Tension arises during municipal code amendment ordinance

The Claremont City Council was tasked with approving changes to the municipal code regarding powers and duties of the city’s architectural commission, police commission, traffic and transportation commission and the community and human services commission.

The proposed changes were initiated, according to the city, due to a desire to “more accurately describe existing policies” and to clarify confusion about commissioners’ duties. The changes were looked over by the commissions affected before they arrived to the council.

But the agenda was tabled for a later date after Councilmember Opanyi Nasiali submitted a set of language changes after the staff report was drafted. Some councilmembers hadn’t read Mr. Nasiali’s suggestions until they arrived to the council meeting.

This didn’t sit well with Councilmember Sam Pedroza, who inquired if the additional changes were vetted by the commissions.

“If we’re going to change it without having the discussion or at least to justify what these changes are, I think it’s worth the commissioners taking a look at it making sure they’re okay with it too,” Mr. Pedroza said.

Mr. Nasiali initially called the changes “mere rewording,” but Mr. Pedroza and Councilmember Joe Lyons noted his proposed language took out two terms regarding the community and human services commission’s desire to “meet human needs”—recreation and parks.

Mr. Pedroza maintained that recreation was “an important aspect of human services,” a sentiment not fully shared by Mr. Nasiali, who said that “recreation” and “parks” were already covered under the umbrella terms of “programs and services.”

“If you read the sentence, it talks about human needs, and recreation and parks are not human needs. They are amenities the city provides,” Mr. Nasiali said. “The sentence still contains services the city provides, and therefore parks and recreation are services.”

Both Mr. Nasiali and Mr. Pedroza were in favor of sending the changes back to the commissions for further review. City Manager Tony Ramos emphasized that if the council sends it back to the commissions, they would not be looked at until September, due to the August recess.

But the conversation on the dais became tense when Mr. Nasiali stressed that he “takes [his] responsibility as a councilperson very seriously” by reviewing documents before the council meetings.

Mr. Pedroza took offense to that notion, claiming Mr. Nasiali was indirectly criticizing other councilmembers.

“That’s not a correct portrayal to the public to be saying that, because I read my agenda as well, I have comments as well, I have meetings with the city manager,” he said. “And some of us have to work. So we can’t be here in the early afternoon as you can. Let’s be fair. And don’t throw out innuendos that you’re the only one who is serious here because you provide pages of comments.”

Mr. Nasiali later apologized, saying it wasn’t his intent to insinuate anything negative toward the council.

When reached by phone Thursday morning, Mr. Nasiali said he had sent his suggestions to the city manager over the weekend, and they were forwarded to city staff Monday morning. Mr. Ramos noted Mr. Nasiali’s email came in on Sunday evening after 5 p.m.

While Mr. Nasiali acknowledged and understood his colleagues’ concerns, he said that if his recommendations to the language were given more of an explanation during the staff presentation at the council meeting, things would have gone differently.

In the future, he said, “it may be a good idea for staff to go line-by-line during the presentation, so they know what is being changed so everyone can feel comfortable.”

During public comment, Sue Schenk took issue with a proposed new passage regarding the architectural commission. The new language described part of the commission’s duties as “to review all Historical Property Contract (Mills Act) applications and forward them to the city council.”

She noted the language was too restricting, limiting the duties of the commission to only one act.

In the end, the agenda item, along with Mr. Nasiali’s verbiage, were tabled to a later meeting to give more time for the commissions to weigh in. Councilmember Corey Calaycay directed Ms. Schenk’s concerns to also be reviewed by the architectural commission. The council will make the final decision at a future meeting.

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