All that business with the SKUNK! had me pretty distracted the last few days, but I still managed to get to that Chico Area Rec Dist Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee meeting Monday night. Like I told my husband, I been knocking down the door to get into those meetings, accusing CARD of stuff in letters to the newspaper – I couldn’t very well just blow it off, could I?
I’ll have to hand it to CARD staffer Rob Hinderer, he works hard, well after 5 pm, to facilitate these meetings. Hinderer is CARD’s Superintendent of Recreation and Community Services, but for some reason he is given a job that belongs to Director Steve Visconti’s “executive assistant” Jennifer Marciales. Marciales was my contact for a time, but when I started complaining to the newspapers about the runaround she was giving me regarding the notice list, I was handed to Hinderer. Hinderer assured me I was on “the list,” but when I complained to him about yet another meeting that I had not been noticed of, he excused himself, saying there was a mistake in the mailing list – I had been on the “old list.” I contacted Maureen Kirk, and after she also requested to be placed on the notice list, I was finally noticed of this most recent meeting. I got a note from Hinderer late Friday, for a Monday meeting. That is perfectly legal.
When I first asked to get into these meetings, over a year ago, I was held off by the forehead by Director Steve Visconti, who told me repeatedly he’d put me on the notice list. However, I kept seeing reports from the committee listed on Board agendas, without having been noticed of any meeting. Visconti repeatedly told me there’d been no meetings when there most certainly had been meetings. He kept telling me I’d be on the notice list and leaving me pointedly off the notice list. And, it was Visconti who spoke up at a board meeting, right in front of me, speaking of me in the third person, and telling the board they needed to get some sort of campaign going to refute letters I was sending to the newspaper about CARD finances. Although he’s been polite as hell in e-mails and face-to-face, he’s been completely uncooperative regarding my right as a member of the public to attend these meetings. It’s really creepy how these people act like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth.
So, I finally get a notice for a 6:30 pm meeting, three days in advance, when I have a previous commitment for 7:00. They had lobbed down their stinking gauntlet, I had to pick it up and run with it, quite literally. With all that SKUNK! business, bathing two stinking and not very willing dogs, running errands, which included a quick stop at the feed store for a bottle of skunk stink remover, spraying down our patio and entryway after scrubbing everything from head to feet high with Murphy’s oil soap, we had to bolt our dinner and jump in our car to make that meeting, and then be elsewhere at 7 pm. Yeeee-haw, ride ’em Cowboy!
We arrived at the CARD center at about 6:20, because these meetings are usually very punctual. I arrived 15 minutes late for one meeting to find them putting up their chairs and filing out of the room. So I have made it a point to be punctual for every meeting since. Hinderer greeted us in the lobby, announcing he’d had so many rsvp’s that he had moved the meeting to a bigger room. We went in and sat down. At 6:40 we still sat waiting. Hinderer seemed nervous – he explained, he’d had 15 responses, and only about 10 had shown up. I think that included me and my husband. A couple of stragglers made it an even dozen, and he decided to start the meeting. My husband and I had all of 15 minutes before we had to leave.
Oh well, I got an earful. First of all, Chico Swim Association/Aqua Jets manager or president or whatever he is Brad Geise greeted at least three of the members with “Hey, long time no see…” No kidding, those exact words. Several members apologized for not keeping in touch, promising to be attentive in future. They chatted about “doing the right thing for the community,” “setting aside our differences and doing what’s the best for the community…” rah rah doo-dah. But once the meeting started, they all seemed to be pretty clueless as to the hard business they had before them – spending 10’s of thousands of taxpayer money on a consultant when they didn’t even seem to understand what the consultant would be doing.
Two members I didn’t see were former Oroville City manager Randy Murphy, who showed up at the first meeting a couple of years ago brimming with enthusiasm about a regional effort, and former Chico City manager and CARD board member Tom Lando. I saw a list of 18 people named to this committee, and only 12 present at the meeting.
This committee is supposed to be “advising” the CARD board through a proposed project that will run into the 10’s of millions, and they don’t even seem to have it together enough to get to a meeting. Listening to Geiss and committee member Jan Bell chatting before the meeting, I heard plans of hiring a business manager, coaches, etc. I wonder whose money they are talking about spending. All these Happy Wanderers, sitting over a virtual pot of somebody else’s money, rubbing their hands together like Rumpelstiltskin.
But when time came to discuss the draft Request For Proposals they’d all been provided with, the conversation kind of fell apart. Some didn’t understand why the study needed to be done – there is an old feasibility study they thought they could work from. I watched the muscles tense in Hinderer’s face – this meeting was definitely going to go on longer than he’d anticipated. They had been asked for practical advise on the draft, so it could be finalized and sent out for consideration by possible consultants. There was a time frame that was already being breached as they spoke – they have to get this beast on the 2016 ballot, and this is only the beginning of the process. But, several of them, including long-time CARD pool manager Vic Sbarbaro, still wanted to hash over details that others felt had been hashed over completely. For one thing, Sbarbaro wanted to know why Shapiro Pool is slated to be closed at the end of this Summer.
This led to a side discussion that lasted about five minutes. I realize, these discussions need to happen, but these people are not on the same page. Some of them have worked hard toward this goal, and others are hem-hawing around. One man who admitted he was not a voting member of the committee still insisted on raising points that weren’t on the table.
It’s hard to tell people, there’s a difference between a work-shop type of meeting where there is a free-flow in the conversation, and a meeting with a directive, like approve a document or a formal order for staff. It takes preparation ahead of time, and several of these people had obviously not understood what the purpose of the meeting was. They just wanted to sit around and jabber all night on Rob Hinderer’s time.
At 6:55, my husband, who was as interested in the conversation as I was, made a motion toward the clock, and we had to depart. I felt rude, but I’m not on the committee. I’ve learned to exit these things quietly, there’s nothing wrong with leaving when you aren’t needed. I’d learned something, and I’ll make sure Hinderer includes me in future meetings.
I’ll try to get that draft posted asap.