By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent
Mayor Bob Whalen plans to propose a set of more robust rules of decorum and civility on Tuesday to address residents’ complaints about the lack of civility in the City Council Chambers.
At this week’s council meeting, Whalen said he’s been working on the new policy with City Manager John Pietig and City Attorney Phil Kohn.
“I’ve done a fair amount of work in what I hope will be a more fleshed out policy for us to all live by, [including] members of the council, appointed members to city board and commissions, and members of the public testifying to those bodies,” he said.
Bickering in the City Council Chambers hit a fever pitch at the July 9 meeting about the city’s potential abandonment of four unimproved pedestrians pathways. Allison King recalled Tuesday how Councilmember Peter Blake called her and fellow Temple Hills residents liars and her fear of being publicly attacked and sworn at.
“We all saw that you, Mr. Whalen, refused to reign him in even after Councilmember [Toni] Iseman asked you to request an apology,” King said.
Iseman said she was upset that Blake had accused about 30 people of lying about using the pathways.
“I knew most of them. There was no one there intentionally lying,” she said. “We live in a community where there are different opinions, but if your opinion is different than someone else, that doesn’t make you a liar.”
Whalen’s announcement of the proposed policy followed a public comment by former council candidate Lorene Laguna, who stood at the podium and played a voicemail which she says Blake left her and which clearly sounds like his voice, admonishing her for a statement she posted on social media and calling her a derogatory name.
“I strongly urge you to be very careful,” Blake said in the voicemail. “There’s a fine line between the bullshit I’m willing to take from you and you making accusations like the one you made. We both know that’s a lie.”At the meeting, Blake said he stands by everything he’s said in the Council Chambers and online.
The Council will hear public comments and discuss the matter at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17.
Outdoor Signage Program to Continue through December 2020
In other business, the City Council voted to extend an interim regulation on sidewalk signs and merchandise displaying program through Dec. 31, 2020.
Community Development Director Greg Pfost said the Planning Commission tasked city code enforcement officers with addressing sign blight more than a year ago. Last month, code enforcement officers reported 40 businesses in violation, such as blocking pedestrian right-of-ways with signs, and only three business applied for temporary use permits.
“We’re finding that property owners are displaying items without getting a permit, and they’re displaying too many items,” Pfost said.
When officers notice a sign violation, they’ll send a letter asking the business owner to comply, but the response rate is low. Pfost admitted that code enforcement officers aren’t reacting to resident complaints or signs that are blocking the sidewalk. Rather, they’re simply following a Planning Commission directive.
The City Council directed city staffers to take a harder line and issue notices of a violation, which carry a $100 fine if a sign isn’t removed from the sidewalk.
Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold, executive director of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, argues the City Council should eliminate the temporary permits, which are also required for mannequins and clothing racks on sidewalks.
“We feel it’s an unnecessary step to require merchants to file a temporary use permit every time they want to put a table out,” Hornbuckle-Arnold said. “We would like to see it written in the [Municipal] Code as a right as long as the rules are followed.”
City to ask Supreme Court for Review of Anti-camping Law
City Attorney Phil Kohn announced the City Council unanimously voted to file an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court of Boise to review the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the City of Boise v. Martin.
The appellate court decision prevents Laguna Beach and other California cities from enforcing anti-camping laws if they don’t make emergency shelter beds available to homeless people.
Lawyers representing the homeless plaintiffs have until Oct. 25 to submit arguments for why the Justices shouldn’t review the lower court decision.