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TWO RECAPS AND A PREVIEW: A WHOLE LOTTA OF CITY COUNCIL
The 10/10 blank agenda is filled by public comments, the 10/11 meeting is closed and we preview a potential Interim City Manager appointment on 10/16: Larry Bowden
CITY COUNCIL RECAP, OCTOBER 10, 2023
The Venting Podium
The throughline of this brief meeting, which conducted little public City business despite the resignation of the City Manager on October 4, were pleas from residents to be heard by the City and by other officials.
Pamela Foss1, commenting about feral peacocks removed from Adobe Circle without notice by Animal Control said, “no one is listening to me….To say that [my neighbors and I] feel disenfranchised is an understatement.”
Steve Spear addressed his frustration with Code Enforcement. He has filed 11 complaints in 28 months about an illegal fire pit. Interactions with the County’s fire department and City Code Enforcement have been frustrating. He never receives a response from enforcement.
Mr. Spear also asked, and this is a question the Desert Trumpet echoes: Is moving public comments to the end of the City Council’s agenda a deliberate move to stifle public input?
Alice Lawson again addressed the lack of crosswalks at Hillside and El Paseo by Oasis Elementary School, Veno Natharaj amplified her statement: “Alice Lawson has brought the attention to the need for a light or warning signal for several years and nothing has been done or even considered. And I don’t know if her voice is going on deaf ears or nobody’s listening or she comes to stand at this venting podium and vent, can somebody please help her? Can somebody please pay attention to what she’s saying?”
Susan Peplow read a brief appreciation of out-going City Manager Frank Luckino, then commented, “I plead with the City Council to not make hasty decisions and allow the seasoned staff to shine under your direction while you search for qualified replacement. I hope you'll follow the lead and patience of Desert Hot Springs, set expectations for the best and do not settle for less.”
Thomas Elkins asked that agenda items tabled for future consideration be addressed; he would like an active Youth Advisory Council and that the Boys and Girls Clubs and Scouts are eager to be of service.
Benjamin Alley gave an emotional and empathetic plea for more law enforcement presence at Bagley and Sunnyslope avenues. “We have called authorities a dozen times with late night altercations, kids fighting at that intersection every night.” It escalated when his wife asked youths to quiet down around 4 am one night last week, and they assaulted her, sending her to the hospital. The sheriff’s report is here.
Frank Luckino, the out-going City Manager, adjourned the meeting without giving a report, except to announce a special closed Council Meeting scheduled for Wednesday, October 11, at 11:15 am.
CITY COUNCIL RECAP, OCTOBER 11
The Desert Trumpet sent an inquiry to the City Manager and City Clerk requesting the public reporting from the October 11 closed meeting but as of this writing, no response has been received. We then contacted Mayor Pro Tem Steve Bilderain, who replied:
Yes, there was reportable action on Wednesday that Council selected an interim Larry Bowden subject to a contract. On Monday, the public can make their comments and council would formally make their appointment. It’s on a recommendation at this point, nobody has been officially appointed.
Above, Bowden, whose wife Dana, is President of the Historical Society, introduces an exhibition of the Weed Show in a recent video from the Public Art Advisory Committee’s (PAAC) Instagram account.
Bowden is a City stalwart. A Twentynine Palms resident since 1966, he’s served as a Councilmember and Mayor, as well as a City employee in numerous positions. He last served the City in 2014-2015 when he stepped in as City Manager after the firing of City Manager Joe Guzzetta.
CITY COUNCIL PREVIEW, OCTOBER 16
This is a special meeting called to appoint an Interim City Manager. No reporting from the October 11 closed session is included in the agenda, a surprising lack of transparency. The agenda was released one day after the October 11 closed meeting, when Larry Bowden, the Council’s recommendation for the interim position, was selected. We address the lack of transparency in our editorial, Who Should We Hire?, published yesterday.
The meeting consists of a closed session with two items and an open session with one item. It is state law that the discussion of compensation and the appointment be conducted in open session.
Closed Session, 5pm
1. Public Employment, Interim City Manager (the candidate is Larry Bowden)
2. Public Employees Performance Evaluation, City Clerk (this position is held by Cindy Villescas)
Open Session, 6pm
The open session kicks off with an invocation from Pastor LeeAnn Clarke, the Secretary of the Ministerial Association. We understand the Mayor McArthur Wright is the President of the Association. The Council will report on the Closed Session prior to continuing to with one item under Discussion and Potential Action Items:
Although the staff report in the item mentions “The City Council considered several internal and external candidates and are ready to make that recommendation,” no candidate names are included and the name of the recommended candidate isn’t provided despite Larry Bowden having been chosen the prior day. The staff recommendation is “appoint an Interim City Manager” and approve the contract (which was also not included for public review prior to the meeting).
You have an opportunity to comment on agenda items and issues important to you at every City Council meeting, including this one. Please use the opportunity to question your City Council members on the issues affecting our City.
To comment, pick up a green form at the desk, fill it out, and hand it to the Clerk who is usually sitting on at the desk at the front of room on the right side. The public can also send comments via email to City Council Members and the cc Cindy Villescas, the Council secretary. We suggest requesting that comments be read at the meeting.
Desert Trumpet writer Kat Talley-Jones is a member of the Public Arts Advisory Committee, which is a part of the City of Twentynine Palms.
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Spelling corrected to Pamela La Fosse after publication.