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Council members should not phone it in
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At the first meeting after I am elected Mayor of Turlock in November of 2018, I will introduce a Resolution to rescind the authorization for Councilmembers and the Mayor to participate in City Council meetings by remote teleconference.

On Dec. 12, the Turlock City Council held a public hearing where the Council voted to impose one of the largest tax increases in the City’s history to pay for a $288 million water treatment facility.  Councilmembers and the Mayor all proclaimed how they “hate to raise taxes,” but this was necessary.

Councilmember Bublak was listed on the agenda as “participating by teleconference from the Sheraton Waikiki hotel in Hawaii.”  At the last minute it was discovered that posting proper legal notice of this remote location being a “public meeting,” as required by the Brown Act open meeting law, was not done.  Councilmember Bublak did not participate, or vote, on this historic and significant tax increase, that Mayor Soiseth had described as one of the most significant votes this Council would face in their time of service.  Councilmember Bublak is now on record for this historic vote as “Absent.” 

During the farmers market controversy, an emotion charged packed house council meeting was interrupted for several minutes as staff wrestled with a faulty phone connection with Councilmember Bublak, again phoning in from a remote location.  Councilmember Bublak expressed frustration at not being able to hear the proceedings and was not clear on what was happening in the Council chambers yet she continued to participate and vote. 

Similarly, Mayor Soiseth on several occasions has participated in meetings from offsite locations from Washington D.C. hotels, which creates an awkward communications dynamic, at best. 

In contrast, former Mayor Enoch Christoffersen was legendary in his obsession to not miss a scheduled meeting.  One time he did a marathon of connecting flights to return from Europe in order to make a scheduled meeting, which he was able to do.

Council meeting dates are set a year in advance, but Councilmembers appear to have little incentive to plan accordingly if they can “phone it in.” 

Attending meetings is the primary function of a Councilmember and it should be done in person. Citizens cannot “phone in” their participation and neither should Councilmembers.  I will change that as soon as possible.

 — Brad Bates