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History of Consent Calendar Misuse
The council has a long history using the consent calendar to slip things past the public. It works sometimes. Fortunately, members of the Encinitas Taxpayer Association are able to catch some of the items and bring them to light before they are approved, including the incident reported below.
One of the most egregious examples occurred a couple years ago. At that time I wrote a letter to the editor when Dalager was caught red-handed trying to slip the approval of a half million dollar design contract for a proposed public works yard. Had the contract been issued it would have been a complete waste of tax dollars. This was the same event that drew the attention of Bill Arballo, a Coast News columnist, former Del Mar council member, and father of Council Member Barth.
My letter to the editor:
Encinitas Mayors have discretion to place agenda items on the consent calendar, where all the items are voted on in one motion. Historically, and for good reason, these are repetitive house-cleaning items that are obvious unanimous votes and need no justification. Thus, it is concerning that Mayor Dalager put a $459,000 contract on the consent calendar. The contract was for the design of a proposed [and never to be built] public works yard on land the city does not own. Ecke owns the property.
Many citizens came to the council meeting to protest and forced the issue into discussion. They noted the lack of ownership, that the land isn’t zoned for a public works yard, and even though Dalager called the deal a no-brainer, they reiterated the absurdity of the related requisite land swap that had not yet been approved.
If the swap goes through, as fostered by Dalager, the city will be trading away land worth more than $6,000,000* in exchange for land valued at $700,000 [it didn't, and some thanks belongs to members of the ETA]. Except for Guerin, the Council cowered and did not approve the contract. The Council was so afraid of the light that they rushed into the next agenda item forgetting to call a vote on the contract!
Because Dalager put this on the consent calendar and then didn't publicly offer any merits for voting for the item I sent Dalager a question. Why did he put this on the consent calendar, an action that resulted in the appearance that Dalager had attempted to pull a fast-one? Weeks later, he has not responded [He never did]. This looks bad because you would think that if Dalager was willing to put something on the consent calendar that he would vote for it or at least see some merit in it.
Recommendations to the Council
1) Adopt a sunshine ordinance that includes sensible policies regarding what should go on the consent calendar. One practice to adopt, state a simple justification for placing each item on the consent calendar.
2) If the agendas are too full, then meet more often.
3) Deliberate and investigate issues during the open council meetings, instead of behind closed doors.
See also: City to Purchase County Land?