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July 31, 2015

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I must compliment City Council member Mike O'Neill for advocating that Oral Communications (public comment) be returned to the front of the council agenda. I have not been happy with his pro-development positions, among other things, but this is a refreshing change.

Moving Oral Communications to the back of the agenda was in part the work of a late council member who couldn't stand listening to a local who sounded off weekly. It didn't work; the local, like a local bird species, continued to sound off weekly.

So may we look forward to the city attorney, who can't seem to figure out what's proper in closed session, being replaced as well? Probably not for now; wait for the 2016 election. Are you listening, council member O'Neill?

The city clerk emails out the bimonthly council packet to all who sign up to receive it. There is no technical barrier to the Planning Commission doing the same with its agenda and public notices for hearings. In fact, the city should email everyone who signs up any and all notices for public hearings by council and commissions. What could be simpler? Oh yeah. Doing it the way it is done today.

Keener's advocacy for the rights of residents (whether renters or homeowners) is especially important with regard to the growth of Peninsula rental housing vs. owner-occupied homes.

A lot of homes on the Peninsula were converted from owner-occupied to rentals during the housing crisis in a manner that effectively reduced community input, and the high cost of Pacifica housing stock frequently forces hardworking long-term residents who have raised a generation of kids here to be renters.

Keener's suggestions give a lot more residents the opportunity to have a voice, even if the Planning Department's prior method was technically "compliant."

O'Neill's suggestion is plain old common sense and efficiency:

Let the people participate in the government they have the bandwidth for, without forcing them to cancel swimming lessons, band, and baseball practice, and hiring a baby sitter for five hours to do so.

Setting the early stage of transparency: One of the preliminary efforts that might be undertaken to significantly enhance transparency at City Hall is for the bureaucracy to create an email list made up of all the local population it can survey. The advent/utilization of the Internet by government and the governed can result in a new, more effective form of popular democracy.

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