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Discussion: How Important is the Town Council?

Today is a pre-election voting day for Town Council. Turn out is not always that high for Town Council elections....should it be?

Tuesday is the first chance for Altadenans to vote in the 2011 Town Council race: The full five location election day is Saturday, but today any residents who may be otherwise occupied on Saturday can vote today at the between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.

If past elections are any indicator, turnout for the election will lag behind the turnout for any area City Council race.  That may not be an issue: the Town Council is not the elected government of Altadena, but rather an elected body meant to convey the concerns of Altadena residents to the elected county government and make recommendations on local policy issues.  Campaigns are quieter, with few election signs, direct mailing, or general publicity for candidates.

The question then is how much Altadena residents should pay attention to the Town Council.  On the one hand, the Council is the main organization that the elected county government and individual county departments turn to for conducting community input and looking for recommendations on issues that affect Altadenans.  In addition, the group's Land Use Committee does a lot of work handling land use policy in the town, and is now working on .

On the other hand, other people and organizations have had success working outside the Town Council. For example, recently groundswell of community support helped the without assistance from the Council.  A local church while the that the county is working on has not happened yet.

So what do you think?  How much should Altadena residents follow the Town Council and participate in elections?  Should residents be paying more attention?  Or is it best to work together with other organizations or outside the Town Council?

Also, some candidates in this election have said the Council should do a better job communicating with the public?  Do you feel that is the case?

Please leave your comments below, and please be respectful.  Let's keep focused on the issues.

mister altadena June 07, 2011 at 02:10 PM
what should the ATC be better communicating to the public? That they have meetings once/mth? That they have different committees? What does the public need/want to hear? LA County gives them the "power" that they have. If the county wants to act on their suggestions, they do. If not, they don't. ATC doesn't have much $ to do "outreach". Even if they posted all happenings on the ATC website, who's going there on a regular basis to get updates? Do they have a social media page? Maybe putting postings on such can reach a wider audience (?). Certainly when they make a perceived misstep, local news groups are quick to point it out. Elected officials seem to be in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" cycle. With due respect, I believe the ATC thinks "old". Minutes haven't been posted online in a year, no facebook page, no newsletter. At the end of the day, how much is there really to communicate?
Monica Hubbard June 07, 2011 at 03:01 PM
There are two documents that I find helpful when evaluating the effectiveness of groups. 1. Core Values for the Practice of Public Participation http://www.iap2.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=4 2. The Seven Core Principles http://www.thataway.org/files/Core_Principles_of_Public_Engagement.pdf The Altadena Town Council has a "free" venue at the Community Center. It has access to some staff support at the Community Center. It has convening power. It has reporting capabilities. It has a website. It has the ability to communicate with community leaders housed at the Community Center and elsewhere in town, as well as with listservs in almost every census tract and online media such as Patch and Altadenablog. Free online tools could provide questionnaire and survey capabilities. While it is true that the Altadena Town Council is not a decision-making body, in its advisory capacity it does have power to offer some direction as well as affect decisions made by the Supervisors that impact us all. There are many possibilities the Town Council has to engage the entire community in ongoing dialogue and deliberation. What is required is not money, but the volunteer time and the political will to engage in open, transparent and inclusive discussions and decision-making processes about our much-loved town and what its future might look like.
Anne Chadburn June 07, 2011 at 05:02 PM
Very interesting points. As a newer resident to Altadena, I took from this article that residents here are ambivialent regarding their Town Council, you can go to them for help, but you don't really have to either. That makes it seem as important as ever for people to get involved in this election. I am right on board with Monica's comment reagarding political will, and would only add that if our Town Council has become too complacent than it might be time to change things up a bit.
mister altadena June 07, 2011 at 05:28 PM
To Anne's point, to "change things up a bit" we can always vote in new council members this Saturday. On top of that, residents who want change &/or more results &/or more accountability &/or more communication fr/ the ATC should reach out to their census tract rep. (info easily found on the ATC website) and ask/demand such. At the risk of opening a can of worms, volunteer time is hard to come by for many who might otherwise be able to bring some change. Those with more time on their hands (i.e. retired/semi-retired). You get what you pay for with volunteers. To Monica's pt, the Comm.Ctr is free for the ATC (& some other local groups) to conduct meetings. ATC should hold an "open house" type event. Ask the community to come out and learn about the ATC. Don't make it part of a mthly meeting. This would help foster more understanding of what the ATC can/cannot do. Also, I imagine there's a large contigent in town that really doesn't want too much change; they like it the way it is.
Anne Chadburn June 07, 2011 at 06:10 PM
Voting was exactly what I meant by "changing things up a bit." The other thing we can all do to see the change we want in our community is to get invoved personally as well. Our representatives are only as good as we hold them accountable to be.
rebecca haussling June 08, 2011 at 06:46 AM
ATC may not have the money but there are simple things the council can do to get the community more involved and engaged. I echo Monica's remarks that it doesn't take money necessarily, but rather simple adjustments to make quick and easy changes to be more engaging with the community. Communication is a simple and often times free method of creating change and developing a closer more personal relationship between the Altadena Town Council and its community members. I also agree with Mr. Altadena there are residents out there that don't wish to get involved, or wish for change. And that's okay too. But as a member of this community I expect my town council to at lesat give me the option to get involved. And right now, it seems as though the ATC isn't in tune with what the community wants, or needs. We can petition Antonovich's office to help invest in the community but above that, our town council should be the central hub for communication related to its residents and businesses
Gary Edwards June 08, 2011 at 04:40 PM
I believe that many on the ATC now and in the past are simply too full of themselves. They know they have the ear of Antonovich & his staff and have developed an increased sense of self importance as a result. The ATC needs to have an open forum meeting so they can be on the same page with the rest of Altadena. Too many times the ATC makes decisions/recommendations to Mayor Mike w/o discussing with the town. They just don't involve us until they're already far down a path.
Brent Musson June 12, 2011 at 07:21 PM
The ATC is made up of representatives who are willing to spend their own resources and work for no pay on the task bettering our town for the benefit of all its residents. It's a volunteer organization whose members are voted in by democratic process. If we, the citizens of Altadena, want change, including new representatives, all we have to do is participate in the process. There are 42,777 people in Altadena (Census 2010,) but only 351 votes were cast in this election. I would love to see change in our town and our council, which is why I volunteered to represent my census tract and spent personal money to inform my community about the election. Please work with me and the rest of the the Town Council, by participating in public council meetings and town hall meetings, contacting your representative to volunteer to help, and by encouraging those within your sphere of influence to do the same. Brent Musson Representative - Elect (4610)

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