WHO SHOULD WE HIRE?
Twentynine Palms must work to find a City Manager candidate who believes in transparency and who prioritizes community needs over tourism and growth
For the past eight years Twentynine Palms has had a City Manager who focused on tourism and growth above all else. There was some benefit to that focus, but perhaps it was an overcorrection. City Manager Frank Luckino wasn’t a resident of Twentynine Palms. And while he was personally responsive, Luckino tended to ignore the needs and wants of local City residents: building a stage in the middle of town but failing to fund programming on it being just one example, resisting regulations on STRs being another.
Investing in community also attracts tourism
Isn’t it time to prioritize local residents’ needs over tourism and growth? GRND SQRL owner and Downtown Business Association President Mike Usher put it best when addressing the Luckino-initiatedTourism Business Improvement District (TBID) during the September 19 City Council meeting:1
There has to be another option. And I believe that option has to be a system where the TOT tax remains intact. New stakeholders get together to establish a new, more transparent community-facing system, one that prioritizes community building and community events because building and investing in our community is how we increase tourism.
A transparent process
We also are concerned about the lack of public transparency in the hiring of an Interim City Manager. It appears that a name will be announced and a vote taken at Monday’s City Council meeting, denying residents time to voice meaningful feedback – agenda item 2 reads Consideration of Appointment of Interim City Manager and Approval of Contract Related to Same and the staff recommendation is The City Council appoint an Interim City Manager and approve the employment contract.
Despite two Council meetings since Luckino’s resignation, there has been no public discussion of the Interim City Manager position. The October 10 agenda was blank and the October 11 meeting was closed. The minutes from that closed session are missing from the Monday October 16 agenda, so no record of public reporting is provided. The names of candidates discussed and any proposed selection are also missing from the agenda as is the proposed contract.
However, when asked, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Bilderain did reveal that there was a reportable action from the closed session: Larry Bowden is the recommended candidate for Interim City Manager. Why wasn’t this information in the public agenda?
We fear that the City Manager search will suffer from a similar lack of public transparency. We insist that Council use a transparent process by keeping closed sessions to the legal minimum and posting a recording of the public reporting following closed sessions available on the City’s YouTube channel.
It’s crucial that Council avoids the mistakes of the past, when during the hiring process in 2013, a meeting was reenacted due to Brown Act violations. Sadly, it appears the City Attorney is a poor guide, as he reportedly chastised a Council member interested in open meetings and transparency for contacting the District Attorney about his concerns.2
Let’s work together to ensure a transparent process where Council searches for a City Manager who listens to residents, recognizes community needs and understands the needed balance between community needs, tourism and growth.
Do you agree with our position? Comment below and we’ll add your name to an email addressed to City Council on Monday.
29 Palms City Council Publicly Reenacts Closed Door Guzzetta Hiring, San Bernardino County Sentinel, May 26, 2013. Ex-Council member Steve Spear has verified the veracity of this article.
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