As has been seen in recent events in the City of Bell (see new video story about Bell), without oversight, government officials and staff tend to insulate themselves from citizens and use tax dollars to their benefit.
At the July La Habra Heights City Council meeting, the City Council approved receipt of plans to expand City Hall into the breezeway. These plans are a growth of the previous plan to build a records room.
The original city records room was turned into a lounge and gathering area for the City Council. There was nothing wrong with an existing room the Council used for it's closed session meetings, and is still in use by others.
New Council Lounge. (Not seen - Deluxe new Kitchen for preparing Council buffets)
photo courtesy of theAvocadoExpress.com
Records stored in that room (now the Council Lounge), and records from other areas at City Hall were moved outside into storage containers at a monthly rental cost of over $220. City officials and Staff now complain about public records requests that require them to search through the container for items that used to be easily accessible before the Council Lounge was built.
Important City Documents kept outside in Rented Storage Container since 2008
Several months ago, on a weekend, a City intern and newly hire staff person were separating out records to be thrown out, saying that the City Council would have to approve their disposal. No such approval has been on a Council agenda since. Have historical city documents been thrown out?
The proposed City Hall expansion continues a movement to hide City Staff members from the public.
Up until several years ago, a resident walking into the Planning Department could see the entire room, and Staff members present, encouraging the Staff to acknowlege their presence and assist them.
Then tall barriers were installed separating the Staff from the citizens they serve. Is someone reading a magazine behind a divider, while a resident waits for service? Are residents ignored because staff cannot be seen and held to account?
The new plans for expanding City Hall show a room the public enters, separated from City Hall functions. You'll never see a City Manager or staff person unless he or she wants to be seen.
The City Staff report estimates the record room and City Hall expansion could cost $150,000+.
City Council Plans to Expand City Hall isolates Staff from Residents
The Council's plans also removes the gathering area in the breezeway for residents attending meetings, and puts residents out of the sheltered area during rainy or hot weather, keeping with the Council's continuing Crackdown on residents.
In summary, the residents paid for the new Council Lounge and Kitchen, even though nothing was wrong with the original room. Residents now pay for storage containers, to which records displaced to create the lounge were moved, The Council wanted residents to pay to air condition their new lounge, but have held off due to citizen outrage. Now residents are going to have to pay to build a new records room, and City Hall expansion.
This continues City Council actions, shutting residents out of their government and hindering access to people and documents. The Council has removed all citizen volunteer committees that provided oversight of spending of tax dollars and the Emergency Preparedness Committee, required by the General Plan.
Why doesn't the current City Council want residents to be aware of and involved in governance of their city?
The only remaining groups are the Planning Commission, required by State Law, though there was Council effort to remove the alternate planning commissioner, which removal was stymied by a citizen voted initiative which the Council could not find a way around without going back to the voters, and the Parks and Rec Commission chaired by the past Mayor's and current councilmember's wife.