Claremont Insider: Wilderness Park Closure Abuse of Process

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Wilderness Park Closure Abuse of Process

The notice above appeared on the City website Friday--no explanation--and we got to wondering: why is the Wilderness Park to be closed to the public on Sunday?

It turns out that the reason for this is that Supervisor Michael Antonovich is sponsoring a "Trail Ride" of some 140 horses that will be in the Wilderness Park sometime during the day on Sunday, October 14. For anyone who has been hiking in the Wilderness Park, it is easy to imagine that the mix of 140 horses and lots and lots of speeding mountain bikes is potentially a dangerous one.

The process, if you want to call it that, of how this came about is interesting.

Apparently the LA County Department of Parks and Recreation, which is arranging things, called the City on or about September 20 for the October 14 event. City staff told them that they would need a permit for this large a group to use the park...this rule is in the management guidelines for the park. And, staff further told them that it would take several months to issue the permit since it would have to go through a commission hearing.

Well, the LA County people said the magical incantation: "Supervisor.... Michael.... D.... Antonovich.... $500,000..... for..... Johnson's..... Pasture" and voila!--

The next day there was an agenda item for the September 25 city council meeting to exempt this event from the Wilderness Park permit rules. Even better, it was on the consent agenda--a non-controversial item; let's avoid discussion.

(Someday, just for fun, go down to City Hall and see how much luck you have getting an item agendized for a council meeting five days away.)

Fortunately Councilmember Calaycay pulled this item for separate discussion--after a member of the public raised a bunch of questions about it. Here it came out there our high-priced city staff simply wanted to exempt the Trail Ride from the permit, and hadn't looked into public safety, policy, or insurance issues involved. The only affirmative reason staff could give for granting the exemption was that there wasn't time to go through the process. The fact that it was the Supervisor's event was not included in the staff report, but did come out in the discussion.

The best moment came when Mayor Yao asked staff if at least they were going to close the park to separate the usual mountain bike sorties from the horses. "We hadn't planned to," was the City Manager's reply.

So it came to pass that all city council members agreed to close the park for the Supervisor, who wants to show Johnson's Pasture to his riders.

We wonder what happened to the process? Where was Defender of the Process Linda Elderkin? Or is this just another example of Claremont English?-- those words in the Management Guidelines may appear to mean something when you or I read them, but they actually mean something very different when used by City Staff and City Council.

The FC Blog already picked up on the Antonovich trail ride.

(We'd like to link to minutes of this discussion, but that is not possible right now. You can run down to city hall and get a tape of the council meeting (September 25, 2007) for a small fee. Also, there was a biting letter on this subject on page 17 of the Saturday, October 5 issue of the Claremont Courier. Unfortunately, the Courier did not put this letter online.)

(BTW, we noticed the typo in the City "Top Stories" release above, but we make too many bonehead errors to have the bad taste to point it out.)