(6/5/2014, Los Alamitos/Orange County, California) by Highlands’ Guy: I ask this important question at the start of my tirade, with the hope that by the end I’ll have figured out the answer.
From time to time in my Thursday rants, I complain about all sorts of stuff. I might be upset with all the annoying ‘for profit’ business signs popping up on city lawns and fences, the “non-enforcement” of parkway tree codes, the sneaking in of the SCE microwave radio frequency radiation emitting, smart meters, perhaps the City being seduced by the fad of the dollar draining, un-proven red-light cameras, or even the silent acquiescence to an increasing crime rate. The list could go on and on, but that’s not to the point.
Why I write:
- I usually write with the hope that someone would “get it”, or at the very least, relate to the issue with the same intensity, regardless of their perspective.
- Secondarily, my hope is that just maybe, those with the power to do something about it will read it, understand it, and discuss it with their colleagues.
- At the next level, the hope is that there is recognition of a problem, and a realization that their constituents are concerned.
- The ultimate goal is that it gets some discussion around city hall and eventually gets addressed.
Well, it seems that in most cases it was just not to be. My first presumption is that I must be the one who looks at things differently than my neighbors do. It’s certainly possible that what gets me perturbed isn’t on most folk’s radar. And that some of these things just didn’t rise to the level of importance where some public action was called for.
I have to conclude that on some subjects, those in office or city worker-bees did not take the initiative to do anything about it. Finally, maybe I’m just too darned picky. Who knows?
Who has the authority?
All this leads me to look a little deeper and that should get us closer to the question of the hour of who has the final authority to, “Git er done”?
Again, we come up against the unsatisfying answer of, “it depends”. The three major players here are:
- the citizens (that’s you and me),
- the elected guys (the five who sit in those big leather chairs on the dais), and
- City employees or civil servants as we used to call them before their retirement was more lucrative than most of the rest of us.
So, I guess that means, if you’re not a part of the solution and you live in Los Al, you don’t really care. And that’s fine, but don’t complain.
On a day to day basis, our little town is run by paid city staffers. Whether sitting in a cubicle, behind the steering wheel of a police cruiser, or weeding the center divider along Katella, projects are worked on, decisions are made, and details of our civic life are taken care of (or not). It is their job to know the rules, the laws, the codes, and to apply that knowledge to life on the streets.
On the macro-level, oversight and direction are superimposed by their boss the City Manager, Bret Plumlee in Los Alamitos’ case. And I would offer that more direct interaction between with these folks will yield a greater responsive city milieu.
We get to see them incessantly on LATV3 reruns, but most of their actions that affect our daily life, happen on the third Monday of the month in City Council Chambers. Obviously they spend additional time on official duties, but the City Council meeting is where the rubber meets the road. Official interaction with city staff, lobbyists for various enterprises and experts in all sorts of fields, as well as detailed discussions of issues are there for all the world to see. Other than speaking with your vote, this is your opportunity to let them know how their constituents feel.
A real life example of the point I’m trying to make can be viewed monthly in the Council Chambers. As much as I am not enamored with some of the tactics of our good buddy, JM Ivler, one might pay attention to him, because he does his homework, usually presents a logical argument, and he is not afraid to put himself out there at council meetings. If you don’t like something, or want change, you could do worse than to emulate JM’s practice of the democratic process.
So who is ultimately responsible for our town?
So, my conclusion to the title has to be, you and me.
We can blame things on a City Council Member, the Mayor, the City Manager, the City Attorney, a city department head, a city vendor, or even the guy pulling the weeds in the center divider. And these folks may screw up from time to time, but in the final analysis, you and I drive the bus.
Become informed, vote, attend City Council meetings, put some time in as a member of a commission, call/email/write one of your elected representatives or a salaried employee.
And please excuse this overuse of a trite expression, but, it really ain’t rocket science.
“The next time someone uses denial of citizenship as a weapon or brandishes the special status conferred upon him by the accident of birth, ask him this: What have you done lately to earn it?”
- Eric Liu (1968- ) Author and educator. Graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School. Focus of writings is on democracy, the role of government, and the “art of citizenship.”
…And that’s just the way I see it.
As always, your perspective, diplomatically expressed, is welcome.