Congratulations to our very own Mary Fitch, who at the February 4 City Council meeting became the first person in our collective memory to be gaveled down while speaking from the podium, without so much as a polite throat clearing by the Mayor, much less a verbal request to wrap up!
Now, you might not think being gaveled down is something to celebrate, but in this instance, we sure do! Since Mary’s only offense was to speak a few seconds beyond her three-minute limit, we cannot help but find humor in the fact that Mayor Scott Gruendl felt compelled to use a hammer, rather than a gentle nudge, to tell Mary to wrap things up. And then, as if that were not enough, he busted his cool and scolded her, ending by saying, “That’s enough” and pounding the gavel a second time.
Here is the video clip – well worth a watch: Mary Gets Gaveled
As a reminder, each of the three of us behind Truth Matters, Chico! was employed by the City of Chico for over a decade. Counting two Council meetings per month over the course of my own 14+ years’ experience, that would amount to over 300 meetings during which I cannot recall a Mayor ever using the gavel as a way to say “time’s up.”
It is a rare circumstance, indeed, for the gavel to be used for anything other than procedural matters such as calling the meeting to order, closing a hearing, closing a public comment period, and adjourning the meeting. In those rare instances when the gavel is used to restore order, it is typically when an audience member is being disruptive and does not calm down after being verbally cautioned. In fact, I have witnessed many back and forth arguments, with raised voices, between speakers at the podium and councilmembers without the gavel being used.
So, Mary must have drastically taken advantage of her allowed speaking time to be gaveled down, correct? Nope. Mary exceeded her allotted 3 minutes by exactly 18 seconds (likely the equivalent of two sentences).
For an earlier post that I worked on, I did an accounting of speakers from the Business from the Floor section of the agenda. I pulled data for a year’s worth of meetings. From that information, I can tell you that on average, one person per month will speak at Business from the Floor for longer than 4 minutes. I also have documented speakers that exceeded 6 minutes.
But instead of looking at historical data, let’s just examine the remainder of the February 4 meeting…
As indicated above, Mary was abruptly gaveled down after 3 minutes and 18 seconds of speaking. Later in the evening, another speaker spent a total of 6 minutes and 41 seconds at the podium without the Mayor picking up the gavel. 3:18 = Gavel. 6:41 = No Gavel.
In the interest of full disclosure, and because it adds to the story, the citizen spoke for 3 minutes and 35 seconds before the Mayor respectfully interrupted, asked the speaker to wrap up, and then apologized. The speaker went on to talk for another 49 seconds before the Mayor again spoke up, APOLOGIZED AGAIN, and politely asked the speaker to finish. The speaker continued, and finally asked the Council to answer a question. There was a bit of back and forth and then the speaker continued on, providing some documentation in support of his concerns, for more than an additional 2 minutes. Total time 6 minutes and 41 seconds. No gavel.
The Chico News & Review even picked up on this oddity in an article published February 6. The article reports, “Rather than giving Fitch the gentle warning provided to most speakers who exceed the three-minute time limit, Gruendl abruptly ended her comments by slamming his gavel.”
Hmmmm, must have been something she said.
Let me take this opportunity to say, “Shame on You, Mayor Gruendl,” for allowing your emotions to override proper protocol and common courtesy, for discriminating against your constituents based on your personal opinion of what they have to say when addressing the Council, and in general for behaving like a petulant bully while cowering behind the shelter of the dais. Shameful.
We thank you for your continued readership and welcome your comments and questions. Nothing we do makes any difference unless we can get the citizens and taxpayers involved.
Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!
Thank you to the Chico News & Review for including Truth Matters, Chico! in yesterday’s article, “Who to watch in 2014.” The article pulls quotes from the August 6, 2013 Chico City Council meeting, the first time Mary and I spoke during Business from the Floor. Quené was sitting in the audience with us that night, silently cheering us on, and decided to throw down the gauntlet with us from that moment forward.
We sincerely appreciate the support our little grassroots effort has received from the community, and hope that more citizens will join us on this journey in the months leading up to the November 2014 election.
Following is the prepared speech referenced in the CNR article. (Actual wording varied slightly, but this is how I originally intended it to come out!)
I’ve worked under four City Managers at the City of Chico.
One who under-funded replacement funds and required double-dipping timecard entries that were covered by the Cost Allocation Plan in order to find a couple million dollars under the sofa cushions every year end. The same one who, shortly before retiring, recommended that Council add an additional half million dollars to the Police budget at mid-year, which they were allowed to use to increase staffing (which translated to over a million dollars of ongoing annual costs); he negotiated for contracts that tied salary increases to revenue, which resulted in nearly 10% increases some years; and left behind a six million dollar structural imbalance for the next Manager to address.
One who decided that the organization should be flatter, and recommended that Council reorganize the City into more departments (and department heads), even though that created a Housing and Neighborhood Services Department for which there was insufficient funding. The same one who determined that our reserve funds were carrying too high of balances, and recommended that transfers to those funds be reduced so that money could be actively used rather than just sit around, gathering dust; and who sent forward to Council an unaffordable six-year MOU with the Fire union.
One whose priority was to preserve services to the community despite the greatest recession to date, with a goal that it would be like a duck floating on the water: to the outside eye, all would appear calm and controlled, while under the water, the duck is paddling like crazy. He also believed in the importance of maintaining local jobs, and tried to reduce City staffing through attrition while encouraging creative solutions to maintain those services with less staff and resources. And it appeared that the Council at that time agreed to put our community first, and to put dignity, respect, and integrity at the forefront.
And finally, one who rolled in from out of town, without any attachment to what Chico means to us locals. Whose priorities appear to include giving out fat raises and one year severance packages to “yes men,” handing out layoff notices, and looking to contract out core City services. And this Council, with one notable exception, seems to be co-signing that. Why not protect jobs for Chico citizens? Provide internships for Chico State students? Is contracting out for solid waste, info systems, city attorney, safety, and who knows what else going to grow Chico’s economy, or some other community’s? And how do some of you face yourselves in the mirror after whining about previous City Managers who weren’t keeping you informed, while allowing a current Manager to ask forgiveness rather than permission? (Did that new Assistant City Manager end up below the salary cap after all?)
I know that you all have a very difficult job as City Councilors, but as a citizen I am seeing way too much finger pointing. Please remember that when this current era has passed, if you aren’t asking questions and demanding honest answers, using your own powers of analysis and common sense, then the fingers that are pointed next will certainly be at you. And no amount of dramatic tears or admission of inadequacy* will get you off the hook with the citizens who are seeing diminished quality of life in Chico.
* For those of you who would like to see the tears and admission of being ineffectual, please click here and go to time stamp 02:30:10.
As always, we thank you for your continued support and welcome your questions and comments. Please continue to share our posts with your family, neighbors, and friends.
Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!
Photo credit: newsreview.com
The Chico News & Review picked up the story we told at the October 1 City Council meeting and ran a detailed article in today’s issue. Many thanks to Melissa Daugherty for her fair treatment of what we had to say. We will be responding to Councilmember Sorensen’s remarks in the article in the coming days.
As always, we thank you for your continued readership and welcome any comments or questions.
Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!
Photo credit: Chico News & Review