Morro Bay’s special city council meeting at 1 p.m. on Sept. 12, presumably to consider the performance of the city attorney and city manager, brought out all the special interests that have benefitted from the 16-year reign of these two top city civil servants.
The air was filled with invectives directed at the recently elected mayor and two council members. Although a policy restricting personal attacks in the past has been enforced, no one received admonition for their hate-filled and threatening speeches. Mayor Irons treated all speakers with courtesy and dignity.
The vast majority of speakers were employees, retired pensioned employees, and business owners. This included a retired police officer circulating a petition to recall Mayor Irons.
All mayors during the city attorney’s tenure spoke in his defense, not unexpectedly, as he had found legal justification for their questionable or ill-fated actions that have cost the residents millions of unnecessarily wasted dollars.
The swift organization of these speakers and supporters (the special meeting was made public at 1 p.m. the day before) suggests another underlying layer of government in the city, more powerful than the elected council.
The most glaring example of bad legal advice is the recent waste of millions of dollars on the proposed wastewater treatment plan pursued, against all reason, by mayors Peters and Yates, however illegal according to city law and the state Coastal Act, but continuously justified and upheld by the city attorney and city manager despite communications to that effect from Coastal Commission staff.
The seat of elite influence and affluence lies on the waterfront with publicly owned lease sites, which heretofore have been dealt with out of public view. Thus, the possibility of favoritism, especially for some to be awarded multiple sites or favorable terms, has been threatened by the new transparency initiated by Mayor Irons, calling for open public discussion of these sites.
Other developments in opposition to city law, but city permitted, brought about court suits by grassroots residents in an effort to require conformance to city laws. One suit, regarding an over-large housing development on sensitive land, was approved by the city but overturned by the court. Another grassroots suit currently in court regarding a development permitted by the city will greatly degrade a city landmark: Cerrito Peak. The city gave to the builder a gift of public land for a driveway and walls with no trade benefit to the public.
There are other examples of permitted development not in accordance with city law that adversely affects neighborhoods and the quality of residents’ lives.
At the heart of all this has been bad legal advice and a dynasty of power that obligated the loyalty of many benefactors who came out en masse to vilify a new, altruistic council majority that threatens their status quo Camelot.
-- Nancy Bast - Morro Bay