Westminster’s recent adoption of procedure requiring majority’s support of any measure to be placed on the agenda is nothing new in city hall practices. In Orange County, such procedures are used in Anaheim, Fountain Valley, Cypress, Fullerton, Lake Forest, Los Alamitos, San Clemente, Mission Viejo or Garden Grove. This new measure in Westminster is needed to limit any member from hijacking city council’s agenda for his own grandstanding.
The measure is intended to prevent any member from abusing his or her privilege to manipulate city council’s meetings for grandstanding. In any governance body, disagreement among members is common. However, members should work with other members toward a consensus to introduce or discuss any measure. A democratic process does not allow minority members from imposing their own views against the will of the people as represented collectively by other members on the council.
As seen in the City of Westminster, a newly elected councilmember Tai Do has repeatedly presented a series of frivolous actions which almost paralyzed city businesses. Why would the city spend significant amount of time to discuss a proposed code of conduct which was already adopted by the City Council just months before but only because it’s not yet posted on the city’s web site? Why would the city consider an agenda item to allow a member to change his vote some six months ago only to find out at the hearing that it cannot be done legally?
Why would the city spend its limited time and resources to discuss the 16-page code of ethics but a one page and half document adopted by a neighboring city in Huntington Beach would do? Also, why would the presentation of commendation to a Vietnamese actress for her works on a new movie being shown in Westminster require considerable amount of city council meeting to hear comments from residents from all contradictory sides at multiple meetings with comments like whether she’s a communist or film-maker, whether wearing a Vietnamese communist flag would make her a communist or whether she’s a communist or overseas Vietnamese? After going through such hearings is not enough, Councilmember Tai Do even proposed a series of measures such as to recall said commendation or require physical return of the physical commendation and replace with a new one without his name on it, something that is impracticable and offers no benefit to the city business.
Opponents of the recently adopted measure call foul with terms such as absolute power, communist dictatorship or opposition suppression. Nothing is furthest from the truth. Dictatorship exists when individuals or minority few impose their views on the majority to demand their way or no way. No one has any absolute power because any member who objects to any sensible proposal would face the voters and is accountable for his or her actions. Minority members can still present their views without any limitation, but to commit the city resources into research, preparation or hearing on an agenda item requires a responsible and sensible vetting process of the entire body.
The City of Westminster has conducted its business for over 60 years without any this limitation. But a bad actor has come onto the council which requires a common sense measure.
Lan Quoc Nguyen is an attorney practicing law in Orange County. He’s also a Trustee on the Board of Education of the Garden Grove Unified School District.
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