Bang-a-Gong; Impatient Vice Mayor Suen Gives Citizen The Gavel

By Michael Monasky | January 11, 2017 |  

I nearly spent my mother's 92nd birthday in the hoosegow, courtesy of the Elk Grove City Council. One should know that city councilmen don't like speakers to exceed three minutes. They also don't like bad news, criticism, or complicated subjects.

Last night, I weighed in on the condition of the Laguna West levee. MBK Engineering delivered its Problem Identification Report only one day before the council meeting. I complained that the delay should require the contractor to resubmit the report for full public consideration. I stated that it violated the intent of the Ralph Brown Act, which requires 72 hour notification of agenda items.

Nowadays, full reports are routinely and electronically filed by the clerk on the city's website. Since this item affected the flood risks to multiple thousands of households, full disclosure of the consultant's findings would provide the transparency and information vital to our democratic decision-making process to ensure public health and safety. Or so I thought.

After three minutes, with one hand on a stop watch and the other on a wooden meat tenderizer, Vice-Mayor Darren Suen interrupted the last few sentences of my statement. I was the only public speaker on the subject. He told me my time was up. Then the vice-mayor asked the city attorney to declare whether the Brown Act was violated. Jon Hobbs opined that the only requirement was for a printed agenda, and that timely reports were unnecessary.

I also criticized the vice-mayor and the councilmen for conflicts of interest in taking money from developers, speculators, landowners, and financial backers for their political campaigns. Mr. Suen holds a special post at the State of California as a flood engineer supervising the Yolo Bypass, one of the largest flood drains in the world. That facility is just north and west of Laguna West. There is a wink and a nod from the consultant's report that discharges from the Sacramento River could be controlled so as to reduce flood risks to developments in Elk Grove. That way, flood control costs could be passed on to other regional governments.

When the city of Elk Grove annexed Laguna West, it assumed the flood control costs for that area. Now that the law, Senate Bill 5, requires 200-year flood incidents be mitigated, cities and their planning staff are up in arms, reviewing land use plans, re-stacking the deck chairs on their Titanic development errors. What to do? Spend another million dollars on seepage studies. Then commit taxpayers to a $50 Million to $150 Million price tag to include flood walls, levee raises, and earthen berms galore.

City councilmen just want citizens to pay taxes, sit down, and shut up. When I objected to Mr. Hobbs' legal edict, Suen waved his magic hammer and called upon two of Elk Grove's finest to escort me away from the lectern. Then councilman Pat Hume yelled that my time was up. Ironically, he was out of order, too. To their credit, the cops only approached me, as they knew I'd made my point despite our leaders' loud and spastic antics.

I don't expect democracy in our city council any more than justice in our courts, proper nutrition in our grocery stores, or healthy outcomes in our health care system. Call me an iconoclast, but I know my limits never to enrage a cop or a judge. It's just too much fun to provoke self-righteous politicians and bombastic city councilmen who act like cold-hearted idiots when it comes to making prudent public policy.

In the meantime, I'm busy in the garage prepping my Ark.

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