Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Trinidad Top 10 - Where Do We Go From Here?

trinidad's southern coastline with Coastal National Monument sea stacks

No Particular Order - I think they're all important

  • 1) Water: Quality, Supply, Infrastructure, Waste, Environmental Impacts, Fire Protection

  • 2) Coast Guard/BLM: Transfer of Trinidad Head Property & Development

  • 3) Trinidad Rancheria: Trinidad Support for Increased Participation & Projects

  • 4) Trinidad's Conserved 12.5 Acres Management: Review & Implement from City's Perspective

  • 5) Planning: Complete General Plan Update, Ordinance Review & Codification, ADU Ordinance, Sustainability, Simplify Requirements & Procedures

  • 6) Trinidad Beautification: Gateway Oversight, Support Trinidad Community Organizations, Signage, Trails, Beautify City Easements, Fight "Urabanization" by finding alternatives to sidewalks, speed bumps, more traffic signs, painted curbs, etc.

  • 7) View Preservation & Restoration - 12.5 Acres View Easments, New Sign Ordinance, Replace & Upgrade Street Lights, Utilities Under-grounding, Trail Access/View Restoration

  • 8) Encourage Participation in Government: Build Trust by Council Policy and Procedure Review and Implementation with Public Committee Oversight, Streamline Meetings, Sales-Tax Committee Oversight, Budget Process Committee Oversight, Grants - Review Options & Increase Effectiveness

  • 9) Neighborhood Conservation & Business Incentives

  • 10) Communications & Infrastructure: Relocate Cell Towers - Accelerate Process & Increase Revenue, Free Wi-Fi for Trinidad - Explore and Implement, Storm Water Treatment, Roads & Parks Completion

New Year's Post:

The Bay is blue again! We are so lucky in Trinidad. Sometimes it rains and rains, and then you wake up, and the sun is piercing through the fog, lighting the Bay, and WOW! It is a wonderful way to start another day in the best place on Earth.

Wonderful New Day and New Year. New Years is a time of reflection and planning for many. What's working in our lives, what do we want to do better next year. People like to make lists, and countdowns are popular this time of year. I've been gathering friend's top 10's for Trinidad - a list of things they'd like to see the Council focus on and accomplish in the New Year '09. It'd be fun to know people's favorite top 10 things that got accomplished in '08 too.

I've heard there's a list of Trinidad things to-do somewhere - Julie provided an "unofficial [?]" list which I posted here in the comments. I'd like us to set up a system (Richard, help?) that tracks our projects online for everyone to follow our progress. Then people can remind us to stay on track, and git'rdun.

So shoot me an email ... let's make some plans, and enjoy our accomplishments. My list is below - I've been blogging about some of them for a while.

Feel Good

Be Kind

Share Joy

Happy New Year!

Related Posts:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Who Owns The Head?

I'm referring to another issue important to me - the potential transfer of the USCG property (BLM property?) on Trinidad Head to Trinidad. I recently heard it was already transfered to the BLM. Who owns it now? Who should own it, and who will be the stakeholders in managing it?

I spoke with Steve and he's working on getting some background information. He has tons of experience in transferring and surplussing (is that a word?) government property. Lucky us. Richard and Stan worked on this for the City. I'll pull together their current info and post it here too.

more to come ...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pachelbel - Taco Bell

Who Knew? Haha
Pachelbel's Canon in D Rant by Rob Paravonian. Rob is funny!

Ok, so my favorite classical pop song is Pachelbel's Canon in D. Whenever I hear it, lots around Christmas, I get a smile, and sometimes chills, and I know it's cheesy, but it makes me happy. I don't even know how I came across this video, but it is damn enlightening and entertaining. Enjoy ... Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

News in a Small Town - Flipflopping ... Openly, Proudly

News travels fast in a small town -- Trinidad is a tiny town.

That's a nice thing about blogging in a tiny town. Travels fast. Sometimes, people know more about you, than you know yourself. You get the unique opportunity to know yourself from their perspective, faster, in a tiny town.

Of course sometimes people think they know better
for you. I'm guilty of that. Thinking I know better. Talking about what I think may be done better, while remaining open to being wrong, makes me a good leader. I may be wrong at the start, but I'm gonna say it, and then I'm gonna listen, and if you have a better idea, I'll change like the wind. Some people call that flip-flopping. Like it's a "bad" thing.

I like flip-flops. I mostly like ridiculously expensive but amazing Ruehl flip-flops. Ruehl is a cool brand. I know it's not really cool to say cool anymore, or maybe it is again? Online it's sometimes written kewl, but that's even more lame. When you get older, you don't care as much about whether saying tight, chill, awesome, rad, sexy, wild, foxy, groovy, or far-out is cool or not, and younger people get to snicker at your lameness. Snickering is fun. Did you know snickering means the same thing as rambling now? Like "Yo, i wish that mo'fugger Mike would quit his snickering." I'm getting old. Ruehl's totally made up marketing history is amusing. Its products are top drawer. I like that the brand isn't well known up here -- so people don't know how much I overpaid for my destroyed polos (lol). I'm flashy enough without wearing flashy brands. I wear my Ruehl flip-flops all summer, lots in winter too. They're good, even on the Playa. A good foot massage after flip-flopping around the Playa is always nice. It's fun to stream consciousness. Rambling is a fun way to get to a point. Rambling is sometimes fashioned into a rant

Here comes my rant on stuck, close-minded, B/W thinking. It's #2 in my Booklet of Frustrations -- right after #1 Poor Customer Service.

Sometimes, after all my ranting, all I hear out there is the buoy bell. Hmmmm. Sometimes, that is really nice. Mostly, I'd rather hear someone settin' me straight, or sharing the other side of the story I'm missing.

Did you ever hear Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story" segments? Used to listen to them in North Carolina ... we didn't get too many stations out in the country, where I lived, but I did get Paul Harvey. He tells some good stories.
I am an open-minded, dynamic individual
Are you still reading this? Where's the beef? It's in here somewhere. Recently someone told me they can't control what I put in my Blog, or what I believe, and this gave me a little shock. Why would you want to? Why do you care? Anyway, why is irrelevant here, and it's frequently an unimaginative criticism that's boring. Anyway, it's an incorrect statement. I told them, "I am an open-minded, dynamic individual" ... well that's what I like to think, so stop giggling.

I prefer gray rules. Rules as guidlines or rather guideposts, with lots of room for mistakes and second chances around them. When it comes to black and white thinking, some people call that stinkin'-thinkin', I prefer the black on my cars, and the white on my ice cream. I always have black cars, and I always prefer vanilla ice cream. Everything else is open to discussion.

A better idea will always resonate with me. A better idea will always influence me. There's your control point (hint hint) - a better idea. Flip-flopper? Sure I am. Have a better idea, I'll run with it. Do nothing, and I'll run with mine, 'till I come up with a better one.

UrbanDictionary: snickering

Encouraging Controversy and Eroding Trust? - Previous Council's Email "Discussions"


Whistle blowing or being one of the gang?
Since it's my intention to lead a change in the way we've been governing here, creating more faith, respect and pride in Trinidad's government, do I really have a choice?

Before assuming this office, I was copied on several emails. I've been struggling with what to do about two email "discussions" - Search Warrant Served on Edwards Street for Marijuana Cultivation, and Construction Site. Struggling, because it may hurt some people's feelings to see them posted. I don't mind calling attention to behavior that needs to change, but I don't like being the "bad guy" here. My intention is to help, not hurt. This is a lot of information, and I hope, my l o n g e s t blog posting ever (lol). You may need a pot of coffee for this one.

I take issue with two major themes here - openness and appearance. First, I'll share how I decided to post these email discussions. Second, I'll post them. In "What Now? - Present Appearance", I'll address how to change this unnecessary and controversial emailing behavior right now. I'll do that by relating what makes me uncomfortable, how I have addressed it personally, and how I will lead us away from it. Then in "What Should We Do? - Future Thinking", I'll talk about ideas which may get us thinking, and lead to ways of fixing any broken trust or removing any misperceptions some residents may have.


Asking if I should post these discussions, I'm answered with suggestions like keep the peace so we don't lose focus and momentum, don't give Trinidad another black-eye, don't burn your bridges, and such. While thought provoking, these reasons haven't been compelling enough. As far as getting things done goes, if the means to get it done are unfair, the ends will not bear the full honor and respect that they deserve, no matter how proud we are of achieving them, or how fast they are achieved. Examining a black-eye doesn't cause it. People are ultimately responsible for their words and actions - whether or not they are held accountable for them. I like the burning bridges metaphor, but only if the new bridges are built stronger, safer, and with recycled materials and proper permits.

I'm confident I now have to blow the horn a little louder, and post the two discussions. Before I do, here are some resonating excerpts from sources that influenced my decision.
  • Comply with both the letter and the spirit of the laws; Be independent, impartial and fair in their judgements and actions; Use their public office for the public good, not for personal gain; and conduct public deliberations and process openly
    from Preamble, Trinidad Code of Ethics

  • "Deliberations be conducted openly; The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know; Writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny
    from Open & Public IV: Guide to the Ralph M. Brown Act

  • "So, it is up to each of us to decide, to chose what is more important-Upheld [Upholding] the principles of fair[ness] and justice or making everybody happy and keeping peace in the community."
    Chi Wei, from email B10
These emails are perhaps technically open to the public, but you have to know about them, to request to see them. They are not easily accessible nor easily visible. They also aren't being archived properly to insure public access. Email lists and the resulting serial discussion that develops by using "reply all" may create a dangerous step towards developing a collective concurrence.


The email discussions are split into two series A and B.
I didn't change or correct any grammar or spelling, editing/my embedded comments indicated by [ ]
  • The First Series A 1-8
    Re: Search Warrant Served on Edwards Street for Marijuana Cultivation
    From Nov 25, 2008 [at about 4:20pm lol] to November 26, 2008

    • A1) Dear Steve and Council,

      I do not have Council Member Mike Morgan's email address so if this email could be forwarded to him I would appreciate it.
      [rest seems confidential ...]
      Chief Thrailkill

    • A2) Once again, you are amazing.

      I am repeatedly stunned at the brazen behavior of growers. If this is going on on "mainstreet", just imagine what the country roads hold.

      Would it be a good idea to give a full report at the next council meeting to explain what the rules are here in Trinidad?

      I leave this to your best judgement.


    • A3) Hi all,

      I would like to write a letter to the McKinleyville Press, with the following information:

      Number of grow houses busted in the City during the last 12 months.

      Percent of total rental units that represents. (Gabe helped me do a housing survey a while back so we know the approximate number.)

      What was found in the houses: # plants, weapons/cash/any other drugs.

      Condition of grow house: how many were damaged?

      Movement of drug cartels and the Mexican Mafia into the marijuana industry in Humboldt County.

      How people can spot a grow house (shades pulled, etc.) & recommend they contact police.

      Conclusion of letter: WAKE UP, TRINIDAD!!! We (Trinidad) are likely to be taken over as marijuana central if we don't have our own police, due to our distance from the sheriff's substation. Keep your eyes peeled, and fund your local police department, if you want to keep your community.

      Is this letter a good idea? I'm often unsure what I can say or do as a council member [I recommend that when you are unsure, ask Staff, not your Council buddies-MM]. I'd also have to get some info from Ken.


    • A4) Since you asked, my first instinct is to leave this to the Chief. It is his bailiwick. [Yes, yes, yes - just tell Staff -MM]

      But you are an independent person and can write anytime/anything you want. There is no Council rule to limit you.
      You can speak your own beliefs. You just cannot say you represent the Council or the City, but I think you know that.

      In any case, I think #5 is inflamatory. Unless Ken has given you real evidence that the Mexican Mafia is clearly involved, this will cause mail to be sent in saying you are racist or worse. The other items on the list are factual and educational and seem appropriate.

      Thanks for asking what we think [no, no, no! Don't encourage this behavior, "asking what we think", on issues which are likely to come before the Council].


    • A5) Thanks, Julie, As usual, two or more heads are better than one [2, but not all 5 of the Council + Staff!].

      #5 is probably inaccurate as well as inflammatory. Mexican nationals were arrested at Humboldt grows, but on forest land, not houses.

      I will probably just leave it alone. I do, however, have an urge to shake the citizenry and say, " WAKE UP! Notice what is happening around you!" I am worried about our little town. Should we be doing anything to educate residents? If so, what?


    • A6) Yes. I think if Ken gives a full-on report just as you outlined, citizens will begin to get the message. Then we/you can make statements like you suggest. Those statements will be quoted.


    • A7) I would like for Ken to make a report to the Council detailing all the pot grow busts that have occurred in Trinidad during the past year. I am not sure how much contact he or anyone else has had with the guilty parties, but it would be interesting to know why they thought Trinidad would be a good location for a pot grow house. I would think the media would print this information in the local papers--maybe that would be a better or alternative way to get the information out rather than a letter to the papers. Obviously some people in town are seeing that something is not right at these houses. Ken has to be getting his information from someplace. My compliments to those citizens who have reported such suspicions.


    • A8) A report to the Council from Ken sounds like a good idea, but we need to make sure it gets into the papers. Jessie Faulkner isn't paid to come to meetings any more [she is paid, but she told me that staffing allows them to "only attend meetings that cover particularly important or controversial issues. The decision as to which meetings to cover is a reached through conversations with editors". -MM].

      I suspect Trinidad isn't any worse than the rest of Humboldt. My realtor says grow houses are all over, including fancy neighborhoods, and that in most areas aren't a priority for enforcement.

      The difference is that we are small. We don't have enough housing stock to accommodate agri-business instead of people. And we can keep an eye on our few houses. The growers can always go elsewhere in the County.

      [from Kathy]

    A8 is the last one in this series
  • . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

  • The Second Series B 1-12[ Oops I found another 5, so it's now B-15! (Yes, 15! And that's -1 of Paul's 2 emails which seemed too confidential). I missed the extra 5 the first time 'round and inserted/appended them. These guys were busy over Thanksgiving -MM]
    Re: Construction Site
    From Nov 22, 2008 to November 26, 2008

    • B1) Hi all,
      Have you all observed the construction taking place on the Saunders' property, behind the horse pasture & next to the Cemetery? A steamroller was tamping down a large gravel pad yesterday.

      Dennis (who frequently works for Glenn) says that Glenn's son will "operate his business out of there." Rumor has it that the business is construction and that he plans to store equipment on the site.

      Gabe says that Steve is aware of the project which apparently is being done without permits. I invite you all to look at the site. It is clearly visible from Main St.


    • B2) Kathy,

      This should be stopped immediately IF it is being constructed without permits. It is called a "stop work order" and is not uncommon. I believe Reinman was a recent recipient. Everyone must be treated equally. If there are no permits in place (ie. building, grading, other?), this could be a violation of the law. Our staff, City Building inspector, engineer or manager must have the authority. I hope City staff is already on this. A permit process for something of this nature should not be routine, We should all have been informed.

      Do you know if staff is involved?


    • B3) Hi all,

      Gabe reported that Steve said there should probably have been a permit for the grading. That's all I know.

      The project site is visible from a larger area than I realized. As you drive down Trinity toward Main, you look DIRECTLY at the site.

      I am directly affected by this project which will most likely spoil my view and depress my property values. Therefore, I hesitate to do anything as an official [except contact all your buddies on the Council about a matter which you just described as a conflict-of-interest for yourself?! -MM].

      IF you are concerned about this projects legal status or its effect on Trinidad, please ask questions; don't wait for me. YOU would be a more neutral advocate.


    • B4) Unfortunately, it is Saturday. "Should probably have a permit" is too unclear. I am not a planner, but know that these issues are very serious in other towns and in the county. If we have any ordinances or zoning issues that fit with this activity, the City has to take action. I can only assume that since we have heard nothing, that Saunders has a permit or has found out that he does not need one. If staff knows a permit is required, then I hope that has been communicated and that all work is stopped.

      We all live in this small neighborhood. This is not about your view. It is about community values. If there are no ordinances preventing his work, than we are sadder for it. In any case it sounds sticky. That does not mean we have to avoid the situation.


    • B5) It's me again. [Paul sent a previous email that seemed more "confidential" to me, at the time, because he instructed direction to the Council. He did not include me in the Cc. I believe the other Council Members "released" this confidentiality to me by Cc:ing me, but I didn't include it anyway -MM]

      [This 2nd email didn't seem too "confidential" at the time, but in retrospect, and in light of my new understanding of confidentiality with Paul, maybe I shouldn't have included it either -MM] What are we all doing monitoring our e-mail on a Saturday afternoon? Perhaps we should form a group therapy group.

      The best you can do right now is
      [ rest too confidential ...]


    • B6) It seems to me we should consult with our planner about this as well. I am forwarding this correspondence to Mike Morgan as I feel he should be in the loop [Thanks a lot Stan. Though I do think and hope your intentions were to include me as a future member of the Council, the burden of being involved in this questionable emailing was heavy for me -MM].


    • B7) From Kathy: One thing that may have delayed any City action is that there is frequently activity on the site. Horses are added and taken away; hay is brought; a temporary barn was added, then taken down. Not until I saw the steamroller did I realize that something bigger was going on.

      Thank you all for following up and Paul for suggesting a therapy group. Anyone who works here for very long needs one.

    • B8) Hello all:

      I am even worse...monitoring the email at 9:45 on Saturday night!

      We ALL saw something going on last week, I recall talking about it briefly with one of the Council members on Wednesday or Thursday. I should have contacted Glenn directly, but he was out-of-town for medical reasons. I saw him at the Joint Library/Museum Meeting late Thursday afternoon but did not get a chance to talk with him. Trever left town Friday and will not be back until December 1. I know that Gabe had several conversations about it, but it all sounded like rumor or speculation. Certainly the Saunders were not trying to "hide" anything, considering how visible this site is.

      It was clear that Glenn is doing more this time than just levelling the site for loading/unloading horses. Depending on what plans he has beyond the level gravel area, I suspect at the minimum a grading permit should have been required. In addition, would this be the appropriate time to bring up the wood-cutting lot behind the market, which I have heard is a much larger public nuisance and has been overlooked for MANY years?

      I will talk with him on Monday or Tuesday and see what is going on.

      Once or twice a day I take the dog for walks, and I see many activites that should have some kind of permit. However, I do not hurry back to City Hall to see if John Doe or Mary Jones has a permit. For instance, the property owner who is replacing the septic system on Trinity Street SHOULD probably have had an encroachment permit for dumping dirt and then gravel in the street. Perhaps this "code enforcement" or "permit enforcement" should be a Council agenda discussion. Between myself and the other staff members, I suspect we could recognize some kind of violation on a weekly or even daily basis. I guess we just need to use good judgement as to what is and what is not important enough to pursue.

      Enjoy the rest of your weekend.


    • B9) I am even WORSE-- It's Sunday morning! Anyway, I drove up to the cemetery yesterday to observe the "pad." The corner of the graveled area is no more that 30 feet from the cemetery boundary--It is definitely within 100 feet which I believe is the distance requiring a permit in our ordinance. Another interesting fact is that the underground varmits have already pushed up from below the fill and gravel and piled up soil onto the surface. Good for them!
      Regarding the pile of gravel on Trinity Street--not only did it take up parking space for the Eatery, it must have added runoff pollution into the Bay when it rained. The drain is at the end of the street. At a minimum they should have covered it with a tarp to prevent runoff.

    • B9a [missed #1-insertion]
      Hi all,

      The new construction appears to be a worse nuisance than the wood yard.

      It is more visible. The wood yard affects View and Parker Creek Rd, the new pad affects Main and Trinity.

      It disturbed the ground. When the wood yard is removed, there will still be a green field; nothing will grow on the gravel pad.

      It is close to the cemetery, triggering special protections in the ordinance.

      It is NEW and occurred on "our watch;" it will be hard to enforce the ordinance if we ignore a large, very visible, current violation.

      It will be difficult to regulate future uses. It is essentially a parking lot subject to a variety of potential uses. The wood lot IS what it IS; it won't change.

      Residents buy wood from the wood lot; it is of some use to the town.

      The wood yard creates noise impacts; the pad may or may not, depending on the use. If construction equipment leaves in the AM & is returned in the PM, there may well be noise impacts.

      The Marquettes hate the wood lot, and so would I. In response to Steve's question, I'm not sure if we should go after it or not.

      It might be interesting to survey the immediate neighbors. In the past, there was an effort to get rid of the billboards on the bluff. Residents turned out to SAVE the billboards! You never know what will make people circle the wagons!


    • B9b [missed #2-insertion]

      Good homework, Kathy...and on a Sunday.

      All citizens need to be treated the same under "our watch". I feel the wood lot is a completely different situation, at least at the moment. The gravel pad is current and clearly not appropriate. Seems like a job for the building inspector. Isn't that his job? to make sure that we all build within the codes and ordinances?


    • B10) It took me a little bit longer to respond because I am older and slower. But here I am.

      I think if a government does not have the will or means to enforce its laws and ordinance, there is not much a government.
      A city like ours, with limited means and unclear decision making authority, the ability to govern is constantly tested and challenged. Lack of proper response to these challenges diminishes further the ability of the CIty to enforce laws in the future and the legitimacy of our government. When there is no law, the ones with more resources dominate and the ones with less suffer. This is un-equality and un-justice. We have seen this before and we are seeing it right now. It is the responsibility the government and those who are elected to run it to make things equal and fair. The ones with resources will think that there are victimized by the government and challenge it. They think government should ONLY serve the people, and particularly THEM.

      Do we have the will and means to enforce the City Ordinance? I think we are much butter equipped to do so. The capable city manager and city attorney and handle this and other cases with clear violations. The city's financial resource, although limited, still will be able to afford to defend the city's legal action.

      The real question is do we have the WILL? There will be complains (why the city did not enforce other violations?), even out cries, threats of legal actions, and at least making life unpleasant for us. So, it is up to each of us to decide, to chose what is more important--Upheld the principles of fair and justice or making everybody happy and keeping peace in the community. As far as I am concern, it is a no brainer.


    • B11) You took longer, because you articulately pulled all the threads together. You stated, eloquently, exactly what I was saying in an abbreviated form. All citizens need to be treated equally regardless of money and perceived power.

      The council's role is to support our staff in their efforts to handle these situations [Bravo! - Julie is right here. Kathy should have contacted Steve FIRST and not a majority of her Council buddies by email -MM].


    • B12) Amen

    • B13) On Nov 26, 2008, at 12:07 PM, Kathy Bhardwaj wrote:

      Thanks, Chi-Wei, for your clear statement of the issues involved. Gabe said he expects an earful when Glenn gets back from San Francisco, and I suppose we can all expect the same.

      This appears to be a provocation to test if there is still a two tier system of regulation in Trinidad. Steve/Trever will examine the ordinance to see if that is indeed the case. If it is, Glenn's serious medical issues will create sympathy for him and make the whole code enforcement thing even more difficult, but we still have to do it [In my opinion, this is completely over-the-top! I still hope Kathy apologizes for this unsympathetic thought process regarding Glen's private medical issues. It's my understanding she apologized for all this becoming public, but not for doing it in the first place. She could have called him directly and avoided all this email mess -MM].

    • B14)
      I was in Steve's office this morning when he was on the phone with Glenn regarding the pasture project. I will leave it up to Steve to relate the contents of that conversation with everybody. [I was in this meeting too. I questioned Stan about these emails. I heard him say that the previous Council attorney told them not to email like this. I wish they would have listened better, and kept me out of it -MM]


    • B15)
      This is excellent staff work. Thank you so much! This is exactly the kind of staff response that is needed in a situation like this . . . professional, unemotional and simply the truth. [Again, I say Staff is who Kathy should have contacted FIRST - this would be a great procedure to avoid this mess in the future -MM]

      It should make it absolutely clear what the next steps are.

      Thanks again!!!!


      On Nov 26, 2008, at 1:26 PM, Trinidad City Manager wrote:

    B15 is the last one in this series
  • . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Leading by example, I'll show how we can both
avoid controversy and encourage trust

I doubt any Acts or Laws were intentionally or unintentionally violated. But legal or not, these kinds of communications can encourage controversy and can erode trust. They make me uncomfortable. Are these just a few cases of poor judgement showing a lack of experience, or perhaps a comfortable or perceived lack of accountability in the past? I don't know. I haven't requested any other past communications like these between Councilmembers themselves and Staff.

That being said, "the Brown Act is a floor and not a ceiling for conduct of public officials." We, as elected officials, need to be way above the floor and set higher standards for ourselves and each other. We are given the honorable responsibility of legislating our constituents and being their elected voice in their chair. This honor demands more respect. We need to be above the appearance of comfortable, business-like meetings, whether it's in public at the coffee-house, or through group email lists discussions. Discussing or deliberating upon any item that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of our Council, whether or not any action is taken, is a precarious step in the wrong direction.

To avoid controversy, rebuild trust, and instill public confidence that we are independently, impartially making our decisions at meetings, we should create new policies which go beyond the minimum requirements of law. These should address communications between the Councilmembers and between the Council and Staff. They should provide for fully open, transparent and publicly accessible and archived communications. The night I was sworn in, I asked for a future discussion of this, and it's on our next Agenda. Let's make policies that do away with even an appearance of moving towards a collective deliberation process in group email discussions like these. Let's work towards creating more faith in our process.

What can we do now?

I've been straight-forward with expressing my discomfort with both the method of these communications as well as the spirit and appropriateness of their content. I've posted about it, hoping people involved in the discussion would do something. I guess nothing is something, but it's not enough. I have implemented communication solutions for myself that I feel shield me from what I see as a less honorable, less trustworthy, way of approaching issues which are within our subject matter jurisdiction.

Regarding City communications, I've asked to be removed from any non-public lists and prefer to be on email lists which are not only accessible, but also easily visible to the public. Ones which get all information archived and not deleted. By default, I make all of my non-confidential communications with the Council and City Staff automatically public and easily retrievable, with no deleted communications. The emails stopped after I brought all this up, or rather they stopped coming to me.

Things like archiving can also be done by Councilmembers and Staff until we create policies.


What can we do before the next Council meeting?

What else can we do as a Council? Our City Attorney, Paul, is on vacation, but I have about a dozen questions I'm waiting for him to respond to. They may help us with creating policies which will build confidence and trust.

We should independently come up with and solicit policy and operational ideas which may combat controversy, instill confidence, and rebuild trust, and then present them for discussion at our next meeting. We can independently continue working with our City Manager and tap into his experience and suggestions.

Clear, simple policies incorporating ideas like these may help us.
  • Communications. Councilmembers should ( or shall ) first communicate directly with the City Manager on perceived violations, positions they may be interested in, questions about conduct, etc. - not have email discussions with each other. The City Manager could then take action to contact Councilmembers, and by their recommendation, hold a special meeting or schedule it on our next Agenda. We have to watch for "hub and spoke" communications here, but that's easy to catch.

  • Appointments. Another might be that we have public discussions before we approve, appoint or elect people to committees, commissions, or office. We are kind of doing this already for Committees, and our Planning Commission, but we didn't for electing Mayor ( yes, I still have some hurt, but certainly not hard, feelings about not discussing it before nominations ).

  • Speaking of Mayors. I heard an idea that may help de-politicize our Weak Mayor position, assuming everyone agrees that our Mayor should strive to be apolitical as well as unbiased. It would certainly help remove the appearance of a power blocking monolith voting up there - if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and votes like a duck ... ( my attempt at some humor here ). The idea is this, we rotate the Mayor position between Councilmembers who want the experience and responsibility.

  • For Agenda Items. Staff should provide an ordinance being used, like the one directing us on appointing Planning Commissioners, with the Agenda item. Also stating how things were done traditionally may help. Seeing any suggestions Staff may have at that time about improving our ordinance based on their experience and any research or public input might also help. Having draft motions presented in our packs to approve legislation, possible amendments, and general information like Planning Staff provides in their packs may be another helpful idea.

  • Running Meetings. The Mayor has our elected responsibility for this. Some suggestions that work well for Trinidad could be put into a policy. It could include suggestions about our public discussion process for each of our Agenda items.

    An Example of a Process for Each Agenda Item

    • Staff will introduce the item with background.

    • Councilmembers will ask questions (only questions) and each Councilmember has 3 mins, but an unlimited number of turns after other Councilmembers.

    • Public may ask questions (only questions) and each has 3 mins, but a reasonable number of turns after others.

    • Public may comment and each has 3 mins, but a reasonable number of turns after others.

    • Council may comment

    • Motions, Seconds, Discussion, Amendments, Votes, etc.

    Council may interrupt to ask brief clairifying questions throughout the discussion process, but should not engage in debate with the audience.

  • Not sure where these would go, but I liked our Attorney's suggestion of straw polls. Seems they would help us move things along in the comment phase(?), when everyone is apparently in agreement. I need some education on this still.

  • Bet there is some kind of on-line, public, project tracking system that shows where we are on our list of Trinidad to-do's, what the next step is, and where we came from. That would probably help keep us on track, and it would help people keep us on track too. I'm using my Blog to organize myself, but I'd like to see some City solution that is both collaborative and efficient.

  • A friend suggested something that sounds great. He thinks a field trip of our Council to a County meeting and maybe to a Rio Dell, Fortuna, and/or a Blue Lake Council meeting would serve us well as we review our policies and procedures - refining but not reinventing the wheel. Sounds fun!

You know ... it's no fun being the bad guy or the odd man out. It's no fun blowing the horn if it hurts people's ears or feelings either.

Together, we can acknowledge room for improvement. We can apologize for hurt feelings. We can be more inclusive of differences of opinion and share power. We can build on and share our individual strengths. We can let our common devotion to Trinidad prompt us to honor not only this job, but also all the people we are up there for. Whether or not they agree with us. Whether or not they put us there with their votes.

Wish us luck at our next meeting.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Just Shoot Me - Our Mayor Election Process

Well they didn't give me a shot, and they didn't shoot me. Tho shooting me may have been less painfully embarrassing. It felt like a public castration (just having a laugh here). And in front of my friends and neighbors I care so much about -- btw, thank you guys for your warm condolences. 

That vote came very fast. There was no discussion before it about who wanted to be Mayor and why. That's really the source of any hurt feelings I'm still nursing. I don't mind the Council didn't elect me to be Trinidad's Mayor. Sure I feel qualified and I want to be Mayor, but if members who have served longer want the position and feel more qualified, I can support them. If however, some of them are politically acting to "block" me because they disagree with my positions, that could be a different story.

I was digesting all the pride I swallowed that night for a couple of days. Some friends noticed me gritting my teeth, rolling my eyes, and literally holding my mouth shut. I will get better up there. Some friend's suggested I may have shot myself with all of my blogging bravado - perhaps.

I'm wary that some Councilmember's actions that night may have served to reinforce suspicions and fears that I've been Blogging about. Yet again, an opportunity to build constituent trust was missed. It appears to some of our constituates that a few Councilmember's minds appeared to have been made up before we even discussed the issue.

So what now? I will continue to be honest and upfront about my intentions and feelings. I will continue to lead a change in the way we've been governing here - creating more faith, respect and pride in Trinidad's government. I'm committed to bringing our Town together on difficult issues by remaining fair. Playing "devil's advocate" to give voice and promote thought about all facets of issues may be a fun and productive role for me. 

I know that together we will be a terrific Trinidad Council. I am honored to be in such good company up there. Even tho I don't and won't always agree with some of my fellow Councilmember's chosen behavior, I will still respect the position and both their commitment and service to Trinidad.

Related Posts:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ocean Energy - Powering Trinidad's Grid and Economy With the Motion of the Ocean

here's lots of great discussion going on locally about ocean energy, and particularly wave energy. I had the pleasure of meeting some locals who are excitedly beginning to research current technology and look at developing systems right here in Trinidad. We would demonstrate both our commitment and our responsibility to sustainability by using local talent to explore this exciting potential from fishing and economic impacts, to environmental impacts, all the way to welding prototypes with local artisans.


While everyone's wrangling around figuring out how to make this economically feasible and all, what if we look at our tiny City, and how much energy it takes to run all our homes. So what really is a megawatt (MW) and how many homes can one MW serve? Watts (W) measure power. Ok pay attention, a 100W lightbulb uses 100W when it is turned on, then you measure the number of hours it's on to get the watt-hour (Wh) of energy -- 5 hours = 500Wh. Watts measure instantaneous power, while watt-hours measure the total over time. Got that?

When looking at MW ratings, it's important to remember the average power production over time due to maintenance and downtime, and you need a backup generation source that can "follow" changes in load. I'm not going into capacity factors or average and peak load factors (google it if you're curious) - let's just characterize this as demand. For West Coast consumers I've seen consumption numbers around 650 kWh/month. Up here we have natural, healthy, environmentally friendly air-conditioning in our fog. Bet we are lots less than that.
Who knows our monthly household average kWh consumption in Trinidad, or how to find it?
A common "myth" is 1 MW of generation equates to 1,000 homes. It depends on where those homes are. In southern areas, energy consumption can be twice as high. Here it may be even lower. So how much will we need to harvest from the ocean each month? 

While I search for those answers, here's more wave energy info. 

There's an interesting state-commissioned white paper that was co-authored by Humboldt State experts exploring our current knowledge. Perhaps it will provide such R&D groups like the one forming in Trinidad with goals toward producing and situating mechanisms in the most environmentally positive situations, while also protecting or possibly enhancing our fishing industries.

As I receive information on using the motion of our Ocean, I'll post it here.
CleanTechnica Blog Article By Gavin Newsom 2/09 - Wave Energy to Bring Power and Jobs to San Francisco

Trinidad General Plan Update: Draft Vision Statement

Resource and Information Links:
e! Science News - Your Daily Dose of Eureka! - Catch the Wave
BBC News: '05 Wave Power Plan for Welsh Coast -The Wave Dragon

Health Care Community Discussion - Transparency and Involvement

In case you missed the discussion, and would still like to participate, you'll have the chance. I will be emailing the list of questions and quick survey to complete the online portion of our meeting. If enough people want another face-to-face meeting, I'd be happy to do another one Monday the 29th - just call or email me and I'll set it up.

" Over the coming weeks, thousands of Americans will be leading Health Care Community Discussions -- small local gatherings in which Americans are sharing thoughts and ideas about reforming health care. President-elect Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle are counting on Americans from every walk of life to help identify what's broken and provide ideas for how to fix it. "

"No transition has tried something like this before, and your participation is essential to our success."

From John D. Podesta Co-Chair The Obama-Biden Transition Project
Regarding President-elect Obama and Secretary-designate for Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Care Community Discussion Project via email.

I'm excited by what I'm hearing here ... that transparency is the "essence of good legislating" - including and involving the people, through as many different ways of communicating as can be thought of.

Secretary-designate Daschle recorded a short message about these important discussions.
Watch the video.

They are seeking your ideas for how we ought to improve our system, from your own experiences and from stories and ideas that others have shared with you. They're putting together a list of ideas and proposals to work on from prevention, to hospital care and chronic care management. I will post links to guides and other materials here, and will poll some of our community leaders as to when and where we can set up a meeting or two. I will share any comments or suggestions you leave here on my Blog at the meeting(s) and include them in our final report.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Impartiality While Blogging Or ...

Avoiding a Reasonable Appearance of an Unacceptable Probability of Actual Bias 

Huh? How's that for a confusing directive? Well this one is taking some serious brain-power to wrap my head around. These days I don't seem to have as much of that as I used to, but I'm going to try and understand this to keep myself, and our Council and Commission, out of trouble while I'm blogging.

Does this concept imply that there is a reasonable appearance of an acceptable probability of actual bias that may not need to be avoided? I don't think so. The statement seeks to maintain impartiality of an administrative agency when dealing with 'quasi-legislative' and 'quasi-judicial' actions related to due process principals. If that sounds like I've got a grasp on it, it's tenuous at best.

We deal with both types on our Council and Planning Commission - legislative for the many, judicial for the individual. Quasi-judicial frequently involves permit reviews and appeals relating to an individual case.

Ok, get some coffee and bear with me now. 

a) "Procedural due process principals apply to quasi-judicial decision-making." "Quasi-legislative acts are not subject to procedural due process requirements..." 
b) "Procedural due process requires a reasonably impartial, noninvolved decision maker."

The "standard of impartiality required at an administrative hearing is less exacting than that required in a judicial proceeding." "[b]ias and prejudice are never implied and must be established by clear avertments (concrete facts)."

So the two, quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial, actions have different standards. I'll avoid or be above even the appearance of impartiality when blogging on quasi-judicial matters. That's an admirable goal for quasi-legislative blogging too, but I bet our lawyer would prefer I just blog about the weather (lol)
I think the goal and spirit of this is that a legislative body member will not advocate for or against a matter pending before the body.
That's a bit easier for me to understand. The Brown Act adds that members not privately discuss matters with each other that are pending, or likely to come before the body. This makes communications more complicated, and hopefully less biased. That's why you won't see Councilmembers blogging with each other - though I'd rather see that public discussion, than be party to private email groups of Councilmembers.

This is why I will use my blog to gather and encourage discussion on all sides of an issue sans Councilmembers and Commissioners - especially on pending quasi-judicial actions. I will come to our public meetings making my decisions there, remaining as impartial and unbiased as I possibly can be, and avoiding the creation of an "unacceptable probability of actual bias" before.

Paper on Avoiding "An Unacceptable Probability of Actual Bias" Nasha v. City of Los Angeles

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thank You and Good Luck to Trinidad and Our New Council

Thanks to everyone attending our Council meeting Wednesday. It was nice to see the place so full. It was a moving night for me taking the Oath of Office, and for wishing Chi-Wei well as he stepped down from an impressive position full of achievements.

To Our Council,

Thank you for putting up with and assisting me in what might be my steep learning curve ahead. I will work hard to deliver an appropriate return on your investment.

Stan, congratulations on your election as Mayor. I know you will do your best. If there are any meeting-running suggestions I might help with, please don't hesitate to ask.

Kathy, congratulations on your election. Your devotion to public input, not moving forward on a vote until you understand what you are voting for, and detail scrutiny of every word is both inspirational and laudable.

Julie, congratulations on your election. Your experience tempered with your openness to trying new things and righting wrongs will be invaluable.

With all our City Staff's experience, help, and sometimes unbelievable patience and therapeutic support, together we will make a great City of Trinidad Council.

Monday, December 8, 2008

T-S Roast: Confidence to Lead is Bad News?

Sorry, apparently not everyone reads the Times-Standard Opinion page or knows what this Bad News/Good News - Roast/Toast stuff is. Heck, I never noticed it either, until a friend pointed out that I got "burnt" (lol). So, in the Bad News category that day, I was Roasted by someone. The T-S Editor both nobly and graciously took ultimate ownership, but wouldn't tell me who's idea it was - hmmmm. 

Here's what my Roast said: "Just a mild one to Trinidad City Councilman-elect Mike Morgan. While his enthusiasm for his new job is admirable, it might be preferable to spend a little time on the City Council before campaigning to become Trinidad's next mayor." Fair enough, if you don't know me and my relationship to our Town. So I playfully roast the Roaster here, and hopefully shed some knowledge on my qualifications to back up my confidence and healthy, buff ego.

Bad News, Good News

Time-Standard Roaster for not signing and owning their Roast of me in today's paper, and for placing my responsible efforts to lead in the "bad news" - booo.

Thanks for the coverage, and your point is misleading - "... spend a little time on the City Council before campaigning ..." 

My Time-Standard Roaster thinks I need more time on the Council before I go for Mayor, but likes my enthusiasm. The 4 other Councilmembers who will vote for Trinidad's new Mayor, know my meeting style as Planning Commission Chair, and will remember my experience working with them on our budgets, initiating our narrowly passed new sales tax, safety, and resident committees like the one to reform our Council Meeting procedures.

They also know it is a ceremonial title with no additional powers over fellow Councilmembers. Heck, several of them have personal Council experience removing capable Mayors from power, so I doubt if they are threatened by my "campaigning", if they've even heard about it, and they won't be surprised by my request. 

What'll be interesting is will they give me a shot, or take me out back and shoot me?[1]

Related Posts:

^ 1 Reference:

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bull in a China Shop - Why? Why? Why?

I'm not intending to break people here, just what I see as some upsetting habitual political behavior.

I'm being characterized as a bit of a "bull in a china shop" around our Town these days. Ok, I'll own that. I'd prefer sharp elbows and big feet, making room at the table for myself (lol). Advice like "You'll catch more flies with honey" and "Don't you know you're embarrassing people whose votes you need?" are flowing too. I'm not interested in "catching" anyone's vote, nor am I afraid that the best idea won't win out because I embarrassed or pissed someone off. Fear, it's not a great motivator for me.

While I don't for a second think my future fellow Councilmembers are fragile china that I'm breaking with my unsophisticated, stubborn or reckless aggressiveness, I'll admit that I've stepped on some toes I care about with my blogging. That's very easy for me to do, because I care about lots of toes here in Trinidad.

"Why are you blogging?" "Why would you want to be on the Council?" "Why do you live up there?"

I'll start with the easiest one first.
"Why do you live up there?" I live up here because I'm lucky. Lucky to have discovered Trinidad. Lucky to have the resources to move here. Lucky that I like everyone I know here - even the people that annoy me sometimes. In Trinidad, we are a lucky bunch.

Why do I want to be on the Council? That's a bit more complicated, but not too. Seems they've already printed my new sign, "Kick Me - I'm a Politician" haha. I'm starting to get a taste of what I've been dishing out. Sometimes, however, kicking some butt can be a good motivator. Back when we (note the sarcasm from disappointed feelings) were deciding whom to promote or hire for City Manager, some residents expressed their frustration over the appearance that the Council had made up its mind before the Public spoke. Never-mind that we got lucky with Steve - ends justifying the means is not acceptable procedure. It seemed like our Council was becoming less representative of our whole Town. Discussions were sounding too one-sided. My voice and some fellow townspeople's voices appeared under-represented.

That's when I decided I had to do something other than complain about it. That's when I decided to seek this position. While I'm pretty good about voicing my own opinions (lol), I chose to be a voice for those who feel under-represented and were loosing faith and trust in the current Council. This is also where my statement last Sunday comes from, "It's my intention to lead a change in the way we've been governing here - creating more faith, respect and pride in Trinidad's government." 

Now, how to do that brings me to "Why are you Blogging?" Discussion and statements are attempts to create reality, or at least, to shape it. By blogging, I'm seeking new perspectives, more participation, and more access for people I don't know yet. I'm organizing my information and people's input so I'll be better prepared to make decisions at meetings, without even the appearance of making my mind up before. I'm venting my frustrations and joy on my Blog, so I'll be less emotional and more practical in the meetings. I may be leaning towards support for some issue, but I will always strive to look at the other side, maintain an open mind, probably support the underdog, and do my public work publicly to the highest standards I know.

I've heard some positive and some resistive feedback to my blog. I receive glimmers of encouragement right when I start questioning myself and what I am doing here - online I mean, not here in Humboldt. If we truly are fragile china, I am sorry for the breakage. I'll get some glue and responsibly repair my mistakes. I'm not intending to break people here, just what I see as some upsetting habitual political behavior.

In the Fire Service there's a saying I hear - "Help us help you ..."

Like, in case of an emergency, "help us help you - make sure we can see your (hopefully lit) house number". I don't know if this blogging experiment will help, or if it's entertaining, or inspiring, or boring, or just hurtful - I've never blogged before. Please keep reading and bear with me, comment and help me help you, or just don't participate. Gossip and complaining is a form of participation too. I can only change, if I hear it though. This is a good forum for me to hear it in.

Related Posts:
Transparency and Efficiency in our City Government - Mike for Mayor