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Candidate Q&A: What Does Transparency Mean to You?

A conversation with the City Council candidates. This week: Transparency.

In weeks leading up to the , Patch will be asking our nine City Council candidates a series of questions significant to the community.

This week's question: What does transparency mean to you? 

David Margrave 

People should be able to understand what government officials are doing before they vote; they should fully understand how they're voting and why they're voting. Transparency is important. 

Art Salinas

Thank goodness for the dedicated residents of South Pasadena. Because of them, our City will never have issues like Bell or Vernon. Those poor people in those towns had no idea what was going on in their government. Our people do. I want to continue to promote this wonderful tradition. 

does a great job of explaining what is going on at City Council. I know our people are paying attention. Further, I intend to be accessible. I want to know what is on my neighbors' minds, and I want them to know what is on mine. This is what transparency is about, and this is why I would be so proud to serve on this City Council. 

Bob Joe

Having transparency in City government is based on City officials having integrity, being sincere and honest, and having an attitude of being open and objective. We cannot have City officials with their own personal or political agendas. We need to work together making South Pasadena the best place to live.  

Chris Glaeser

Transparency has not been a value of our City Council. It is a word that too often has no meaning behind it. Elected officials like to talk about transparency, but “Where’s the beef”?

I have developed several plans that I can implement to increase transparency in all levels of City government. Transparency means elected officials holding themselves accountable to the voters of South Pasadena and explaining their decisions through effective, timely communication. It does not mean making decisions in closed session or predetermining the outcome behind the scenes.

Mike Ten 

Going one or two steps beyond what it legally required by law, trying to involve the public as much as possible. I know we've done a good job at this since joining the council in 2003.

Alan Reynolds

Stated as simply as possible, transparency is having discussions and making decisions out in the open so that people will be able to perceive what is being done and feel confident that decisions are in concurrence with their needs. In addition, I believe to be truly transparent a government needs to be interactive, instead of reactive. It needs to lay out both the pros and the cons of any project or decision—not just the benefit because nothing is ever 100 percent positive.

Both the what and the why need to be available regarding any decision, because different people can see facts differently, and by presenting the reasoning it assists in a truly transparent government. By providing this information from the onset, it will allow people to speak up early on in the process and provide input that will be valuable in coming to the best decision.

Marina Khubesrian

Transparency by City Council of how decisions are made is one of my top priorities. Closed-door sessions prevent our residents from fully understanding the threats and challenges we face. Such sessions have even brought an regarding violations of the Brown Act (the Openness in Government Act).

We are a small town and should be openly talking about our problems and their solutions with our neighbors, having town hall meetings and open sessions.  The people of our community are the great untapped, underutilized resource for this City. They start or support small businesses, work hard on behalf of our schools, create local happenings such as our theatre, local music festivals, and holiday community events. Open sessions and town hall meetings are the most certain pathway to increasing community involvement. 

I want South Pasadena residents to understand the changes that are being planned, and have their voices heard, particularly with respect to where City funding is concerned ( , , repairs of local infrastructures). 

Experiences we residents have had, such as with the Fair Oaks construction and the mishandled treatment of , leave us jaded and wanting to see more accountability and oversight than the current council has provided. We need the wisdom and voice of all generations of South Pasadena residents to usher this City into an even brighter future. We must enlist and respect the residents in decisions that so closely affect their daily lives.  

Richard Schneider

Transparency means not having hidden agendas and being available, honest and forthcoming with the residents.

Ernest B. "Ernie" Arnold 

City policy positions must be made in open session with full debate. They cannot be agreed to in close session. Closed session is for dealing with labor negotiations and legal strategy—not policy. If the council wants to utilize a strategy that is in conflict with policy discussed and voted on in public, they have to come before the residents to explain the policy change.  

Stay tuned to hear whether or not candidates think there's a transparency problem currently in South Pas government. And if so, what would they do to fix it? 

Also on Monday: A recap of Thursday night's candidate forum.

PATCH ASKS: Do you think there's a transparency problem in South Pas government? If so, what would you like to see change?

Ron Rosen October 07, 2011 at 12:21 PM
Dear Mr. Salinas: If you truly believe in transparency, you need to disassociate yourself from Jeffrey Monical, David Sifuentes, and the Police Officers Association. Last night you said you won't put up with back-room deals. Do you realize that Sifuentes, Monical, Ten and the POA were at the heart of the back-room deal that removed Police Chief Watson? If not, I invite you to sit down and talk with me. If you continue to be tied to these people and you take their money and have them assist in your campaign, then you have no business talking about transparency. Dear Mr. Ten: The Council has not been transparent. Any closed-session meeting at which the Council discussed Dan Watson was illegal. You were right there with David Sifuentes when he proposed at a closed session meeting that because he had a list of complaints against Watson (complaints from the POA) Watson's contract should not be renewed. Last night you said that Watson retired. The truth is that Watson was told the Council did not want to renew his contract. The truth is that Watson could not get the clear support of the Council. The truth is that the City Manager was pleased with Watson's performance. The truth is that Sifuentes, with your support, told the City Manager not to renew Watson's contract and made it clear who his replacement was to be. Your words last night, trying to make it seem that Watson wanted to leave South Pasadena, were simply false. Ten, the poster boy for non-transparency.
Mark October 07, 2011 at 01:35 PM
Ron I fully agree with your comments in this post and other posts concerning the lack of transparency when the council removed Chief Watson and dictated his replacement. However I am confused that you gave Schneider a pass. He must have been present when these illegal discussions occurred and he did not stop them. He did not step up and support you when you attempted to have the District Attorney’s office investigate this Brown Act violation. Schneider definition of transparency as being honest and forthcoming with the residents seems disingenuous in light of his lack of action when complete transparency was called for.
Ron Rosen October 07, 2011 at 01:56 PM
Schneider was the only councilman who unequivocally supported Watson. He opposed what they were doing from the start, and made a motion to bring the discussion into open session. Putnam and Cacciotti refused to support the motion after the POA pressured them. Schneider was unable to stop the discussions or what was happening. He, like the other councilmen, were under the impression that the closed-session meetings were proper and that it would be illegal for them to disclose publicly what was going on. The city attorney was advising the council that these closed sessions were proper. It was only after I filed a complaint with the DA, that it was clear that the meetings were illegal, although other than Schneider, none of them will acknowledge what the DA's letter meant. Putnam and Ten continue to deny that the meetings were illegal. Schneider was in Watson's corner the whole time, but his hands were tied. This is why we need to elect three honest councilmembers, so that Schneider or whomever, can't be constantly outvoted.
Mark October 07, 2011 at 03:42 PM
Beside the need to have three honest council members we need a city attorney that understands the law. If Richard Adams the city attorney was advising the council that this violation of the Brown Act was legal perhaps some of the transparency problem in the council is partially caused by his flexible attitude.. Adams will apparently tell the council what ever they want to hear. Adams should have been replaced once his legal advice was proved to be faulty. The South Pasadena City Council has a history of hiring city attorneys who will support with bogus legal advice their questionable activities. Edward Lee was our city attorney about twenty years ago. After South Pasadena his next stop was Bell. We all know how that worked out.
TRC October 07, 2011 at 06:37 PM
I've asked Marina and Alan, will they speak up for improving working conditions and transparency at City Hall, NO ANSWERS??? Will we see more women department heads to address women's issues and concerns? WHEN will Transparency start in the work place?
Ron Rosen October 08, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Mr. Salinas says that South Pasadena will never have issues like Bell or Vernon. Well, it certainly doesn't now, but never say never. Councilman David Sifuentes first ousted the police chief and installed his own choice. Now it appears that Sifuentes may be angling to become fire chief himself, or even better, battalion chief of a multi-city fire coalition. This is how Bells and Vernons start. Sifuentes and his close associate and union consultant Jeffrey Monical are supporting Mr. Salinas for a reason. They will expect things in return. We need councilmembers who won't allow South Pasadena to be taken over by a handfull of cronies who have their own personal agendas - people who think like Police Chief Payne, who recently wrote on Patch, "As far as my appointment, sometimes the ends justify the means."
Ernest Arnold October 09, 2011 at 01:18 AM
Just an expansion of my thoughts. Laws do not prevent criminals from committing crimes and deceitful people will find away around the rules. Transparency is an issue of character. Transparency is an issue of honesty and integrity, and a believe in open government. If we as voters do not place importance on integrity and honesty in selecting our elected officials, we will have a hard time in having transparency in government.
Ron Rosen October 09, 2011 at 01:28 AM
Right on! The problem right now is how to get the word out on who is honest. In elections where "he who has the most signs wins," we've got to get the message out.
Mark October 09, 2011 at 01:37 AM
Do our council members develop these character flaws after they win their elections or do they have them prior to the election and hide them? How to we identify the individuals that will represent the interest of the community?
Ron Rosen October 09, 2011 at 01:50 AM
Mark: Look at who supports them. This election, I think most of the candidates are honest, not connected to special interest groups, and are running to try to clean things up. You can judge Mike Ten by his writings - how he twists things. Art Salinas, I'm judging by his backers. David Sifuentes was put in by union consultant Jeff Monical and the police and fire unions to do their bidding, and so far he has. He was new to town when he ran, and no one knew what he was about. These guys all support Salinas, which is a huge red flag.

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