Feels the Recent CVWD Meeting was ‘Disastrous’
It has taken me a long time to calm down and compile my thoughts after the disastrous CVWD meeting on June 27. Although I took careful notes, the chaos of the meeting is hard to describe in a concise way.
I have lived in the same house in La Crescenta for almost 50 years. I have attended many CVWD meetings in the past. I have always felt unheard, unwelcome and disrespected. The arbitrary enforcement of Robert’s Rules of Order has been mind-boggling. The time limit for public comments has been very flexible depending on the attitude of the board towards the speaker. At least this has improved slightly with the use of a timer.
The CVWD board appears to have no actual interest in the community. This is evident in so many ways. The venue and meeting set up are one example of the CVWD board’s disrespect for the community.
In the past, the meetings were held in a tiny room and many people, myself included, have left [the meeting] as meaningful participation is difficult while standing in the doorway. I’m very happy that the facility situation was changed with chairs now in the atrium. But the lack of a microphone, which we know from previous meetings is available, made for an unacceptable situation. The reasoning for not using the microphone, as per Mr. James Lee, was patronizing and ridiculous.
“The meeting had problems and people were afraid to express their opinions when the microphone was used,” according to Mr. Lee. This is an absolute lie as I was there and saw the proceedings. It would have been more truthful to say that the board does not care if they can hear the public comments and, more appalling, don’t care if the audience can hear them. The board flat out refused to stand up so they could be heard. The chair said several times, “I don’t like to raise my voice,” although was able to speak very loudly when she repeatedly threatened to adjourn the meeting. That is very ironic.
As we all know, the CVWD location on Foothill Boulevard has heavy traffic, especially during the time of the meeting. There were planes, loud music from cars, our ever-present flock of noisy parrots, motorcycles and a continuous barking dog on Raymond Street. The worse issue was when the key motion of the evening was made a helicopter was flying over. The audience could not hear the language of the motion and requests to repeat the motion were ignored. In my experience, the chair has the responsibility to repeat the entire motion prior to the vote but this was not done. The very poor lighting, especially where the board was sitting, also contributed greatly to the problem. If the speaker stands, faces the audience and is well lit, the intelligibility of speech increases greatly. I know this from a very clinical perspective as a speech/language pathologist who worked with the deaf and hard of hearing. I know I missed much of the meeting content because of the acoustic problems. I repeatedly asked for information to be restated, for the speaker to stand, etc., to no avail. This meeting environment felt hostile.
Overall the meeting situation, as far as accessibility, was very non-compliant in many ways. These many problems could have been easily solved by utilizing a local public school auditorium or the local library or other better-equipped public venues. Or even use the microphone that CVWD already has!
All communications from CVWD with the customers are in English only despite our ever-changing and very diverse community in La Crescenta. I spoke to neighbors about the new proposal and attempted to urge neighbors to attend the meeting with me. I found that of my six closest neighbors, none of them knew of the new proposal for rate increases, partially because they cannot read the flyers that they (maybe) received. Many people have told me that they do not ever receive CVWD newsletters. More importantly, my closest neighbors do not speak English as their primary language and some have very limited English proficiency. They speak Arabic, Armenian, Korean and Mandarin. As a public school district employee of more than 40 years, I know the responsibilities of public agencies to communicate in a meaningful way with their demographic. Yes, La Crescenta has changed significantly. It’s time for CVWD to catch up!
I can summarize very clearly that the community wants transparency from the board of CVWD. This request has been made repeatedly over the years and again and again on June 27.
The puzzling disbandment of the Community Advisory Committee is very good illustration of the continuing lack of transparency. Budgets that contain itemized actuals, which are comprehensible to the public, would be extremely helpful. Positive attitudes of public service to the community rather than obstructionist hostility would assist greatly in better community relations.
I continue to be appalled at what has happened at CVWD and can only hope for positive changes in the future.