On January 24th, Supervisor Yaroslavsky chose to post his response to the various news articles and public comments made regarding to both his now notorious motion and the many news articles published in response to the Board of Supervisor’s attempt to pass Supervisor Yaroslavsky’s motion. His opening paragraph “For the past several weeks, a lot has been said and written about my proposal to modify the amount of time each member of the public is allotted for comment during our weekly Board of Supervisors meetings” speaks volumes about the depth of his misunderstanding of, in particular, the jest of the Los Angeles Times article (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-supes-comment-20120121,0,492101.story). And though the LA Times article does at the beginning of their article make the following statement “The weekly meetings of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors tend to drag, with some lasting five hours or more. And Board Chairman Zev Yaroslavsky thinks he knows why — members of the public talk too much.” The LA Times go on to zero in on the “right to manage our time” excuse that Supervisor Yaroslavsky used to defend his motion.
The paper did an admirable job of illustrating just how the Board of Supervisors’ manage their time, spending a great deal of it on non-legislative duties, starting late and ending well before the end of the day – cramming the business of the people into about two hours of a three to four hour meeting. This analysis of how the Board actually spends its time made Supervisor Yaroslavsky’s motion seem mean-spirited and made its intent appear to be one of stifling the right of the people to address the Board.
Are there a few individuals, approximately two, that seem to take great glee at holding ten or more items? Yes. And if Arnold Sachs chooses to hold every item to “annoy” the Supervisors perhaps he does so to lash out at how the Supervisors annoy him and many other members of the public. The Supervisors have a penchant for leaving the dais, huddle in small groups and talk amongst themselves or others, hold lengthy telephone conversations, and so forth when the public addresses them – most annoying behavior especially when you consider that they start their meetings late (at times 30 minutes or more late), waiting for your name to be called because no one has a clue when their item may be called leaving you held hostage in the Boardroom, and they forbid the public to bring in food while they feed their face in plain view of the public.
Supervisor Yaroslavsky goes on to state that the Board, at this point in time, gives the public two minutes to speak to each of their “held” items and three minutes to address the Board during Public Comments. This is not quite accurate, what they generally do if you’ve held two or more items that the Board has decided not to address during the meeting they expect you to cover your items in two minutes and if the Chair is feeling magnanimous you may even get three minutes. Don’t take my word for it just take a look at the December 20, 2011 transcript. On page 33 you’ll find Supervisor Yaroslavsky calling out the agenda items each member of the public has signed up (or held) after which he states, “EACH OF YOU WILL HAVE THREE MINUTES”. So much for allowing members of the public two (or three) minutes to address each item.
Supervisor Yaroslavsky invites us to join him at a Tuesday Board of Supervisors meeting and see for ourselves …, because you can’t trust everything you read – which of course applies to his very own post n’est-ce pas? So, I would encourage you to attend because civic engagement is good for not only your soul, but the “Public” soul as well, I would simply warn you to:
- Take public transportation or expect to pay at least $18.00 for parking,
- Be prepared to be screened prior to entry, and don’t bring any food or water because only the Supervisors and those behind the dais are given the privilege of eating and drinking in the Boardroom with the only exception being given under ADA rules,
- Don’t expect the meeting to begin at the advertised 9:30 A.M. start time, except at 1:30 pm if the Tuesday falls after a holiday and,
- If your item is lucky enough to have a designated start time remember that doesn’t mean your item will be called at the stated time — so be prepared to, you guessed it WAIT.
It would appear that for the Board of Supervisors, the public is there at the convenience of the Board and not the other way around — this is a point that has been made crystal clear.