The City Council has been working overtime, with four meetings in eight days, instead if its usual every other Tuesday meeting. Two of the meetings were study sessions on the City budget, and the other two addressed a variety of issues, including proposed rule changes intended to reduce the length of Council meetings.
On Thursday, May 22, the Council voted unanimously to appropriate $395,000 for “the removal and replacement of approximately 299 declining carob trees and the specialized pruning of an additional 330 carob trees.” Although the vote approved funding for all the trees, Council approval came only after City Forester Walt Warrriner explained that staff proposed initially to remove only the 97 trees judged most at risk of failure and to carefully reevaluate to remaining 202 carobs originally slated for removal.
Warriner explained that the 202 trees would be reassessed to determine if they could be saved by specialized pruning or removed in a phased program over a longer period of time. Councilmember Kevin McKeown welcomed that reassessment, and Mayor Herb Katz added an amendment to the effect that the removed trees be replaced with the largest trees as large as appropriate to the site.
In response to the continuing problem of meetings that run until after midnight, the Council unanimously approved changes to its rules that would limit public comments to two minutes (prrior rules allowed three minutes unless there were a large number of speakers) but declined to adopt a rule to limit the time the councilmembers spent discussing an item on the agenda. Councilmember Shriver suggested a “budget” of time for discussion among councilmembers, but withdrew the suggestion when it became clear that it would be voted down.
The persisting problem of long meetings is a result of what Mayor Pro Tem Richard Bloom called “trying to preserve small town democracy in a place with big city issues.” In the end, the Council adopted a rule that it would not take up any new agenda item (other than public comment) after 11 p.m. unless two-thirds of the Council voted to hear the matter.
In other action, the Council approved in concept a public/private partnership for waste recycling and disposal among Southern California Disposal, the Allen Company, and the City. The action paves the way for the City to negotiate 15-year service agreements.