending him the privilege -- it is a privilege, not a right or entitlement -- of an additional term on a City Commission.
Mr. Saltzgaver then launched into an Academy Award-style "thank you" address:
...Mr. Saltzgaver: ...I do want to say that I want to take this time to thank the people that have persevered through this twenty-two years to get this project where it is today. That starts with the staff that you've just heard from, Amy Bodek and Dennis Eschen from the Parks Dept. It goes all the way back to elected officials, Ernie Kell, the Council that had Ray Grabinski, Jeff Kellogg, Tom Clark, Les Robbins -- Les Robbins was right in the middle of this. I do want to thank Bea Antenore, who was on the Parks and Recreation Commission in 1996 when this happened. Rae Gabelich was on the Parks and Recreation Commission when it first happened, I won't say how long ago (laughs)
But I also want to thank all of the sports folks that are here today. These people have been waiting for a long time. Some of the coaches that you've heard today were players when this first came forward, and believe it or not, I support turning playgrounds into ballfields too. We need them but we need this just as well, and I hope that you'll take action tonight and move this project forward.
Mayor O'Neill: Thank you very much, Harry.
...And I hope that you will
Yes, thank you very much Harry.
The saga of the sports complex is in our view a classic example of a divisive action stubbornly pursued by now-former city management and fortunately prevented by Ms. Cantrell, an unprecedented number of LB residents, a Superior Court and a wiser Council.
In the mid-1990s, some City Hall geniuses tried to put a 40 acre commercialized sports complex in El Dorado Park. The concept had been backed in smaller form by a City Hall task force...but when former task force member Ann Cantrell learned that City Hall planned to expand the project and create multiple negative impacts, she objected. Ms. Cantrell, an ELB homeowner who cares deeply about parks and the environment, founded "Save the Park by Sharing the Facts"...and systematically debunked City Hall's claims on the merits.
It is true that Ms. Cantrell initially supported City Hall efforts to relocate the sports park to the hillside site (Spring/Orange) site...but that doesn't preclude her or others from raising objections to the way the EIR brushed aside substantive issues regarding that site. For the record, a state agency, the CA Department of Toxics Substances Control, submitted a ten page letter raising issues about the EIR. City Hall responded with both responsive and non-responsive responses.
And from Councilmembers' response to Ms. Cantrell's testimony, they seemed to agree that she and appellant Weinstein had raised important issues. The Council and the public had a right to have these matters publicly underscored. In that respect, appellants Cantrell and Weinstein did a service to the Council and the city.
In our opinion, the City of LB doesn't need a Commissioner who has shown such a fundamental misunderstanding of this. We believe incoming Mayor Foster can do better.
The City Council should thank Commissioner Saltzgaver for his past service and invite LB's new Mayor to make an appointment more tolerant and reflective of different points of view.
The motion should be to approve the Mayors' nominees for Charter Commissions with the exception of Mr. Saltzgaver, allowing incoming Mayor Foster three instead of two positions to fill.