Elk Grove Vice Mayor Steve Ly Could Learn Something From Councilman Pat Hume

Wednesday night's Elk Grove City Council meeting hearing on the proposed Costco planned for City Council District 4 was inter...

Wednesday night's Elk Grove City Council meeting hearing on the proposed Costco planned for City Council District 4 was interesting on several different levels.

First, there were the comments by Councilman Steve Detrick, who said the media, including this site, had misled the public regarding possible economic incentives sought by the developer of that project, Pappas Investments. While there isn't any substance to Detrick's comment - one reader contacted EGN to express what he said was "disgust" with Detrick's calling him deceptive  - politicians blaming the media is nothing new.

Contrasting with Detrick was Mayor Gary Davis, who pushed back on the incentive comments. Davis countered Detrick and said yes, Costco had, in fact, told him as long as eight years ago that they wanted economic incentives.

While Detrick and Davis were engaged in a point, counter-point on the incentives, there was a more interesting, yet subtle study in contrasting abilities of councilmen on display for those who watched the proceedings. That study was between Councilman Pat Hume and Vice Mayor Steve Ly.

For those who have any familiarity with the project site near Bruceville Road and Elk Grove Boulevard, know that has always been zoned for retail as part of the Laguna Ridge Special Planning Area. As Davis and Hume reminded homeowners near the project site of "buyers beware," both men emphasized that the City has long pursued a Costco-type big box membership warehouse for that parcel as justification for their support of the project.

While Davis, Detrick, and Hume (Councilman Darren Suen recused himself from the deliberations) all discussed various aspects of the project, Ly barely spoke at all about the project. 

Indeed, had Hume not stood his ground and demanded higher-quality building materials for the structure, there is a good chance the lower-quality facade approved by the Planning Commission would have been rubber-stamped. As a result, Costco will come back to the council in July with what we hope will be a more ascetically pleasing exterior design, at least as much as you can expect from a big box warehouse.

Before anyone accuses us of being biased towards Hume, it should be noted the third-term councilman has been critically reviewed through EGN's eight-and-a-half years. We suspect Hume would be in agreement on this.

While we have been critical of Hume, we never have, to the best of our knowledge asserted that he was uninformed or unclear in his deliberations. We do not agree with Hume on a majority of issues facing Elk Grove, but we can confidentially say Hume presents his arguments in a coherent, thoughtful manner, and that is crucial in planning our city's future.

Comparing Hume's stance on the Costco exterior design compared to Ly's deliberations is like comparing New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to a high school back-up offensive lineman. They are operating in different leagues. 

Interestingly, the Costco project lies in Ly's district, and yet he barely addressed any specific concerns voiced primarily by District 4 constituents. Ly, whose major contribution to the discussion was that he occasionally shops at the Lodi Costco because of their merchandise selection, was either uninterested, incurious, or lacking the intellect to discuss the matter in any way other than regurgitating cliches. 

Maybe, you say,  Ly's deficiencies can be attributed his lack of experience. After all, Hume has been a council member for almost 10 years and was a planning commissioner for six years prior.

This might have some validity if it were not for the fact that his fellow Councilman Darren Suen has served for exactly the same amount of time. Notwithstanding his professional experience, Suen has proven to be a quick study and is not afraid to ask historical questions and probe during meetings for a deeper understanding of what is being deliberated.

Ly's constituents in District 4 must be wondering why, even if he was in favor of the project, didn't he try to listen genuinely to their concerns and explain his rationale. Instead, there was silence, and it is not because silent rivers run deep.   

So Vice Mayor Ly, we will offer this advice - as much as parents should never compare siblings, that rule does not apply to elected officials. You ought to listen and learn from all your council colleagues, most notably Councilman Hume. 

Instead of being concerned about hobnobbing with diplomats, attending crab feeds, posing for pictures with your personal photographer, and being seen all over Elk Grove and the region mugging for publicity, stay home and hit the books. This job is not about how many supposed VIPs you can be photographed with to post on Twitter, it is about competently attending to the business of the people. 

Hole yourself up in a room, read the staff reports, have a briefing with city staff if need be, meet with the public and constituents for constituent matters as needed, put your U.C. Davis and law school degrees to work, and for goodness sake, have something intelligent to say during deliberation other than your usual squishy "but at the same time..."

Take a break from your publicity seeking events - elections are over two years away - and bone up on your material. Vice Mayor Ly, in the long run you will do yourself a favor, and more importantly you will be able to properly represent Elk Grove residents, not yourself, like you were elected to do.  



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