A Burlingame mess; local TV
July 19, 2005
A week ago Monday, the City Council thrashed through a four-hour meeting on the latest of the nasty Burlingame surprises, a soap opera saga which itself should be serialized nationally as a new reality show.First the tap fees were way off, then the lay of the land surveys were out of whack, then it turned out that they have an extra 40,000 cubic feet of topsoil that needs to be moved somewhere, all of which are adding up in the millions and they haven’t even driven the first Burlingame nail yet.What is especially disturbing is that these “mistakes” occurred because erroneous information was supplied by the city to the builders. The tap-dancing and buck-passing as to whose fault is whose has been amazing to behold, the city’s weak defense being a clause in the contract that says the city can’t be held liable for supplying erroneous information.In the past, snafus of this sort (the ARC paint job comes to mind) have resulted in the conciliatory resolution familiar to everyone with experience in the facilitation process. It goes like this: OK, somebody screwed up but there’s no point ferreting out the culprit – given the problem at hand, what are we going to do now? What’s done is done, now it’s time to move on.This is warm and fuzzy, and does have its practicalities, but it does not address the root of the problem and is thus like whacking off the tops of thistles. Why was it that no one on the city staff, in the four years between the first and second Burlingame votes, figured this stuff out correctly?Enter the new rat terriers on the council, J.E. DeVilbiss and Jack Johnson. Refreshingly unschooled in the art of conflict resolution as we have come to know it, these councilmen (both Burlingame supporters) are questioning how we got into these fixes and are asking for hard data to back up the remediation figures. Yes!City Manager Steve Barwick said, somewhat paternally (patronizingly is what really springs to mind), that the new council members would “come to trust the staff,” but I think it’s the other way around: the staff will come to realize that their accountability is on the line and that this City Council is going to be a whole new ball game.At an impasse, the meeting was continued until the following day. I called GrassRoots TV to see if they would be covering it and they said only if the city requested it. Officially it had been scheduled as a “work session” but in fact it was a continuation, another four hours on the subject of Burlingame which we didn’t get to see.It is impossible for the press to adequately cover an eight-hour (or even a four-hour) meeting. You get a summation and a couple of quotes, but all the nuances of the decision-making process are lost. This is where GrassRoots TV is such an exceptional community service.We have this new political channel 11, which ran on empty during Tuesday’s continuation meeting, and we should use it. If I had my druthers, I’d like to see all the work sessions, P&Z meetings, HPC, school board and Board of Adjustment meetings aired on channel 11, but at the LEAST City Council continuations on a subject of this magnitude should be aired.Su Lum is a longtime local who doesn’t think we can’t afford it. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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