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Fortuna City Council

Political Science

Sara Callow

July 19, 2015 I chose to attend the Fortuna City Council meeting. The council establishes policies and provides guidance on everything that concerns the city and its operations. “As a legislative body, the City Council is responsible for the enactment of local laws (ordinances), the adoption of the annual City Budget and Capital Improvement Program, and the review and adoption of proposed policies, agreements, contracts, and other City business items.” The city council meetings take place every first and third Monday of each month at 6 pm. Within this council there are five members that are elected by the city who serve four-year terms. My city council members are: Mayor Sue Long, Mayor Pro Tem Tami Trent, Council Member Doug Strehl, Council Member Linda Gardner, and Council Member Tiara Brown. The matters of business handled during this session were: Declaring the existence of a Nuisance and to require the Abatement of Weeds on private property; Authorization to receive AVOID/Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) Grant; Approval of a Proposed Public Alley Right of Way Vacation; Authorization to Award Construction Contract for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Flood Protection Project; Approve the “Paid Sick Leave for Unrepresented, Non-Benefited Part Time Employees” Administrative Policy, thereby complying with California's AB 1522, called the "Healthy Workplace, Healthy Family Act of 2014"; Approval of July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Concerning Working Conditions, Wages and Benefits with the Fortuna Employee Association (FEA); Designation of the City’s Voting Delegates for the Annual League of California Cities Meeting. This city council meeting highlighted and integrated three concepts we have covered in this class: categorical grants, freedom of expression, and public opinion. Categorical grants as defined by our textbook are “federal funds provided for a specific purpose, restricted by detailed instructions, regulations, and compliance standards.” This is a great thing our government does for our country because it helps provide our communities with programs and solutions to problems that we may need. The grants that were authorized to be received at this meeting were the AVOID and Selective Traffic Enforcement Grant. The AVOID program began in 1973 to bring police force together county wide to put a stop to drunk driving and cut down the deaths and injuries occurring from alcohol associated crashes. The main objective is to make drivers aware of the increased enforcement times and “warn drivers that the only way to “Avoid” the county’s law enforcement officers is to drive sober.” Holidays and big events are when these increased enforcement officers will be out performing these safety measures for our communities. Within this program there will also be stakeout operations to focus on people who have gotten a DUI several times. In addition, media coverage will be implemented to strengthen the deterrence of such behavior. All of this aligns with the foundation upon which the grant is built. It has been many years since Humboldt County has incorporated such a program. When the Director of the California Office of Traffic Safety encouraged Humboldt to get this program running again the county thought it was a wonderful idea. “These grants allow counties to add overtime hours to deploy officers in areas with high occurrences of DUI related traffic collisions and conduct public awareness media campaigns during the increased enforcement periods.” The funding is received from the federal government and provided to The California Office of Traffic Safety who will then disperse the funds to the county quarterly. The grant amount requested will be $90,000, which includes personnel overtime, travel, equipment, and direct costs. The Fortuna Police Department was also chosen to receive a Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) grant that will be combined with the AVOID program. This grant will provide further funds for “Seat Belt/Click it or Ticket operations, Distracted Driving operations and Speed Enforcement operations.” This is a perfect example of how categorical grants can help solve problems as well as protect and guide our community in the right direction. Another concept that transpired from the city council meeting was freedom of expression. This is one of the most important values for all of us Americans. As our textbook states “The First Amendment reads that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedoms of speech, or of the press.” In addition our textbook goes on further to say “in a democracy, citizens are responsible for participating in the government’s decisions.” To be heard by our government about the way we feel on certain issues that affect our communities, state, or country is extremely important if we want change and movement in the right direction. So at this city council meeting there was time after a proclamation spoken for parks and recreation for anyone of the public to step up to the podium and speak their mind on any issues about the city. A very old man named Richard Leman, who said he was a human rights commissioner, wanted to express his feelings about how marijuana is affecting the children in our community. He said that “marijuana smoked by the flower children and Woodstock back in the 60s was very mild compared to what’s around now and 60 Minutes and Time Magazine say it’s ten times stronger; the DEA says its twenty to thirty times stronger.” His concern is about children and how they are being affected by it in ways that could cause them to not do well in school or things like not being able to get into the military. After he spoke there was nothing said back to him in regards to how he felt. I’m not sure if this was just procedure for the council on how they handle citizens voicing their issues; if they just are there to listen and not speak back to citizens, or if the council just didn’t want to say anything back to him but it seemed very rude as if he was just talking to a brick wall. I feel like if this is just procedure for the council that they should consider talking back to citizens when they step up to speak so that they at least feel they have been heard or that some kind of measure will be taken to discuss their concern further. I think this example did a great job capturing the concept of freedom of expression. It’s so important for us to be bold and speak out for what we believe in. That is exactly why we have come as far as we have in this country because people have spoken up about they way they feel. The last concept I would like to talk about that evolved from this city council meeting is public opinion. In our textbook it states, “Public opinion is important in a democracy for at least two reasons. The first reason is normative: we believe public opinion should influence what government does. The second is empirical: a lot of people behave as if public opinion does matter, and to the degree that they measure, record, and react to it, it does become a factor in American politics.” So at the city council meeting a man stepped up to speak his opinion on a matter that was happening near his home. In his backyard his wife and him noticed a pine marten in their tree, which is considered a federally endangered species. He went on to explain that the city has contracted out with a third party to wall up that part of the Eel river slough. His proposed solution was to instead dredge the creek to make it deeper rather than build a wall and cut down all the trees and destroy the habitat of this endangered species. In addition, he suggested that a professional should come to Rohnert Park to see if this creature maintains a habitat in our park. He urged the city to not impede with the destruction of this creatures habitat and wants the city to research this matter more. This citizen’s opinion hopefully brought some clarity to the situation and will influence the city’s actions to protect this endangered species. This example also brings to light how the government exists to serve the interests of its citizens. In conclusion, it is important to see how the government does help us with providing grants to create programs that can maintain the safety and integrity of our communities. Also by acknowledging our freedom of speech and utilizing our power of public opinion by choosing to speak up and voice our feelings, opinions, and thoughts about our communities we can help others understand things that may not have been thought about and change the way things are functioning for the greater good of all. It is important to remember Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address as he hails our nation as “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Works Cited “City Council.” City of Fortuna California. (n.d.). Retrieved July 6, 2015. Barbour, Christine, and Gerald Wright. Keeping the Republic Sixth Edition. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2014. Print.

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