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Prime-Time Council Watching

August 09, 1987

For over a year I fought to get the Redondo Beach City Council meetings on TV because I thought there was a definite need for the residents to be aware of what was happening in their city. I also thought there was a definite need for the voters to see the personalities and conduct of the council in action.

I feel that I "won the battle and lost the war."

Thanks to the extensive coverage by The Times and the Easy Reader, the public can now view the antics of the council in action, but so many restrictions are being imposed that the public is systematically being excluded from participating.

Shortly before the meetings started being televised they were cut from every week to twice a month. That cut the available participating time by over 50%. (Once a week equals 52 meetings per year--twice a month equals 24 meetings per year.)

Next, audience participation was moved from the beginning to the end of the meeting. Doing this has eliminated those people wishing to address the council but cannot because they have jobs requiring them to get up early. That eliminates at least 50% of the people who would like to participate.

So now if you are among the few remaining die-hards who have a problem and can stay up late you have a new three-minute time limit instead of six minutes. That cuts the participating time by 50% again. If a group of people have the same problem they are to pick a spokesperson. If that person does not happen to be you, voila! You have just been successfully, systematically excluded from participating.

The council says they want to be available to the public and they want input from the people. Their actions are saying they do not want to be bothered, but if you must be heard you have three minutes, every other week, at 2 in the morning.

The council's reasoning for all these rules is to make the meetings shorter and more efficient. The council members ran for office knowing the position required attending weekly meetings. The council should realize that the public is aware of what is happening in their town now and the meetings will never end as early as they did before TV. Every item on the agenda is going to affect someone and these people want a voice in that decision. The good old days of deciding important issues without public input are over. The City Council should look toward themselves in their effort to make the meetings shorter and more efficient.

I have a few suggestions for council members:

1. Use a non-council meeting Tuesday and give all the awards for the month on that one evening.

2. Read your material before you get to the meeting so you are prepared.

3. Write down any motion you intend to make so you don't have to repeat and stammer and reword it a dozen times before it makes sense.

4. Let the person who has the floor speak without rudely interrupting. The very council members who complain about the mayor's lack of control over the meetings are the same ones who interrupt to shout insults. My mother suggested the mayor might have greater control over the meetings if she had a gavel with a longer handle.

5. The length of the meetings could be cut in half if, instead of interrupting the meeting to belittle and insult our mayor at every opportunity, you have a "be rude to the mayor while Redondo Beach residents watch on TV" portion of the meeting. Pick a spokesperson and limit your insults to three minutes.

I love Redondo Beach. I am proud of my city and the interest the residents have in protecting her. Don't let the council make its meetings so efficient we no longer have a voice in our city's future.

ANN BAKER

Redondo Beach

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