"Animal Care Visioning Task Force" -- With No-Kill Leaders Muzzled From Membership By Mayor -- Let City Mgm't Run Its Latest Meeting, Offer Information Without Meaningful Challenge, Conduct Proceedings Nearly Inaudible By Audience And Let Public Speak Only After Discussion Of All Agendized Items Was Over
|(November 20, 2018, 8:55 a.m.) -- LBREPORT.com attended the most recent meeting of Mayor Robert Garcia's "Animal Care Visioning Task Force." Below is what we observed at its Nov. 13, 11:00 a.m. meeting in a Recreation Park assembly room.
The Mayor-chosen "Task Force" didn't run its own meeting. City management ran the "Task Force" meeting. LB's Director of Parks & Rec, Gerardo Mouet, whose department includes LB Animal Care Services, conducted the meeting. He had several staffers with him, including outgoing LBACS chief Ted Stevens.
City management was the sole source of information presented to the Task Force on the agendized items. City management's presentation included Power Point slides highlighting LB Animal Care Services accomplishments. The public had no opportunity to present information on the agenda items that might challenge or refute city management's contentions. City management was also the sole source of answers offered in response to Task Force questions and comments. The public had no opportunity to speak on any matter until discussion of all agendized items was over.
The meeting didn't comply with the Brown (open meetings) Act. It used a loophole exploited by Mayor Garcia who created the "Task Force" without City Council voted action. (The Task Force could voluntarily agree to comply with the Brown (open meetings) Act, which would give the public a number of rights and protections, but none of its Mayor-chosen member(s) have made motions to do so.)
The Task Force excluded the public and the press from its first meeting. It's not clear why this was done or at whose direction but the public has no way of knowing now (absent leaks) what Task Force members were told and by whom in starting their activities. The second Task Force meeting left a number of LB residents displeased with what they saw and heard.
At the Nov. 13 meeting, the public was given seats some distance away from the proceedings. Staff conducted the meeting without microphones or audio amplification, leaving what took place barely audible for the public. The photo below was taken from the audience area, showing the public in the foreground with the Task Force and city staff some distance away. Some Task Force members had their backs to the audience; the remainder spoke sideways away from the audience.
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The public had no opportunity to speak to agenda items as they were discussed. Public testimony was relegated to the end of the roughly 90 minute meeting after discussion of all agendized items had concluded. This prevented the public from presenting information that might challenge or refute what city management claimed as the agenda items came up. Apart from listing its agenda items, city management didn't make its meeting materials (including a PPT) available to the public before the meeting, which prevented the public from preparing responses even at the end of the meeting.
None of the Mayor-chosen Task Force members publicly objected to any of this.
No Kill Long Beach advocates waited patiently to speak at the end of the meeting. Speakers included No Kill Long Beach founder Dr. Patricia Turner and No Kill supporter Kristie Manelli among several other speakers, including Task Force member Jacqueline Case who rose and read a statement.
When No Kill speakers spoke, some Task Force members quietly nodded their heads in agreement; others sat stonefaced...but no Task Force member(s) made any motions asking city management to do anything. None made a motion to allow No Kill Long Beach an opportunity to present information that might differ from what management presented along with proposed solutions for discussion.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Parks & Rec Dir. Mouet announced there'd be no meeting in December and indicated he'd prepare the agenda for the January 2019 meeting. Mr. Mouet invited Task Force members to call him if they had any questions or suggestions.
For his "Visioning Task Force," Mayor Garcia chose individuals active on LB animal issues who, regardless of what their private views may be, have chosen not to publicly support No Kill Long Beach. He excluded individuals in the leadership of No Kill Long Beach while including at least one individual who's previously criticized some of No Kill LB's positions, a visible lack of balance.
Regardless of one's views of No Kill Long Beach's proposals, the grassroots group has undeniably provided the catalyst for the animal shelter issues now being discussed. It did what previous LB animal advocates declined to do. It presented data publicly challenging city management data, criticized aspects of LB Animal Care Services operations, sought specific changes and told LB electeds it would hold them accountable in elections, endorsing Garcia for Mayor in 2014 but publicly criticizing his record since then.
Mayor Garcia, who has long sought to develop ties with LB's animal advocacy community, found himself on the defensive. He responded by handing animal shelter issues to LB's City Auditor's office. It conducted a two-part "performance audit" of LB Animal Care Services that ended up validating a number of issues previously raised by No Kill Long Beach, but instead of pursuing the group's recommended solutions, the City Auditor recommended creating a "strategic plan." Such plans are exactly that: a plan with often vaguely-worded strategies that are nearly never legally enforceable by the public.
Actions matter, not plans. LB's Mayor no authority to set policy for LB Animal Care Services or any other city management operation. The Mayor can make recommendations for City Council action, whose majority (subject to a Mayoral veto that 2/3 can override) sets policy and controls spending regarding LB's animal shelter and other city management-run city agencies.
It's unclear to us what the Mayor-chosen/management run Task Force will or won't eventually recommend; but it's quite clear that No Kill Long Beach advocates don't seem inclined to defer to city management or to the Mayor.
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