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Private Advisory Group: Parks & Recreation Facilities Master Plan

From: domainremoved <Lynne>
Date: Mon, 11 Mar 2019 19:30:46 -0700

Hello Council,

I have concerns about the private Oversight and Outreach group for the
Parks & Recreation Facilities Master Plan update. While I realize the
process has been underway for a while, I raised my concerns in an email to
the Community Services Director but I never got a response. Perhaps my
email was missed. I have concerns about 1) private meetings and 2) the
makeup of the group.

This isn't the only MP Department that either currently has or has had such
a group. When Susan Holmer was the Library Director, I heard from a highly
reliable source that Holmer has a private advisory committee to give her
private strategic direction. I think private advisory groups should be
banned in MP for many reasons. 1) They bypass residents serving on our
advisory committees and weaken their roles. One has to ask about the
purpose of our commissions if the real advising comes from a private group
at a private meeting. 2) The private meetings also give the private
advisors undue influence while limiting the public's ability to provide
input into the project. 3) The public also does not see the deliberations
of the private group at its private meetings, which reasonably could raise
questions as to if the decisions serve the public good. 4) Private advisory
committees, with skewed representation, can also lead to overconfidence in
their recommendations and later lead to a public relations fiasco such as
what we have recently seen in the matter of the plan to build a new Main
Library. They are also contrary to the democratic process, which takes
more time but it leads to better outcomes and more public support for
decisions.

Today, I was unable to find the Facilities Master Plan web section with
all the materials related to the P&R Facilities Master Plan Update. I
don't know if that web page has been removed (with its link to documents)
or I just could not find it. However, I found online copies of some
relevant materials. I do not know if the private group has met recently. I
believe they have had at least two meetings already.

 According to the Feb 6, 2018 Staff Report
<https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/16611/K2---Community-Outreach-Plan?bidId=>,
the proposed Oversight and Outreach committee composition may include:
• Derek Schweigart, Interim Community Services Director
• Azalea Mitch, Public Works City Engineer
• Parks and Recreation Commission (2 representatives)
• City Council liaison to Parks and Recreation Commission
• Environmental Quality Control Commission (1 representative)
• Youth/Teens (2 representatives)
• School Districts (2 representatives)
• City Pool Operator – Team Sheeper
• Sports Field User Group (2 representatives)
• Business Community (1 representative)
• Arts and Culture (1 representative)
 • Environmental Group (1 representative)

According to the meeting summary prepared by BluePoint Planning (March 29,
2018)
<https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/17813/March-21-2018-Committee-Notes-?bidId=>the
private Oversight and Advisory Committee included:

   - Jennifer Johnson is a resident and on the Parks and Rec commission.
   - Sarah Staley Shenk is on the Parks and Rec commission.
   - Ahmad Basin works in the Menlo school district with the art/music
   programs.
   - Amirta Bhasin is a student resident and wants to help with change in
   Menlo
   - Stella Kaval is a student resident and wants her voice to be heard. -
   - Tim Goode is a recreation user and oversees a non-profit for a sports
   league.
   - Glen Rojas is part of the chamber of commerce, a rotary member, former
   city manager.
   - Steve Young is a pool operator and believes the community should be
   served by parks and rec.
   - Steve Foster is a resident and soccer league president.

Along with my concerns about the private Outreach and Oversight group, I
don't see representation from Belle Haven which seems a glaring ommission,
especially when one considers that need to update the Onetta Harris
facility and the current plans to build a new Belle Haven Branch Library.

Also missing are those representing aging adults in our community. While
Ahmad Basin has a link to the schools, is he the best person to represent
schools as his stated work for them pertains to art and music programs? A
better choice might be an Athletic Director. I have read that the P&R
Commission formally choose two people to serve. However, how were the
others selected? I also wonder about the presence of Tim Goode, Steve Young
and Steve Foster as residents have raised concerns about the private
companies (even if they are non-profits) using our sports fields and
faciliites. Their presence seems like a conflict of interest to me. Glen
Rojas is also on the board of our local Chamber of Commerce
<http://menloparkchamber.com/about/staff-board-members/> and our former
City Manager, so his presence on this important MP committee could be
construed as giving him too much influence in MP. A better choice might
have been a few members from actual businesses in town that sell equipment
or clothing related to recreaction. Who's on the private advisory
committee, along with who is not on the Committee (but should be) concerns
me.

I hope that at a suitable point, Council will consider discussing an actual
policy related to public participation. The Making Public Particpiation
Legal
<https://www.nationalcivicleague.org/making-public-participation-legal/>,
document includes a draft municipal public participation ordinance. More
background resources are available from Public Agenda
<https://www.publicagenda.org/pages/strengthening-and-sustaining-public-engagement-guide>.
I also really like the Resource Guide on Public Engagment.
<http://www.ncdd.org/files/NCDD2010_Resource_Guide.pdf> The Institute for
Local Government also has a robust set of materials for inclusive public
engagement. <https://www.ca-ilg.org/inclusive-public-engagement> Finally,
the paper Sustaining Public Engagement
<https://www.everyday-democracy.org/sites/default/files/attachments/Sustaining-Public-Engagement.pdf>
gives
even more context and suggestions. MP has an opportunity to modernize its
traditional methods of public engagement. What seems to be our default
method of mostly posting a meeting notice and then giving the public three
minutes at the microphone for public comment is out-of-date, compared with
what we could be doing.

Lynne Bramlett
Received on Mon Mar 11 2019 - 19:27:20 PDT

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