Heya Pittsburgers. So, you know how we are always droning on about things like transparent government, less corruption, and bullshit like that? Well, these topics come up because we pay attention to the City Council, and they have a collective penchant for questionable practices. It seems like every City Council meeting gives us fresh material for grousing. Even for our current City Council, the meeting on Monday, July 17, 2017, got… well, really strange.
Setting the stage…
Our beloved Mayor was elsewhere (perhaps busy removing her name from websites she’s involved in…who knows?) and there was a vote before the remaining council members regarding a rezoning ordinance. At issue was something that seemed pretty routine: Garaventa Partners owns some property that they want to turn into a recycling center. Residents living nearby spoke out against it, fearing vagrancy, the inevitable noise and smells. Then it came up for a vote. Council member Evola acknowledged that he works for Garaventa Partners and recused himself from the vote. Shocker, I know! We recently shared with you some pretty big conflict of interest issues with the CoP, so if any council member actually acknowledges a conflict…well, we were pretty happy. I mean, you know, progress begins with a single step and so forth…
So, anyway, Evola left and the remaining three council members held a vote on the rezoning ordinance.
And that is where things got… really weird. The three remaining council members set about voting. Two Council members – Longmire and Banales – were in favor of Garaventa, voting the Pittsburg party line as they are wont to do. After all, Pittsburg is always a party for developers. But bravely, Council member Killings voted against the measure. I know…you could have knocked us over with a feather.
But wait, it gets weirder. Everything seemed fine at this point: the ordinance is tallied as passing and the council prepared to move on. But then, the city attorney stepped in: Hang on! As a zoning ordinance it required a majority of votes from the active council members to pass, not just a majority of the council members actually voting. Are you following me, Pittsburgers? Two out three might have been good enough for most measures, but a zoning ordinance needs three out of all five. So, the ordinance could only pass with three “Yes” votes.
And with that, the air went out of the room.
Now, keep in mind that everyone was fine with the ordinance being voted on by three council members when they mistakenly thought that the ordinance had passed. In fact, they were moving on to the next order of business. But suddenly they found themselves on the verge of not giving a developer something that the developer wanted.
Now, suddenly, there was a problem.
No one said out loud that there was a problem. No one had to. The look on the City Manager’s face said it all. Instead, the city attorney broke the stunned silence and said “Well, I suppose we could continue the vote to another meeting.” Because, in her disturbingly vague recollection of official parliamentary rules, they had not completely moved on to the next order of business. In her mind, the vote, though completed, was not really complete. Or something. So, they get “takes backsies.” They can pretend the whole embarrassing little snafu did not happen, and make sure that Garaventa gets whatever Garaventa wants. Again.
So, let’s be absolutely clear about the timeline here:
- Garaventa wants recycling center
- Evola recuses himself (still floored by that)
- Two out of three vote to give Garaventa what Garaventa wants
- They think this is good enough to pass ordinance. So no problem…hooray!
- Let’s move on
- City attorney says, um, no actually, all three votes were needed to pass
- Everyone looks like someone just dropped a turd into their soup
- City attorney proposes a solution, that is only a solution if the City Council really needs to give Garaventa whatever Garaventa wants and a “No” vote is presumptively a problem where a “Yes” vote was not a problem
So now, the City attorney has told the city council how many votes they will need to pass the ordinance, where consideration of such factors is probably a violation of the Brown Act.
And finally, the CoP eagerly accepts the city attorney’s solution, holding-over voting on something that they already voted on. So that they can ensure that Garaventa will get anything Garaventa wants. How does that work, exactly? We are not sure. Normally, government meetings must follow strict protocols to ensure that decisions are formalized in a fair, transparent, and understandable manner. If these protocols are not followed the government meeting is considered “Out of Order” and decisions made therein can be called into question. We didn’t have to look very far to realize that this vote was completely and shamefully mishandled.
Yes, Pittsburgers, that happened. We at Pittsburg Voice have been watching the City Council for a while, and this shit was one of the most extreme examples we have seen of the city bending over backwards for a developer. And the outcome of the rescheduled zoning vote? Well, c’mon… there was no reason to reschedule it unless it was to ensure that it will pass. Because it had already been voted down fairly and legally.
The recycling center is a foregone conclusion at this point.
So, see what I mean? Weird. But, hey, someone recused himself, so…. yay?