The Town Crier recently published an article, an editorial and a guest opinion column defending Los Altos City Manager Chris Jordan. Council members and residents are accused of “vitriol” and “unfounded accusations” against him.
Los Altos Partners in Progress asks, “What is a Los Altos resident to believe?”
I believe in the city org chart: residents at the top, city council beneath, city manager reporting to the council. We do not elect a city manager. We elect five council members to represent us and set direction for the city manager to follow.
Former Mayor Curtis Cole thinks “a climate that prioritizes respect is more important than the decision-making process and what it yields.” Really? Bad financial, legal and planning decisions would be OK if made with respect? Not my idea of good governance.
The Town Crier editorial asks for “facts and context when assessing Jordan’s – and the city’s – work.” I offer the following.
• The Town Crier is correct saying there was no vote to move council meetings back to the council chambers. But the June 25 minutes say, “a majority of Councilmembers directed that Council meetings be moved back to City Hall.” If Jordan disagreed with minutes published by his own staff, why not get clarification? He claims the Americans with Disabilities Act investigation prevents moving. But it’s not for the ADA consultant to decide where the council meets. That’s up to the council. And it’s not just Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins with health issues. Other council members filed claims – after meetings at the Los Altos Youth Center.
• If the ADA consultant was Jordan’s justification in June, had he already hired her? The $40,000 contract with Shaw Consulting wasn’t signed until Sept. 4. It has no defined deliverables, no due dates and no process for determining a successful conclusion.
• At the July 30 study session, Jordan asked the council for authorization to spend $93,420 for additional community center design studies, then admitted he had already paid out some of the money. Spending city funds without authorization is not fiscally responsible. The council asked for a list of what was paid, plus a list of soft costs. Jordan said he could have that “in a week or two.” No lists have been forthcoming.
• The community center is already four months behind schedule.
• In January 2018, Godbe Research presented the 2017 Community Survey, blindsiding council members. They didn’t know the survey was happening and had no opportunity for input. Claiming he’d notified them, Jordan said, “I think you should check your emails.” That’s not a collaborative approach.
• One year ago, the council assured us it would protect parklands from development by correcting erroneous land designations. Hillview Park was to be so protected, but it’s still not on staff’s list of “mis-zoned areas” to correct.
Partners of Progress asks, “Is our fair city really in dire straits?”
Yes! Dysfunction is our middle name.
Those decrying “vitriol aimed at the city manager” – controversial in his previous job for being controlling and exhibiting that same tendency here – are using their own vitriol to deride the council.
We have many smart, well-intentioned players at city hall. To constitute a winning team, they should adhere to the city org chart, work collaboratively to set clear priorities with achievable deadlines and establish consequences when deadlines aren’t met.
It will take more than civility and respect to solve our city’s problems. All the players at city hall must be responsible and accountable – to residents and to each other.
Pat Marriott is a 10-year resident of Los Altos and served on the Downtown Buildings Committee.