Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bulldog Bob Graham Strikes Out - Again

watching city meetings can be a little tedious. Occasionally a city council meeting might run well past the designated midnight witching hour - the time when the council is supposed to, literally, call it a night and move the remainder of the agenda to another meeting. History shows that, once the council begins working into the next day, they seem to have a collective lapse of judgment. Fortunately, that doesn't happen too often.

Sometimes a Planning Commission meeting will drone on and on about a specific proposed development or issue that is so laced with acronyms and specialized terminology that it's hard to keep one's eyes open. Fortunately, Jim Righeimer usually provides eye-openers in the form of his interrogation of app
licants or by angering Chairman Donn Hall, who bats him back in line.

And then there is the Parks and Recreation Commission... Over the past couple meetings, well-intentioned commissioner Bob Graham has set a new low water
mark for stubbornness. He's put his quest to build a bridge over the Santa Ana River at 19th Street on hiatus, but he's found a new cause - a proper entrance to Fairview Park at Canary Drive.

At their previous meeting in June, Graham - bulldog that
he is - presented yet another request for the "user-defined" entrance to Fairview Park at the end of Canary Drive to be upgraded to a proper entrance. Presently it's just a steep, dirt path leading from the sidewalk up into the park. (See image above) He went on and on about how dangerous it was, that seniors couldn't make the climb up and, once there, were in real danger of falling when they left down the hill. He showed photographs ad nauseum of the muddy slope following a rainy day.


Finally, in frustration because it was clear the commission and staff were not on his side on this subject, he suggested that the access to the park at that point be walled off, prohibiting entry. It was clear that he didn't really mean it, but t
he commission took his suggestion and ran with it. They directed staff to return at the next meeting - last night - with an analysis of closing that entrance, which they did.

Predictably, Graham was not happy when Peter Nagahvi, Director of Public Services, advised the commission that it was not fiscally prudent nor technically feasible to close off that entrance to the park. It would require a 12 foot wall with a fence on top of that, which would almost assuredly become a canvas for graffiti and wouldn't keep kids from climbing it to reach the park.


Graham, even more frustrated than at the earlier meeting, just kept on pounding away at this issue
. He attempted to maneuver the discussion back to creating a proper entrance, but that train had left the station last month. It was improper to address it at this meeting - it was not an agenda item. Many speakers stood and spoke on the issue. Finally, former mayor and current judge Karen Robinson - a resident of that neighborhood - took the speaker's podium. In the vernacular, she "took Graham to the woodshed" on this subject. Her anger was evident as she chastised Graham for wasting so much staff time on an issue that would not be resolved until the Fairview Park Master Plan is re-opened - something Graham just couldn't accept. Watching Robinson verbally slice and dice Graham made me happy I've never had to encounter her on the bench.

Even after that, Graham wasn't finished. As Robinson stepped away from the podium he muttered something about "Maybe the Mesa Verde Homeowners Association should buy that little piece of land and take responsibility for it." Poor, clueless guy...

One thing is sure in this city... even the most ponderous of meetings can provide some great theater. Unfortun
ately, this little drama Graham produced only served to waste valuable staff resources and commission time. I doubt Graham will be considered for re-appointment to the commission following the next election. His passion has overwhelmed his judgment too many times.

Part of the problem last night, and on previous occasions, was the weak leadership provided by current Chairman, Kurt Galitski. He's been in the Big Chair for a few months now, so one expects that he might have a better grasp on the format and procedures by now. That's not the case, unfortunat
ely. In fact, this particular iteration of the Parks and Recreation Commission is more passive than active. I never thought I'd see the day when long-time commissioner Mark Harris would be the one to keep things pointed in the right direction, but that's the case these days. The men on the commission need to step up and tighten their focus on the issues before them.

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Blogger mesa verde madman said...

Graham's a good man - I grew up with his sons - but having grown up a block away from that entrance, it does seem like a waste of money. I can see how access might be treacherous for older people, but there's other ways into the park, and there really isn't all that much there at that part of the park anyway.

7/25/2008 07:52:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

I, too, think Bob Graham is a good guy. I think he really does care about these issues. But, like the 19th Street Bridge, once he gets his teeth into something he just doesn't seem to be able to let it go.

7/25/2008 09:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I finally watched the Park and Rec. meeting video and was amazed by Ms. Robinson's approach! That kind of direct and candid taking-to-the-woodshed is sorely msssing from our public discourse!

Mr. Graham is advocating for his neighbors and actually has a good point, but time and again he was told that the appropriate venue was the Master Plan discussions. You have to know when to fight and when to bide your time.

7/29/2008 11:14:00 AM  

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