On this July Fourth, do residents of Manhattan Beach enjoy the liberties guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence? Enshrined in City Hall Plaza are President Theodore Roosevelt’s words: “The Government Is Us; We Are the Government, You and I.” Has the Manhattan Beach City Council (MBCC) honored this principle?
In 2011, the MBCC admitted and assumed responsibility for violations of laws protecting our liberties. In turn, it promised to promote democratic governance by maximizing public engagement in policy decisions impacting our community. It has failed to honor that commitment.
Specifically, the MBCC failed to allow substantive engagement in the selection of a new city attorney. It failed in its promise to promote equity in public policymaking rather than residents confronting a stacked deck in which advance notice and access to information are limited as are opportunities to provide rebuttal evidence against unlimited time for arguments by staff and council.
The MBCC’s closed door policy on labor contract negotiations prohibits public engagement on decisions impacting 70% of taxpayer dollars. It effectively prohibited public engagement in budgeting by failure to provide opportunities for public forums.
Further, the MBCC rejected community participation in strategic planning. Therefore, it is “they” not “us” arrogantly defining “our” city’s mission, “our” goals, “our” vision as a community, and even “our” values.
Consequently, Independence Day 2012, finds viable democracy lacking in Manhattan Beach and far removed from President Abraham Lincoln’s hopes enshrined in the plaza, “Government of the People, By the People, For the People, Shall Not Perish From the Earth.”
Edward C. Caprielian, Ph.D.
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