Councilwoman Joanne Ward is certainly doing everything she can to avoid recall. In fact, that is what has set her apart from Councilman Don Kuehne in recent months. Kuehne seems to be doing the opposite as he inexplicably continues to infuriate residents seeking reform.
He recently stated that the city’s efforts to annex land “might work” if it became before the council and intimated that the only difficult entity in making the deal happen was ConocoPhillips, a principal landowner of the sought-after properties. Kuehne must have forgotten about the Hercules taxpayers, which is convenient considering the city’s annexation efforts are misguided at best and should be shelved indefinitely.
On Tuesday evening, Kuehne even defended the council’s practice of receiving the agenda and staff reports only four days before council meetings, and suggested that it continue. The short lead time, of course, has led to such debilitating decisions as Sycamore North, Red Barn, HMU, among many others, during the tenure of former City Manager Nelson Oliva.
Kuehne refuses to accept responsibility for the council’s obvious past actions or accept justifiable reform measures to ensure better governance in the future. His fate in the recall–one would think–is secure.
Compare that to Ward’s actions since recall efforts began: Unlike Kuehne, Ward has remained very quiet and has resisted the urge to attack the community. Instead, Ward has acknowledged her role in past mistakes and has supported reform measures, voting with newcomers Myrna de Vera and John Delgado while Kuehne stubbornly voted the other way (or abstained).
Ward is hoping residents forget the past–Oliva and the controversial Mayor Ed Balico are indeed gone, and the city is not only acting but is much more transparent in recent weeks. There is a lot more to accomplish, but it is a start.
While Kuehne relentlessly defends his indefensible record, Ward is distancing herself from hers with the excuse of ignorance, and she is relying on residents reaching the auspicious conclusion that ignorance is not an impeachable offense.
“We didn’t ask the right questions,” Ward said recently regarding the city’s failed plan to annex 500 acres and construct a sports park facility, although the statement could easily apply to dozens if not hundreds of issues that came before Ward as a councilmember. Ward added: “We didn’t know the right questions to ask.” That is a rather difficult pill to swallow since, in fact, residents were asking pertinent questions and the council refused to have them answered, as if they didn’t want to know.
Ward was first elected to the council in 2000, along with former mayors Ed Balico and Kris Valstad, in what was considered a change election in the city. In the years preceding, the council was reported to be a cantankerous body, meetings routinely peppered with vitriolic arguments echoing in the chambers. The three new councilmembers set out to change the tone of politics in the city. They did this by making a handshake agreement not to disagree in public. It was the start of the end of effective representative democracy in Hercules, although it would take years to reveal itself.
New councilmembers came and went: Frank Batara served from 2001 to 2006; the late Trevor Evans-Young from 2002 to 2006; Charleen Raines from 2004 to 2008; Joe Eddy McDonald from 2006 to 2010. Kuehne joined the council in 2008. All of them agreed to the unspoken rule–no dissent on the council and ask few questions. You would be hard-pressed to find an item not approved unanimously in all those years of meetings–the very items that have evolved to become the critical issues the city now faces.
It may have been the culture of the council, but Ward followed along without protest for more than a decade. Ward now looks to whitewash that history with a few conciliatory statements and a toe-the-line reform voting record of late. It helps, but it is not a cure. Recall may not be either, but it is a much-needed aspirin.
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.Write a new post...What do you want to share?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something