Comments on Pasadena City Council: 7 April 2008

First, my offering for those for whom my Pasadena-related posts are the equivalent of a permanent snooze button. Thanks to our friends at Nokia, 10 May 2008 is Pangea Day. From the web site:

One of Pangea Day’s goals is to change the way we think about other countries. What would you think of Kenyans singing the Indian national anthem? Australians singing the Lebanese national anthem? Japanese singing the Turkish national anthem? French people singing the US anthem? Watch this anthem series and see for yourself what hundreds of thousands of people are talking about on YouTube.

NB: Actually, not that many people have seen the videos yet, but they are pretty cool.

– – – – – – – –

Okay, my comments for the comfy-chair clan:

First, on the smoking thing. We all know that smoking is not good for you. Just google “bladder cancer” and look at the Mayo Clinic’s website (“Smoking is the greatest single risk factor for bladder cancer”). That being said, I’m not in favor of passing ordinances that we don’t can’t enforce. Do we really want our law enforcement folks handing out citations at Paseo Colorado for smoking? Frankly, I’d rather have them help identify all the school-aged kids who aren’t in school (truants and drop-outs) so we can pry the guns out of their cold, dead hands and get them into vocational education or something.

Before I launch into the Youth Development and Violence Prevention Committee, a few words about the visceral experience of watching Pasadena City Council from the comfort of my couch. I watched intently for 90 minutes.  When it was over, I felt like I was in a fog. The only consistent voice of clarity is Sid Tyler. Mr. Tyler is on point and manages to say things in three sentences or less. Perhaps that is because he is the only council member with significant management experience.

It’s a miracle I can watch at all, because The Scout practically goes ballistic when Channel 55 (KPAS) is on. Gin and tonic in hand, he circles the room spouting, “Did Bill just say ramp up? Did he say ramp up?”

Now on to the Youth Development and Violence Prevention Committee. I’m still unclear on the goal of the group. ‘Let’s have a committee and produce a report!’ seems to be the scope of the thing.

Accomplishments of the committee to date (in the order presented in the Staff Report, with comments by yours truly):

  • They showed up to the meetings – Such an accomplishment! Oy.
  • Violence is down – Just a wild guess here…that is NOT related to the fact that these meetings happened.
  • They have a “deeper knowledge” of issues, and community members stepped forward to offer help. – And request money, even though the committee had none to give.
  • Young people were given direct access to leaders – Because apparently no one has bothered to tell young people about public comment at city council meetings. Or how they can e-mail city council members.
  • The City and County talked to each other – Probably one of the better things to come out of this process. But shouldn’t intra-governmental communication be de rigueur?
  • Numerous programs received favorable exposure – Because if we read about it in the public record, it must be good.
  • Communication with the State Legislator’s Office is happening – Not sure which city department is having this communication or what it is about.
  • The Neighborhood Outreach Worker program is effective – Can you toss me some data to support this, please? Quantitative? Qualitative? Anything besides comments from someone who is employed by the program? What is the plan to evaluate the effectiveness of the $130,000 the city invested in this program?
  • There are “best practices” models out there that we could use – But we need to hire a consultant to package it for us in a report which we will fawn over and then promptly place on a shelf. Then another kid will be killed, and we’ll go back to hand-wringing and head-scratching. Then we’ll have another ad hoc committee!

The Scout says people will be mad at me for the above (so nice to have a spouse and a devil’s advocate in one sexy package), so I’ll try to say something positive here. I’m glad that community folks got together with other community folks to talk about the good things that are happening. It wasn’t realistic to expect this group of people to come up with a “plan or set of recommendations” or “develop a sustainable community-wide policy” in six months, so I can’t blame them for not doing that. It takes six months just to get disparate committee members working from the same general body of knowledge. That may have been achieved. (I’d have to administer a pre- and post-test to know for sure.)

What they wanna do now: With thanks to all ya’ll who participated in the old ad hoc committee (Keep in touch! Don’t be a stranger!), the City Council would now like to form a new ad hoc committee composed of four council members who will work with city staff (from Police, Human Services & Rec, and Public Health) to come up with a “master youth plan.”

“A budget of $50,000 is being recommended that will assist staff in carrying out these responsibilities.” Staff in which department? Will the money be divided between departments? We all know how interdepartmental money-grubbing gets the focus off the issue faster than anything. Will the money be used for a consultant? Maybe. There was a lot of discussion about the $50,000 that ended in general muddiness. Is this $50,000 part of the $40,000 already approved as matching funds? So far, only Pasadena City College has offered $10,000, so the city is only in for $10,000. Oh what the hell, let’s just approve it…it’s only $50,000. No line item breakdown, no idea which department(s) gets this money, and no idea how much is going to a consultant.

On With The Blather:

1. In previous posts I’ve mentioned The Pasadena Policy on Children, Youth and Families 2006 Update, which was adopted by Pasadena City Council one year ago (March 2007). This isn’t last year’s news. Oh no, this puppy’s got it all: Historical context, policy recommendations, and the recommendation that the city “create a children, youth and family coordinator staff position with responsibility for ongoing implementation of the Policy.” This is a fairly comprehensive document. Could this document be the foundation for the “youth master plan”? Or is this document the youth master plan? Is there anything missing that we need to add?

As he summed up the discussion, Mayor Bogaard said that the staff working group would be assuming “significant responsibility” and he hinted at adding FTEs. See previous paragraph.

What is the participation of the Human Services and Recreation Department in the current process? Why hasn’t the Human Services Commission been included in a meaningful way? Why can’t I find a link to recent Human Services Commission meetings with agendas and minutes on the city’s web site???

You know what I want in a city manager? I want a city manager that will hold department heads and other staff accountable. I want an efficiency expert. If there is dead wood flotsaming and jetsaming around, let’s take care of it.

2. A word about collaboration, the buzzword of the nonprofit world for the last two decades (at least). The idea of multi-agency collaboration is lovely. Lots of similar groups are working on similar issues: Shouldn’t they be working together?

The answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no. It makes sense for organizations to join together in a learning community, like Northwest ECHO. But as Mayor Bogaard pointed out at last night’s council meeting, “maintaining working relationships” with the big agencies is not best accomplished by meeting every two weeks to simply share information about who is doing what. (Insert discussion about meaningful collaboration here.)

It would be nice for someone to keep a running inventory of who is doing what. I nominate the Human Services and Recreation Department. Oh wait, don’t they do this already? Anyone? Anyone? Since face time is important, I’d propose one big quarterly meeting during which everyone can give an update about what they’re doing (aka: what they just got funding to do).

3. The public safety issue – This is significant. Parents/guardians have every reason to be wary. When young people say they are afraid to leave their homes, that is a rational response to a real situation. Heck, The Scout does not like it when I walk from the bus stop back home in the dark, and we live in the good part of the bad part of town. I have empathy for the police–they thought they were signing up to fight the bad guys and it is ever so much more complicated than that. They didn’t know they were going to be responding to social crises as well.

Big Questions: We have many non-profits doing all kinds of good work. How can the city support this work? Does the city have a particular role as a catalyst? Are there things the city could be doing that are difficult for non-profits to do? What kinds of programs should be city-sponsored?

Last night, at the beginning of his summation, Mayor Bogaard said, “I don’t want to disagree with anything that’s been said.” That’s our Bill. My point is that we need to be clearer about what we want at the end of this process.

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2 Responses to “Comments on Pasadena City Council: 7 April 2008”

  1. Miss Havisham Says:

    OMG, that’s great. I am ramped up. Thank you.

  2. AP Says:

    Great read!

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