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Editorial: Code of conduct the right idea prompted for the wrong reasons

Original post made on Jun 1, 2023

The creation of 'Norms and Code of Conduct' could have been a positive turn for the Pleasanton City Council. But it was only an attempt to further restrict one member from sharing opinions that don't align with the majority.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, June 1, 2023, 1:51 PM

Comments (14)

Posted by Fact Checker
a resident of Downtown
on Jun 1, 2023 at 3:19 pm

Fact Checker is a registered user.

Bravo! Say it louder for the people in the back!

Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jun 1, 2023 at 4:16 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

There are many of us that do not use social media.
Would have liked to see Jack Balch posts.

Same goes for the PPOA, they post on social media, I do not see those posts also.
It is a mistaken believe that everyone uses social media.

Organizations believe they are reaching out, when they are not.

Posted by MsVic
a resident of Mission Park
on Jun 1, 2023 at 5:08 pm

MsVic is a registered user.

I was at the code of conduct meeting and all I can say is how disrespectful Vice Mayor Balch was treated. His concerns were completed disregarded, being told to not overthink things - really? Those were Council Member Testa’s words. The meeting was recorded by Gina, with permission from the Mayor. There are
NO inaccuracies in this editorial. Even at this code of conduct meeting Council Member Arkin made a snarky remark to Vice Mayor Balch then tried to pass it off as a joke, it wasn’t funny, it was just mean and rude. 3 Members of our council need to go back to school to learn respect, courtesy and how to treat others (interestingly Council Member Niebert even said these are things learned in Kindergarten).

Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jun 1, 2023 at 5:23 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

There's something called the First Amendment in this country -- the Mayor, Council majority, and City Manager/City Attorney would benefit from reacquainting themselves with it. Good governance requires minority rights, and the ability to express when one disagrees with a policy -- even if a majority supports and votes for it. I've also emailed and been in contact with the City Clerk with regards to the lack of communication to the public about this Council meeting, and with the fact that it was not streamed, recorded, or posted on the City website. It's hard not to see how this is a blatant violation of the Brown Act. The excuse given to me was that this was a "Special Meeting" and a "workshop," but if you look at the Council's YouTube page and their website, you will find several recordings of such meetings over the past few years. Minority rights, First Amendment rights, and the right of the public to engage and observe the work being done by its elected representatives -- i.e. good governance -- were all undermined by last week's "Council meeting."

Posted by keeknlinda
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jun 1, 2023 at 6:41 pm

keeknlinda is a registered user.

It is not uncommon for special meetings not to be recorded by TV30, Community television. If the city has a contract with them, as does Zone 7 Water Agency, special meetings are not required to be, so often are not. That may not be as transparent as many of us would like, but it is a fact of how things work.

Posted by Fact Checker
a resident of Downtown
on Jun 1, 2023 at 6:51 pm

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Agree that special meetings aren’t always televised. However, this city council meeting was not emailed out to the list of people signed up to get meeting agendas. The Weekly notice that came out was the only alert to the meeting. No staff report was included with the posted agenda online. No staff report was available at the meeting for the public in attendance. These are serious concerns for transparency.

Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jun 1, 2023 at 6:56 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

Following up on my previous comment re: the Brown Act: The minimum requirement for a special meeting includes providing at least 24 hour notice to "to each local newspaper of general circulation" -- which Gina indicates may not have been the case here.

Curiously though, the City of Pleasanton itself indicates something else in the very packet it provided for the meeting on 05/23. In the document of the City's own rules and procedures there is a distinction made between "Special meetings" and "Workshop meetings." This is important for two reasons:

1) Because City staff has been using the two terms as if their synonymous. The City Clerk wrote to me in an email response to a public records request for a link to the recording of the meeting on 05/23 that: "There are no responsive records to this request. Workshops are not typically broadcast/recorded." However by their own rules and operating procedures -- the two terms, "special meetings" and "workshop meetings" are not interchangeable.

2) Because under "Workshop meetings" it is clearly stated that those types of meetings are different from "Special" meetings and considered "meetings for the purposes of the Brown Act." That second point indicates that if it was a "workshop meeting" (per the City Clerk), rather than a "special meeting," then the same rules and procedures with regards to notice, recording, and dissemination for public access that apply to REGULAR Council Meetings should have been applied to this meeting -- which they were not. These types of terms and rules are important, and cannot, LEGALLY, be thrown around willy-nilly.

All of this just underscores the fact that there is clearly a need for a revisit of rules, policies, and codes of conduct by the Council and City staff -- but the meeting held on 05/23 wasn't the revisit they needed.

(See page 50 in this document for the distinctions made re: "Special" and "Workshop" meetings: Web Link

Posted by Pton Resident
a resident of Foothill High School
on Jun 2, 2023 at 9:35 am

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Excellent editorial. Thank you to the Weekly for making those of us who don't closely follow the city council aware of their efforts to shut down dissent and our rights to free speech. Shame on them. I applaud Balch for not rubber-stamping everything. Peaceful dissent and civil debate are good for democracy.

Posted by Matt Sullivan
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jun 2, 2023 at 12:47 pm

Matt Sullivan is a registered user.

As someone who has served two terms on the City Council (2004-2012) and six years on the Planning Commission (1998-2004), I know something about this subject. While I have not watched a City Council meeting for some time (I can’t stomach it) I can’t judge whether Balch has been shut down or insulted as indicated in this column. But as someone who spent my eight years on the Council in the minority, the thought of a “code of conduct” aimed at limiting my dissent to the majority on important issues – before or after a vote – is an undemocratic act. It is an action by an authoritarian government. Dissent should be encouraged in a respectful way. I was never limited in my comments by any Mayor or Councilmember even though my views were sometimes completely opposite from theirs. The job of a mayor or city council member is to represent the public even if it means having differing viewpoints. Their job is not to “look unified” as Mayor Brown states.

In the years since I left the Council, my opposition to Costco, the massive cricket field proposed for Muirwood Park, and the disregard the Council majority has for the Muirwood neighborhood with their planning of up to 2000 units of high-density units at Stoneridge Mall, has resulted in my public criticism of the Council members. They have responded to this criticism by “canceling” me as a “political being” and totally ignoring any concerns I have raised to them. This is a tough pill to swallow after almost 30 years of public activism and almost 20 as a Councilmember, Commissioner, and committee member. So if Balch has been abused by his fellow Council-people, I feel his pain. It seems consistent with my experience.

to be continued due to lack of allowable characters

Posted by Matt Sullivan
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jun 2, 2023 at 12:54 pm

Matt Sullivan is a registered user.


Now I know the people who wrote this column and the posters so far have an axe to grind with the current Council. The Weekly is widely known as a pro-Chamber of Commerce tool, one of the posters ran against Nibert at the last election and lost, and another has had a feud for many years over land-use issues in her neighborhood. I’m glad we no longer have a Chamber-controlled Council like we have had since Tom Pico left, but the dream of many Pleasantonians for a slow-growth, democratic majority – in the mold of a Ben Tarver – has not been fulfilled by this bunch. Not even close.

Posted by Jocelyn Combs
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jun 2, 2023 at 3:28 pm

Jocelyn Combs is a registered user.

“Using good manners, not bad language
Being considerate: honoring the feelings of others
Dealing peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements”

These are the definitions of “Respect” in our City/School District Community of Character Declaration. The other five behavior characteristics are: Responsibility, Compassion, Self-Discipline, Honesty, and Integrity.
These words are on school display boards and on our City website. You’ve probably seen them.

I hope that Pleasanton Civics teachers do not require that their students watch or attend City Council meetings. The Community of Character characteristics that we say we support are not always displayed by the council majority. It’s embarrassing.

I get the frustration of having to work with people I don’t usually agree with or don’t even like. What I learned, sitting on another board, is that I needed to respect the position they were elected to (if not the person) and work with them for the good of the community. I came to learn from and sometimes agree with and compromise with others when I could recognize objectively what they brought to the table.

It’s possible and it’s critical if Pleasanton is to be a Community of Character.

Posted by Jocelyn Combs
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jun 2, 2023 at 4:20 pm

Jocelyn Combs is a registered user.

Edit to previous post:
The Community of Character characteristics that we say we support are not always displayed by the “city council, especially the council majority”. It’s embarrassing.

Posted by Jake Waters
a resident of Birdland
on Jun 5, 2023 at 9:24 am

Jake Waters is a registered user.

I never thought I would utter these words, but bravo to you, Matt Sullivan, I agree with your viewpoints here. Additionally, I believe we see a new Mayoral candidate in the making with Jack Balch.

Posted by Just Another Resident
a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Jun 5, 2023 at 9:41 am

Just Another Resident is a registered user.

No one should be surprised at the devolution of the Council as it was prophesized by Fialho's departure; people just needed to pay attention.

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