“Manhattan Beach has been nicknamed the ‘Pearl of the South Bay’ for its beauty and desirability.” (Wikipedia) Further, we deservedly have pride in our volunteer and philanthropic organizations whose generosity and contributions illustrate our characteristics as an ideal community defined by Stephen Covey (“7 Habits of Highly Effective People”): principled-centered goodness; being of one heart with a common vision and direction; and, one mind with an approach to problem solving that is synergistic, not adversarial.
However, the flawed iridescence of our “Pearl” is inadequate resident participation in our city’s governance – a flaw not sufficiently addressed by city council candidates. In the previous election [March 2011], only 21.41 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Perhaps only 50-100 residents actively attend city council meetings and organize to shape our city’s mission; challenge council members when their policy decisions are imperfect; or, praise their gems.
The main culprit for the flaw are 15 past years of city councils directed by a former city manager and city attorney to minimize engagement of residents in public policymaking – allowing only comments at council meetings to pacify the “gadflies,” the civic activists often denigrated by council members.
To magnify the iridescence of our “Pearl” requires “public engagement” by council members, i.e. delegating authority to residents through education, outreach, dialogue, and empowerment in the public policymaking arenas, such as strategic planning, labor relations, budgeting, community development, and in the often stated but neglected goal of “maintaining our small beach-town character.” Then our “Pearl” will attain the metaphor of it being something truly rare and admirable.
Edward C. Caprielian, Ph.D.
Manhattan Beach resident