Since this gift was introduced into our city's news, there has been a robust conversation about Belle Haven and its inadequate library. For many years, Belle Haven residents have asked the City Council to make the construction of a new library in Belle Haven a serious priority.
Although some improvements to the Belle Haven branch library were recently made, and a needs assessment is also now underway that could lead to more improvements, one reasonably asks why action wasn't taken sooner. The disparity between city facilities in Belle Haven when compared with those at our Civic Center speaks to the issue of equity, a value we all respect.
It's time to have open, public discussions regarding Menlo Park's values as they pertain to equity for all residents. The residents need to be deeply involved in these conversations.
Along with equity and the common good, core values in a democracy include the idea that the government's power comes from the people.
The 2017 city satisfaction survey raised public concerns that it was biased, using leading questions favoring the library project. Even so, results demonstrated inadequate public support for a bond measure to finance the main library project.
At the annual public meeting to set yearly priorities, the council responded by removing a new main library from its priority list. Yet the project continues with, for example, meetings to recommend the best site location for a new main library. The council's latest work plan also includes milestones related to the project.
The main library project is proceeding with inadequate public visibility and participation. The project will not regain the trust, confidence and support of the public unless the public is actively involved, especially at key decision points.
Transparency is a value that our city government stresses often. In their political campaigns, our council candidates also stress this value.
Now is the time to take another look at the sunshine ordinance that, last year, Councilman Ray Mueller asked his colleagues to put on the council agenda. Unfortunately, his request saw no action.
Residents want and deserve to be included as full participants in our own government. State sunshine laws are considered only the beginning of what's needed for transparency. A sunshine ordinance would better deliver open government as it requires local agencies to make extra efforts to conduct public business in the open.
The role of residents serving on our current advisory commissions and committees also needs to change. The public perception is that staff works together with the various commissions to bring the best recommendations to the council. However, the reality is that often the commissions are treated as rubber-stamp groups to lend credibility to staff-made decisions.
We need to benchmark our commissions with those from other leading cities to identify improvement opportunities. As an immediate improvement, I recommend that commissions and committees put more topics, especially the ones pertaining to key decision-making points, under the regular business category to allow for public discussion.
I suggest that we start this improvement effort with the Library Commission.
>Lynne Bramlett is a 22-year Menlo Park resident and has been a member of the city's Library Commission since August 2014. She is a recently retired public high school English teacher.
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