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Patch Blog: Just What We Expect From City Hall

Do concerned citizens have to comb the city calendar 24/7 for meetings that suddenly pop up? Apparently so.

Although notices of meetings are usually posted well in advance and agendas are supposed to be posted 72 hours in advance, a Closed Session of the City Council suddenly appeared Tuesday on the city calendar for Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m.

Mind you, when we got our regular email notices of the West Hollywood weekly calendar, it had not yet appeared. And when we got our regular West Hollywood Public Notices update, it wasn’t there either.

So, what is this meeting that suddenly and quietly appeared on the calendar? Some urgent matter that just transpired requiring immediate attention?

No. It’s a Public Employee Performance Evaluation of City Manager Paul Arevalo by the City Council.

Even though it’s a closed session, it requires public notice and allows for public comment at the beginning before the meeting is closed. It’s taking place at City Hall in the 1st Floor Community Conference Room.

Shouldn’t we have a say about his performance?

Since most complaints about our governance boil down to complaints about the “process” leaving citizens out of the loop, and since the City Manager is in charge of that “process,” am I the only one who thinks maybe the citizens might have something to say about Mr. Arevalo’s performance? And shouldn’t we have been given the normal timely notice of our opportunity to do so?

So let’s not allow another under-the-radar opportunity to slip by us. Let City Council members know exactly what you think of the way the City is being run. Council members can’t have it both ways. Either Paul Arevalo is directing the unaccountable process on his own or he’s doing it at the direction of some or all Council members.

It’s time to find out which is the case. If City Council believes he’s to blame for a broken process, now is their opportunity to do something about it. They can send him packing to his home in Pasadena. Or they can choose to approve of his practices and the status quo.

Either show up Thursday evening to comment or send emails to all the Council members ASAP. You won’t get this chance again any time soon!

And please share your comments to City Council members with us. Perhaps we can inspire one another.

You can find Paul Arevalo’s city bio here: http://www.weho.org/index.aspx?page=415

Here’s the link to the notice: http://www.weho.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=9944

Here are Council members’ emails:

jduran@weho.org

jprang@weho.org

jdamico@weho.org

aland@weho.org

jheilman@weho.org

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

joninla February 16, 2012 at 05:23 AM
TO CHLOE RE: BROWN ACT Having yet to read it for myself, I thought the actual law did not prohibit any response from City Council Members as is the widely held belief based on the information we have been told by the City Council. I don't know how you may classify such a misreprentation of an actual law by an elected city council member .... I call it as I see it. A BIG FAT LIE TOLD WITH THE PLANNED INTENT TO INTENTIONALLY MISLEAD THE RESIDENTS OF THE CITY OF WEST HOLLYWOOD AS TO THEIR RIGHTS UNDER THE LAW TO PARTICIPATE IN THEIR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND COLLECTIVELY AFFECT THE DECISIONS MADE BY THE CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS EXCLUSIVE PRIVATE DECISION MAKING PROCESS. I know no indidual can prevent another persons right to participate in our electoral process. When it is our own local goernment denying those rights, I think it is unto itself, a pattern of actions that have significant consequences to be removed from office.
Lynn Russell February 16, 2012 at 06:01 AM
To Joninla, you are so full if it you almost single handedly discourage any factual dialogue on this site which in and of itself is losing credibility. Kindly get your facts straight before you comment on anything and everything that appears in print. Stroke or no stroke....most folks have never seen any visible, credible effort from you other than never-ending complaints, I told you so's and hollow threats. Please get a life somewhere other than Patch.
joninla February 16, 2012 at 06:44 AM
Really - that much influence. I will double my efforts then. Enjoy your life here on patch with me ..... Because I am not going anywhere. LOL
joninla February 16, 2012 at 06:54 AM
I do agree, we need to focus on a narrow issue. It just appears that each discussion goes off in every direction with debates over issues not particularly relevant to effecting change. I am sure I have mentioned this before, but I think your guidance and direction would be the most helpful for everyone. Today, at least, there was a lot of confusion on my part about where comments were coming from and going to that may have added to the cohesion problems.
Chloe Ross February 16, 2012 at 07:19 AM
Yes - a big fat lie works for me. @Lynn -so vitrolic - first amendment doncha know. open forum. I am glad we have the freedom aren't you?
joninla February 16, 2012 at 07:24 AM
Chloe - If you are still looking into the Brown Act, here is a link to a user oriented brief guide: http://www.thefirstamendment.org/Brown-Act-Brochure-DEC-03.pdf And here's a one about open meeting laws in California (for reference if you want) http://www.citmedialaw.org/legal-guide/california/open-meetings-laws-california
joninla February 16, 2012 at 07:28 AM
This link looks like a good one for Land Planning http://ceres.ca.gov/planning/planning_guide/plan_index.html
Chloe Ross February 16, 2012 at 07:29 AM
I have read it and I may quote it in person or in my blog. Either way the truth is not being revealed in its truthiness.
Rudolf Martin February 16, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Mayor Pro Temp Prang has just chimed in on the nature of a closed session in the "local voices" section: http://westhollywood.patch.com/blog_posts/city-council-closed-session-clarification I welcome his efforts to communicate. obviously he noticed that people have "questions & concerns" about this issue. Sadly the comment feature is disabled on his post. Remember that those in the City Council that might want to question the annual party line that the city manager's performance has been stellar (as every year) NEED backup from the public. It seems obvious that the public wants him replaced. We need a city manager who can deliver a simple report when asked to do so. If you can't comment in person then please email your comments. I sure will.
Steve Ward February 16, 2012 at 05:27 PM
The smell of Bell is starting to hit the community of West Hollywood as City Manager's salary is one of the highest in the nation per capita. See the full blog: http://westhollywood.patch.com/blog_posts/patch-blog-a-city-managers-performance-anxiety
Riley February 16, 2012 at 07:06 PM
I don't know that I necessarily want the CM replaced, but at that pricey salary, we should expect him to stay awake during council meetings. Do he and the City Attorney think we do not notice them nodding off?
LauraB February 16, 2012 at 10:32 PM
I've been reading these blogs and comments and while I commend everyone for their passion and input, I've been reluctant to join in because of the tone they sometimes take. We're all fellow citizens who like living in our city and have strong opinions about the misguided road along which we are being led by the powers that be. Some express those thoughts with a lot of words, few words, simple words, fancy words, misspelled words, but we're all on the same page, literally and figuratively. Please, let's not fight amongst ourselves! We're not the only ones reading these posts. Imagine the thoughts of some others as we squabble and get off message. Does divide and conquer sound familiar? And thank you WeHo Patch for this forum, our ONLY public forum.
LauraB February 16, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Copy of letter sent this morning: Dear Mayor ProTem Prang, Thank you for publishing your clarification on this evening's closed session meeting regarding the City Manager's performance evaluation. However, I was with you all the way until the next to the last sentence, "The Closed Session meeting on Thursday night is one of the many ways in which the City Council ensures that the City government works to continue to meet the needs of the community." This is precisely what an ever growing number of citizens are far from ensured about. The Plummer Park situation has brought this to a head, but it is by no means the only thing we are concerned about. The wanton spending and debt incursion on overblown projects such as the library, council chambers, robo-garage, and potentially Plummer Park, not to mention 11-story height allowances on Santa Monica Blvd. in the Master Plan actually demonstrate a total disregard for the communities' needs and wishes. This is all within the City Manager's domain, is it not? I've attended many commission meetings at which his staff make presentations and commissioners are expected to blindly receive and file; their input or disagreements are largely ignored. I've been attending City Council meetings since October where I've watched Mr. Arevalo's behavior and listened to his occasional comments. I'm continually stupefied by the way he seems to mock the City Council members and the community at large.
LauraB February 16, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Cont'd: The crowning blow was when, after a six month old request by the Council for event information produced a long-winded, financial fact-short presentation by a member of his staff. When the Council turned to him for clarification, he essentially blew you off by saying those numbers would be in the two year budget. I couldn't believe my ears! Are you kidding me? I've managed events before and if I gave an answer like that I would have found myself without a job in short order! The fact that the community has its figurative hands tied behind its back, being allowed only 20 minutes twice a month to voice concerns on important matters that are conveniently not on the agenda is not reassuring to any of us. And, as I commented at the Public Facilities Commission meeting last week, for every one of us attending who gets a chance to voice our concerns, there are hundreds, if not thousands more of our fellow citizens with exactly the same concerns, but who either feel powerless or don't have the time or the stomach to go to these meetings. I ask: how can a City Manager who has performed in the above manner and does not even live
in the city he is paid handsomely to manage be allowed to continue?
Chloe Ross February 16, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Mr. Arevalo makes a huge salary. At his admitted salary of about $285K for a 252 day work year he makes $1130 a day. How does this reconcile with the fact that other larger cities who elect to have city managers contractors part time only pay them $150 and less for doing the same job. The salary I quote does not include perks of any kind - of which there are many. The overall lack of humility in our city government is troubling. And out of curiosity - why is he being eval-ed by the council and not human resources - the department that generally is in charge of this sort of thing. Imagining our CC huddled together with Mr. Arevalo - slapping each other on the back for flaunting the requests and needs of our tiny little city makes my heart fibrillate.
joninla February 16, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Thank you LauraB for your words. I am one of the offenders of too many words and terrible spelling mistakes. But I have tried to point out when one-on-one fights break out here on Patch, that it is so easy to misinterpret a persons tone or intent. I am glad you decided to join in and I hope everyone will try to respect the fact that not just today, as LauraB decided to join in, but every day there are people with are either new, or else on a different level of time actively following and commenting on issues. What is brand new information to one person, sometimes get an offensive reference about a persons intelligence, rather than the simple fact they had just learned of the information (usually information only recently learned by the blowhard spewing out offensive accusations). I think disagreement does not mean there is reason for hostility and I often see and once found myself bickering over an issue in which the other person and I both agree on, but we got confused by all the other unrelated posts. I suggest (thought not a guarantee that an offender will not act inappropriately) to ignore a directed statement that is outside the context of the discussion. Until recently, there was an abatement from an incessant 'know it all' who has issues. I agree with you and I think the things we agree upon should be the focus.
joninla February 16, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Chloe - I have often found breaking down what a grossly overpaid person makes per hour/minute seems at first to motivate my own initial belief in a Person being over compensated. However, for me, it ends ups trivializing the issue as I dwell on the compensation per hour. Meg Whitman - when running for governor was so wealthy, instead of breaking down her daily pay, I looked at it in reverse - "How much work could any one person possible accomplish in an average 8-10 hour workday, to have eared millions of dollars a year (or whatever amount) in compensation" But, I watch Suze Orman often, and although I can not relate, I recently just understood her long time statement that $250,000 a year is not a lot of money for a family living in Los Angeles or NY. I will always be disconnected to that statement, but when she points out the price of Real Estate and what has become the requisite of that class of society (private school, expensive cars, vacations), a $250k annual income is not a lot of money, Relatively Speaking for the profession et al. I think an extra $50 buck a month would make a huge difference in my own budget, but I am not part of the class of society that earns and spends in that range. My point: I don't know. none. I was trying NOT to think about how much money that really is. :)
Riley February 17, 2012 at 12:31 AM
joninla - Mr. Arevalo does not live in LA or NY or even West Hollywood...he lives in Pasadena and he IS part of the 1% not the 99%
Shawn Thompson February 17, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Here is a Copy of the email I sent to all of council. Part 1 To all current council members, On the eve of our city managers review I am writing you this email to express my disatisfaction with his leadership. After living in West Hollywood for 17 years now, I can honestly say I have reached a point of total frustration with where the city has been led. Mr Arevalo is paid a excessive salary at this point in comparison to other city managers in California. Especially in these economic times. Also the staff bellow him and the overall city's payroll have continued to increase. Is this good management of a city? On the city's increasing pay roll costs alone I think that the city manager has shown a complete ineffective management approach to keeping costs in line. The city payroll is the largest expenditure at this point of the residents money. How can these be ignored as ineffective management? Where is the accountability in this failure? There has become more and more community dissatisfaction with the seeming lack of true and sincere desire to listen to the residents concerns and follow that feedback into action. It can not continue this way. And the city manager needs to accept responsibility for his failure in effectively managing the residents concerns. I could list the many other area of management failure in my opinion, but I'm sure at this point you have received many emails out lining those areas.
Shawn Thompson February 17, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Part 2: In my opinion as one voice, and one resident: My Arvelo's salary should not be increased.It is already maxed out with the guidelines established in the states payroll structure. His job responsibility's need to be listed on the city s web site. Real residents concerns and agendas need to be embraced by his staff and managed by his leadership There needs to be a significant focus on increasing the good will with the residents He needs to start having some type of community meet and greets, too many see him as distant and not truly concerned with the city's residents. Sincerely, Shawn Thompson
joninla February 17, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Thanks Riley. I didn't know. Even if there weren't any problems with him, I don't like the whole idea of someone not living in West Hollywood holding his position or for that matter any appointed or elected position. What worries me most about your information is that the 1% are also virtually immune from any attempt to hold them accountable (both the money to hire the lawyers, as well as the extreme influence the 1% has over the Judges in our judicial system). So going with your information, he would then likely be doing more than just collecting a large salary from our city. I would think at that level, our City is a vehicle/arm/front/means of increasing their net wealth outside traditional investment options.
Lynn Russell February 17, 2012 at 01:21 AM
To Joninla: While not surprised by your retort I must say that it has been discouraging to witness the volume of information that you put forth that is either off subject or clearly not vetted. Approaching you with humor has not daunted your mission where you apparently find it convenient to hide and deliver your missives on every subject that comes along taking shots at a variety of folks. The information you put forth is often misleading and quite frankly at times dangerous. You appear happy to incite others but refrain from revealing yourself by name or in public. Many folks that comment here have committed considerable real time to the research and delivery of information to effect change on problematic issues facing their immediate neighborhoods and broad citywide issues. Unless I am wrong I believe logic and ethics are part of the curriculum for a JD. If you have something to say pro or con it would be beneficial to everyone to get your facts straight before speaking.
Lynn Russell February 17, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Chloe, I'm afraid the "big fat lie works for me" comment went right over my head. Perhaps you are not disturbed by folks posting misinformation, clearly the very issue you find so objectionable about the city, but I am especially concerned when it comes from someone that should know better. First amendment rights also come with an implied responsibility as I see it or one is bound to fail in their approach. I realize original research on issues is not popular methodology , some folks like to repeat the same hearsay and untruths repeatedly without a grain of conscience......but it serves no one and they can never make their case with credibility.
joninla February 17, 2012 at 02:11 AM
I think you are correct about the City Manager, but I think that has been the case since day one. I think Heilman who despite all the negative opinions, is nonetheless very intelligent and I think he does have a pretty full awareness of what the Manager is doing. We should accept 'intellectual' responsibility for failing to follow and keep up with our city before now. However, there is no obligation to follow government to have the right to a non- corrupt government acting within their strict duties and obligations as sworn under oath to uphold. I don't know you, but I recall watching a recent Council Meeting on a download, and your statements was formal notice to the Council that the primary and fist requirement of notice, Before any project planning begins, let alone goes all the way to the state Plummer Park currently stands. As we discuss issues that have already been done and those that are planned/upcoming, we still have the issue of Failure to Give Notice in the very first stage. That failure by the City can not be remedied and is (I believe) more than adequate grounds to have a court stop the entire Project and until First Notices is properly given, there can be no re-starting of the entire project from scratch. We just accept it as a mistake, but it is much more significant and the CA Supreme Court has made precedent regarding Local Government Notice Obligations a absolute prerequisite to any further actions.
joninla February 17, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Chloe - Upon reading (and even if one with the skill and ability to understand what is spurted out before each public input session) the Brown Act, is clearly stated by one of our elected City Council Members as the law which is the basis for their statement that any response to public input is prohibited by law (i.e. illegal, not legally allowed). Please correct me if you have read it differently and you think I am wrong, but there is no such absolute prohibition from City Council members speaking, responding, answering or interacting with a Public Speaker during a City Council Meeting. There are limits to the available options to act on any issue brought up at public speaking, since there is no 'notice' possible before addressing an issue. But it does not affect the ability for the Council to choose to place the issue on the agenda for the next meeting (or any future meeting) given it is placed on the planned agenda for the next meeting and get the same notice as all other issue/topics addressed. Were there confusion or differing opinion about the details of the content discussed, I would not assert there is active deception. To the assertion that there is an absolute prohibitions from any response during Public Speakers Time is not true. I call that a big fat lie. I think there is danger in being so uninformed and then demonize a person expressing their opinions. I don't do crazy, but I would consider your correcting my error of fact about the Law. :)
joninla February 17, 2012 at 11:58 AM
Shawn - I don't want to speak for everyone, but I doubt there is anyone who disagrees with you about the excessive pay. I believe that even if our City Council were inclined to be responsive and consider changing the City Manager (or any other City Employee) Salary, the have to overcome whatever is part of the Employment Contract already negotiated and agreed upon as to his salary, perks, bonuses (and I think the biggest expense for the City's future, a significant Retirement/Severance Package). An Employment Contract (especially a government employee) is very difficult to change. However overpaid he is, he is protected by his contract with the City. Unlike other matters where the City could change their minds and then vote to effect the change, they can't vote to cut his salary under his contract. Then there is the problem bigger problem, the City Council doesn't seem to have a problem with the excessive salary and does have a problem ever listening to and then acting on even the loudest of public voices. If, however, there is grounds for his improperly performing his duties (or perhaps a much more serious issue regarding misuse of City Funds (stealing, but how the rich do it, via secret bank accounts and protecting the privacy of their actions). Unlike the irrational outbursts that I am trying to stop an attempt to make change, I just don't think it is procedurally possible. The guy has a contract, I assume.
joninla February 17, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Laura - what I've noticed several times at the Public Meetings seems even worse, if possible. From the recorded session I downloaded (specifically referring to Planning Commission meetings) there is a clear 'tell' or sign that is obvious to me, that there was clearly a prehearing agreement that a group of at least 3 commission members would vote against a project, directly in the face of the City Attorney making it absolutely clear and certain that it was a legal project and the committed did not have the 'discretion' to vote against the project being heard. The youngest Committee member (I forget his name) is clearly holding back with a smirk, as he votes against the project knowing it is not proper to do so. The perspective from the video recordings I think will reveal even more than is apparent during the live sessions. Likewise, the same trio or foursome, will just say without hesitation a revision that is taller, larger and much uglier "looks better to them and seems to fit with the direction of that neighborhood". As far as I am aware, there is absolutely no time throughout any project for any City Council Member to have to answer to the Community. Literally - they are never asked a question at any point by a concerned resident. I think my only point is that you might see even more problems (and can show/prove) by re-viewing the downloaded recording of the meetings.
joninla February 17, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Riley, I not only agree to what is more fact than opinion. But I've been noticing an even larger on-going process of preventing first the Public being aware of what's really going on, then preempting know 'red flag' issues by bringing them up before most people knew about it, along with numerous explainations that are so obviously meant to prevent the questions that would naturally follow (the release of the $41 Million Dollar Bond issuance ... with a long explanation why no resident could invest in bonds giving such a high return) That makes me think, someone in power with a lot of money and wants more, took advantage of the extraordinarily high (8% or so) return buy buying up all the City Issued Bonds and reporting "large investment funds pre-purchased all the bonds before they ever hit the open bond market" As I was informed, or City Manger is the one person with the ability and desire to take advantage of a unheard up high return on $41 Million dollars in bonds issued. The whole process excludes the ability to participate, and the Supreme Court has ruled that simply meeting the 'legal notice requirements' may not be sufficient given a look at the broader picture of the process the City is using to meet the minimum statutory notice requirements. That, I think, is the one spot we could successfully use to affect the desired change in our hijacked city.
joninla February 17, 2012 at 12:38 PM
The difference is the City of Bell is a middle class city with residents who are predominantly home owners, rather than renters. The combined crash of the economy, the housing bubble burst and the Home Owners paying Property Tax, led to the revolt in Bell. Weho is predominantly renters, has a very high profile 'glamorous' image, and the motivation is driven only be the voices of the informed residents, who are not backed up by the financial need to pay their property taxes or lose their homes. That is such a strong and identifiable reason that brought enough angry people together and come down on the City of Bell (and still, I think it was very difficult to legally prosecute those City Leaders) The net dollar figure involved with WeHo's secret government dealings must be many times greater than The City of Bell Scandal ..... If we can get it started.
joninla February 17, 2012 at 04:05 PM
JOHN HEILMAN ACTUALLY MAKES A PUBLIC STATEMENT ABOUT THE PROBLEMS WITH THE SYSTEM WE HAVE IN PLACE AND I FINALLY HAVE A CLEAR PICTURE OF WHAT WE CAN EXPECT FROM THE PROPOSED PLUMMER PARK UNDER GROUND PARKING STRUCTURE. You may have already heard it, but I missed it. Probably due to the soothing sound of his voice and professional way of dealing with piss on his brand new parking garage. See the video clip I got from one of the most recent City Community Meetings.

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