By: Kathy Runge – December, 2015
Merry Christmas and greetings from Apache territory! In a pre-election article published at editorialweek.com, Jose Alfonso Garica’s website, South Lawrence was referred to as Apache territory. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be offensive to Apaches, Anglos, or both. This man works for the school department.
It’s been an exciting month. The City Council is going for a Guinness Book of World Records entry for the most violations of the Open Meeting Law. After another mind numbing descent into oblivion at their second meeting of November, they voted to approve a utility access easement that hadn’t been reviewed by the City Attorney, “pending a public hearing.” Abutters weren’t notified and no notice was published. They can do all of that later. It was an “emergency.”
At the end of that meeting they took a good twenty minutes trying to schedule committee meetings. This task is challenging since Council President Maldonado is only in the country part time. It was his suggestion to make all of the committee meetings the same week as the full council meetings so they could spend the other week on constituent services. I guess Mr. Maldonado is meeting with “constituents,” just not in this country.
Scheduling around these absences is the reason why so many of the mayor’s board appointments got approved because of council inaction. The Personnel Committee meets the day before the full council meeting, making it too late to put any items they discussed on the agenda for the next day’s meeting. Of course all they have to do is suspend the rules, which they do with alarming regularity.
The Budget and Finance Committee meets the day after the full council meeting, which makes it impossible to comply with the Open Meeting Law. Where are those recall people, The Foundation for Transparency in Government, when you need them?
At the December first meeting the Council set the property tax rate by raising residential rates from $15.12 to $15.51. They also approved a Total Streets Ordinance, of which the goal is to enhance street and sidewalk access for pedestrians and all modes of transportation. That occurred in the public hearings portion of the meeting, which lasted until after 11pm.
Afterwards, the Council voted on two board appointments (suspend the rules!) and to send a letter to the owner of Polartec asking for information regarding layoffs at that company. They discussed the water and sewer rates and also what they would be talking about at the Committee of the Whole meeting that was scheduled for the next day.
What do these items have in common? They weren’t on the agenda. What does The Foundation for Transparency in Government think about this?
The councilors act so valiant working until midnight. Just look at how hard they’re working, staying so late! But the situation is a direct result of incompetence. Much of it is due to Modesto Maldonado’s lack of preparation for the meetings.
The councilors tell us they routinely get their information packets mere hours or minutes before the meeting. Whose fault is that? Is the evil Mayor Rivera withholding agenda items and documentation from the Council? No, the blame lies solely with the Council, and by that I mean Council President Maldonado. How can the Council do its job properly when they don’t get any information until the very last minute? Their packets should be available a few days before the meeting.
Much of this can be remedied by removing Maldonado from the presidency. A new president will be elected at the first meeting of January. Mr. Maldonado is totally inept at supervising the construction of an agenda and leading meetings, and has an apparent disregard for the Open Meeting Law. He gets lost going through a three item agenda. We hear that District C Councilor Kendrys Vasquez is challenging Maldonado for the presidency. Please call your councilors and tell them to give the residents of Lawrence a New Year’s present by electing Kendrys Vasquez as the new Council President.