Opinion Columns & Blogs

April 18, 2010

Hughson leaders, get your act together

Oh, Hughson.

What can I say? There's so much going on, so many conflicts and so much dysfunction, that even after spending just two hours at Monday's City Council meeting, I could write on and on. And I wouldn't have to stretch the truth to make it laughable.

Instead, as an outsider who has no ties to Hughson but a lot of experiencing watching local governments function well and not so well, I would offer these thoughts:

How about a moratorium on making significant decisions, except for the most urgent, time-sensitive items, until the voters get a chance to weigh in through the recall vote on three council members: Thom Crowder, Doug Humphreys and Ben Manley? This would require restraint by everyone, especially those three, who seem to want to throw item after item up for discussion, including some that are clearly outside their purview.

How about everyone review the principles of the city manager form of government? That's what Hughson has, although it's not readily apparent. The council sets policy and has direct responsibility for only three positions: city manager, city attorney and city treasurer. But since the council majority (those facing recall) voted to get rid of the city manager, they seem to be using the opportunity to jump into all sorts of micromanaging. If the community wants to change its form of government, it should do so with a thoughtful debate and vote, not by electing micromanagers.

How about everyone review what a civil grand jury can do? It makes findings and issues recommendations, to which the entity and people reviewed are required to respond. But a civil grand jury finding is not the same as a criminal jury verdict.

How about the city staff and City Council work really hard to be respectful to each other? I was startled at the way the finance director snarled at the mayor because he put an item on the agenda calling for an update on the long overdue financial audit. But then Councilman Matt Beekman lost his cool as well, barking at the finance director. Good grief.

How about the justifiably unhappy citizens resist the temptation to sink to Crowder's level? He's established a legacy for himself by referring to some of his constituents as "pea-brains."

How about every Hughson voter attend at least one council meeting before voting? Then you could join me in trying to figure out whether Manley has trouble hearing what is going on or simply doesn't pay attention. At Monday's meeting, he followed up one presentation by reading from a prepared list of questions that for the most part had just been answered. Later he lost track of the motion that was up for a vote.

Hughson's sad state of civic affairs isn't good for employee morale or for the city's image. Nothing productive gets done in the midst of such turmoil. It's embarrassing. If enough Hughson citizens agree, then they can start to turn things around through their votes in the recall election.

Sly is editor of The Bee's Opinions pages. Contact her at 578-2317 or jsly@modbee.com.

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