Statement on Revisions to Referral Policy

RE: Adoption of Proposed Revisions to the Council Member Handbook Section on “Order of Business related to Council Reports, Referrals and Future Agenda Items”

Dear Mayor Halliday and City Council Members,

We are deeply troubled by the proposed revisions being presented by City Manager Kelly McAdoo.

There should be no obscuring of what Council directs staff to work on via the City Manager or the work staff (at council’s direction) is pursuing. In fact, the entire point of public council meetings and is to ensure the public is privy to the decisions being made by their government officials.

Per the City Charter section quoted in the staff report, “The City Manager shall take his orders and instructions from the City Council only when it is sitting in a lawfully held meeting.” Gendered language aside, the City Manager works for the City Council. Not the other way around. And this proposal is plainly an attempt by City Manager Kelly McAdoo to set a precedent by which she (and any future City Manager) is afforded more control of priority setting than the City Council.

The lack of transparency inherent in the staff report itself is troubling. Where in the staff report are the 18 municipalities surveyed actually named? And of the six unnamed municipalities with a process requiring a memo, what are the rest of their processes like? Do their processes similarly obscure council direction and priorities?

On page 3 of the staff report for this item, in the opening of the “Discussion” section it’s stated that evaluating the referral process has been an ongoing concern. Why no work session or discussion in the alleged Ad Hoc committee to elicit feedback from council? Why the rush?

On page 4: “The first part is to enable the Council Member to place a matter before the Council.” Enable as in seek permission? Why does any one council member need permission to address their colleagues in the public forum? Or raise an item for potential consideration by their colleagues?

To Part 1 (A), why not just draft the memo as a matter of public record? Why can’t the City Manager state in the public forum if the request can already be accounted for in other work already being pursued, or raise the concern about staff capacity? In fact, Part 2 (B) makes this part of the process wholly redundant.

To Part 1 (C), setting a minimum two-week advance for making a referral inhibits timeliness for being able to address issues being raised by community members. We keep hearing how the housing and tenant issues are taking so long because of the “slow pace of government.” Council needs to reconcile the fact that they are the slow pace of government. A measure like this makes the already sluggish machinations of Hayward government even more lethargic.

Part 1 (D), the limitation on the number of referrals, also inhibits council’s ability to respond to community needs. Which is part of the council’s job. The limitation effectively sets an expiration date for you, our elected officials. What happens if you meet that limit? Is priority setting left to appointed staff? Are you going to tell your community that your hands are tied in responding to their issues because you agreed to this procedure?

A vote for these revisions is a vote against transparency and accountability. The public has every right to discern from council comments and public decision-making where council’s priorities and concerns lie.

By all means; establish a transparent referral policy that does not open you open to Brown Act violations. But what is before you is not it.

Alicia LawrenceComment