City Council is moving towards banning all events in City Council Chambers other than for City business involving the City Council, its Committees and Commissions, the PVHA, and activities run by the City such as PVE Cares and Neighborhood Watch.
Chronology of Events:
In the January 22, 2019 PVE City Council Meeting, Councilmember Davidson spoke on a non-agendized topic and called for a policy change that would deny the use of City Council Chambers for a public Candidates Forum that was being hosted by PVrrg on February 6th. In his speech, he made many false statements and criticized PVrrg for its “bias” and also attacked City Treasurer Victoria Lozzi. For his remarks (and a response from Treasurer Lozzi), click here.
In the February 12, 2019 PVE City Council Meeting, several PVrrg members used the Public Comments section to respond to Davidson’s attacks. For Rose Ramsay’s speech, click here. For George Kay’s speech, click here. For Patricia Kasschau’s speech, click here.
Item #14 on the February 12, 2019 PVE City Council Meeting was “Consideration of Policy for Public Use of the City’s Council Chambers.” For the staff report and proposed policy, click here.
Below is the video of the discussion that took place on February 12th, which ended in direction to the City Staff to rewrite the policy banning all events in City Council Chambers other than for City business involving the City Council, its Committees and Commissions, the PVHA, and activities run by the City such as PVE Cares and Neighborhood Watch. This is harsher and more restrictive than what was in the initial Staff Report. Once implemented, this would specifically mean that Council Chambers would no longer be allowed to be a venue for candidate forums and debates hosted by such organization as the Palos Verdes League of Women Voters, the Palos Verdes Chamber of Commerce, the Lunada Bay Homeowners Association (LBHOA), the Malaga Cove Homeowners Association (MCHA) and Palos Verdes Residents for Responsible Government (PVrrg).
After the meeting, the City edited the staff report and replaced the original version on its website with a modified version — thus distorting the public record of what was presented to Council by the staff. Since then, the original version has been re-inserted.
A revised policy will be brought back to the City Council at a future date for a vote.
Voting Record of Elected Officials:
January 22, 2019 Councilmember Davidson brought up the topic of a policy which could exclude PVrrg from using the chambers for its Candidate Forum.
February 12, 2019 City Council discussed the proposed policy. Councilmember Kao stated that he was not in favor of denying access to Community groups, but the other four Councilmembers said they supported revision to the draft policy that would exclude all community groups, not just those deemed “partisan” by City Council.
Speaking For: Sanford Davidson, Betty Lin Peterson, Jennifer King, James Vandever
Speaking Against: Kenneth Kao
For context, in early February 2019 our PVE Community has benefited from two informative Candidate Forums in PVE City Council Chambers. Videos of both events are now online and can be found here for the February 6 Forum hosted by PVrrg and here for the February 11 Forum hosted by the League of Women Voters and the Palos Verdes Chamber of Commerce. Both events were well attended (standing room only) and went smoothly in terms of maintaining a respectful atmosphere where people could learn more about each candidate and their responses to a total of 29 questions across the two evenings.
Unfortunately, our current City Council Leadership does not see such Candidate Forums as beneficial and in a break with tradition, directed staff to initiate a policy making Candidate Forums no longer allowed in council chambers.
PVrrg finds this decision truly shocking and indicative of the poor leadership of the current Council (with the exception of Councilmember Kao who spoke against the restriction). Councilmembers should be doing everything in their power to encourage an informed electorate and allow debate over issues that are important to residents; unfortunately, this change moves us in the opposite direction. No rationale for the change was given other than the vague comment that the City did not want to imply it was endorsing the events or the content of the events. Statements were made saying the City is a business and hence activities that were not part of the City’s business had no place in the room. We find this a selfish and arrogant stance which completely ignores the fact that the City should be serving its residents. Since resident tax dollars paid for the building (including Council Chambers), the room is therefore the property of the all PVE residents not merely five (5) council members. In the discussion, no mention at all was made of the needs of PVE residents and how this decision might be viewed by them.
What residents want should matter. If resident taxes paid for the building, neither the building nor rooms within should be viewed as a stage where the Council can use the dais as a bully pulpit for one way communication. If polled, we expect the overwhelming community reaction would be negative to the change the current council is making to the use of the room — even those people who don’t go to candidate forums.
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