Last agenda item on Los Altos priorities stimulates debate on effectiveness

The liveliest debate during last week’s Los Altos City Council meeting centered on the council members’ long-awaited 2019 Strategic Priorities, which Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins said took “a really frustrating several months” to complete.

Due to the approximately five hours that passed before the council reached the agenda item, most residents who attended the April 23 meeting trickled out before the debate ensued.

Candid conversation

A reality check was not only necessary, but also imperative in regard to this year’s priorities, Bruins argued, attributable to the council’s track record and a lack of city resources due to short staffing.

“We are a fickle group of ladies,” Bruins said of the five-member, all-female council. “(If we need to), we can get dinner on the table and we can entertain people ... but as a council, we seem to be trudging and trudging and trudging. I think we are paying the price for it.”

Bruins listed the overhaul of Hillview Community Center as an example of the “trudging” – referring to the tendency to question the decisions of the past council. Most recently, the council in March reconsidered the design of the center – scheduled for construction this summer – after a request from Mayor Lynette Lee Eng and Councilwoman Anita Enander.

“This fickle council will want to revisit (Hillview) every chance we get,” Bruins said.

The council was split as to whether certain priorities considered everyday operations, such as the monitoring of the city’s public safety and maintenance of city facilities, should be deemed strategic priorities. Public safety is always the first priority, but it shouldn’t have to be cited as so when that was understood, argued Councilwoman Jan Pepper.

The council came to a consensus that a total of seven priorities should remain: traffic safety, public safety, Hillview Community Center, the “low-hanging fruit” that could be implemented through the Downtown Vision project (such as testing outdoor dining), revisions to the city’s “objective standards” (in the wake of upcoming, predicted state legislation) and maintenance of city assets (including retroactive maintenance that has been put off, a suggestion from Lee Eng).

City Manager Chris Jordan’s only concern with the council’s view of the priorities was that they should be “measurable and achievable,” alluding that the goals of each priority might need to be developed with staff to become more specific. When Lee Eng recommended hiring additional law enforcement officers as an example of a goal for public safety, Jordan refuted her example.

“It has to be an outcome, not an input, and that is an input,” he said.

No formal motion was made, but enough direction had been given, city staff indicated. Lee Eng then adjourned the meeting as one day had turned into the next.

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