Letter: Reasonable Requests, Intense Tone

Letter to the Editor

Last night’s council meeting underscored Council Member Bruce Silverstein’s distrust of City Manager Reva Feldman. Silverstein has made many records requests from City Hall for the apparent purpose of oversight into some of the city’s processes. In response, Feldman placed an item on last night’s agenda essentially asking the City Council to limit Silverstein’s right to request data.

I did a California Public Records Act request myself, a few weeks ago, to see two months’ worth of Silverstein’s emails with Feldman and staff. And I read them, so I have an informed opinion of what’s going on.  

Silverstein’s emails with staff are gracious and grateful; his emails with Feldman are intense. Some of that intensity comes from Silverstein’s unnecessarily aggressive style; some of it comes from frustration. For example, he asks a simple reasonable question, to be informed as to how the decision was made to disallow citizens from being seen at Zoom meetings, and Feldman essentially refuses to answer.  

In my opinion, Silverstein’s argumentative, accusatory approach is making his own job harder, the job of finding consensus. I hope and believe that after a couple months of venting his frustrations he will find a rhythm with the city council.

I generally support the substance of Silverstein’s inquiries into the workings of City Hall. And I understand some of his frustration. For example, Feldman reports publicly: “Council Member Silverstein has refused to come to City Hall to review records that are not available digitally and is, instead, demanding that the city scan every document and provide it to him digitally.”

What really happened is this: Staff emails Silverstein telling him he can come in to review documents; he replies that due to COVID he would prefer to get copies. He’s then told staff doesn’t have the resources to make copies, and he replies within the hour “Given the limitations, please keep the material (and any other material that is added in the days to come) in a safe place, and I will make arrangements to come down to City Hall over the coming week to review the material.”

Lynn Norton