Council rejects a little counseling


Despite its frequently contentious debates and an inability to follow its own rules of decorum, the City Council last week turned down an opportunity to attend a workshop that teaches communication and leadership skills to city officials.

The workshop, scheduled for late January, but with a registration deadline of Dec. 2, is offered by the League of California Cities, a lobbying group that represents the interests of the state’s incorporated municipalities. The workshop promises improved communication skills and an improved working environment.

At its Nov. 23 meeting, City Manager Harry Peacock, who has worked in local government for more than 30 years, strongly advised the council to attend the workshop. But the council was so unenthusiastic about attending, it did not even vote on whether to register for the two-day program.

Mayor Joan House, who missed most of the meeting because of a flight delay, was not present at the time the item was discussed.

But the remaining four council members were uncharacteristically quiet during the discussion, and seemed unable to find the words to express how strongly they did not want to go.

Councilman Tom Hasse mentioned the meager sources of entertainment in the city of Pomona, where the workshop will be held, and he grumbled about spending time with his colleagues.

“Well, 48 hours with all five of us,” he said with a measure of dread.

Councilman Harry Barovsky laughed, “Very well put, Tom.”

The workshop also apparently struck Barovsky, at least for a short time, as a little too warm and fuzzy for his taste. “We’re all going there to hold hands.”

Barovsky said, though, that the workshop may help the council, especially after what he called a “tte—tte” among council members in closed session that day. He did not provide any details about the council’s apparent disagreement.

“I’m willing to take time off from my profession to spend two-and-one-half days trying to have a more effective and efficient council,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Walt Keller disagreed with that assessment. “After our tte—tte today, I’m not so sure it will do any good.”

Barovsky offered a motion to register for the program, but no other council member would second the motion, and the item died.

The council has rules of procedure and decorum, but it rarely follows that section of the rules dealing with communications among council members. According to those rules, council members are required to request the floor before speaking, and members may not interrupt each other. In practice, members regularly speak over each other without first requesting the floor.