Following the prolonged public debate and ultimate defeat of her scheme to have the city purchase the Park Theater and then turn it over to a private dance studio, the Mayor is maneuvering to minimize public debate on the recommendations of her Green Ribbon Citizen’s Committee (GRCC). Rather than go through the normal process involving city staff, the city’s commissions, and city council study sessions; the Mayor intends to bring the GRCC recommendations directly to the council for action during a special meeting to be held during the Thanksgiving holiday.
The GRCC is reportedly considering up to 130 policy recommendations, that could effect most aspects of our community from residential zoning and building regulations, to transportation, bike tunnels, playing fields, open space, city purchasing policies, new taxes and fees, products that can be sold in Menlo Park, new staff positions, subsidies for green businesses, and policies to reduce the number of car trips to our schools and town center.
Because the GRCC was intentionally structured to avoid having to comply with California’s open government laws, only Ms Fergusson, Mr Robinson, and members of the Mayor’s task force have had access to GRCC documents. Other council members, the city staff, and the city commissions were excluded from the entire process and have not seen the draft recommendations. A recent e-mail to GRCC members warns them not to leak policy recommendations to the public before they are issued in final form.
Although the Mayor originally promised to bring the GRCC recommendations back to a full city council study session, she recently informed the city manager that she wanted the GRCC recommendations placed before the city council as a regular business item next week, enabling the council to take action within days of the report’s projected release and avoiding having the general public, staff, or city commissions weigh in on the specifics of the plan prior to the councils approval of the core recommendations.
Unlike the Park Theater plan that had almost no support from Menlo Park residents, dozens of Menlo Park residents have participated on the GRCC and most if not all of the city council members have indicated support for some kind of green initiative.
Let’s hope that the Mayor can control her urge to steamroller this plan through the council before allowing the city staff, the general public, and the city commissions the opportunity to analyze the recommendations in detail.