Fri08222014

Too much talk, too little action

We don’t want to keep beating a dead horse, but the current Los Altos City Council continues to drag meetings along while accomplishing little.

It’s not that our five councilmembers are slacking off – on the contrary, they’re intelligent, committed residents who care deeply about the community they serve. Councilmembers are diligent about their business and work hard to make the right decisions.

But this council is prone to nitpicking, long-winded statements and directions to staff that, frankly, result in not getting much done.

There’s an intuitive component that seems lacking, meaning that members don’t appear to know when to cut off discussion and make decisions. As a result, agenda items roll over to future council meetings, putting the council further and further behind in the city’s business.

The city’s recently approved parking management plan is a case in point. It took three meetings for the plan to receive council approval, and even then each councilmember offered his or her own recommendations in an addendum to the plan. It was as if each member felt the political need to add his or her two cents.

They seem very conscious of trying to head off any and all potential problems and cover every possible loophole before making decisions. This approach, while understandable, is neither realistic nor productive.

While we’re glad to know that the council is trying to adhere to an 11 p.m. adjournment time, belabored discussions are bogging them down. At last week’s meeting, the council spent three and a half hours on the first two items and 45 minutes on the last three as they sought to wrap things up.

How about self-imposed limits on speaking times? If residents are afforded only two or three minutes under public comment, why not limit councilmembers to five? The discussions shouldn’t gloss over issues just to save time, but there should be a reasonable middle ground.

Mayor Jarrett Fishpaw, who chairs council meetings, should take an active role in streamlining discussions and say, “Enough already.” We expect that the council will improve its time management as members gain more experience in working together. Part of an effective council is not only making good decisions, but also knowing when to say when.

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