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Rabenaldt muzzled, Take 2 

Pismo Beach City Councilman Bill Rabenaldt is condemning a recent council vote that changes the way items will be added to the council agenda. He describes the move as, at best, a thinly veiled attempt at muzzling him; at worst, Rabenaldt said, it’s an obstruction of democracy. On July 1, the council voted 3-2, in favor of a structural change that requires a majority council vote to add items to future agendas. Previously, any councilmember could sponsor an agenda item.

click to enlarge MR. UNSTOPPABLE:  Pimso Beach City Councilman Bill Rabenaldt believes that running against the grain has pushed him into the buzzsaw again. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • MR. UNSTOPPABLE: Pimso Beach City Councilman Bill Rabenaldt believes that running against the grain has pushed him into the buzzsaw again.
“It’s just another way to quiet me,” Rabenaldt said, noting that he is the only council member who regularly added issues brought by the public during the public comment period.

Rabenaldt was censured earlier this year—the second time he’s been censured in four years—after a string of fiery e-mails to city staff, which questioned why, since the powerful Coastal Commission has called it improper, the city was still planning to install kiosks for paid parking in the city. As a result, Rabenaldt’s city laptop and credit card were taken away, and he was barred from representing the city of Pismo Beach at conferences. The spirited councilman has since announced his bid for mayor in November.

Pismo Beach Mayor Mary Ann Reiss did not respond to a request by New Times for comment.

The shift in protocol follows another change, two weeks earlier, which moved the city council’s comment time from immediately after the public comment period, to the very end of the meeting—when most of the public has gone home, Rabenaldt noted. The result of these changes he said, will be poorer communication between residents and their elected officials.

Councilmember Kris Vardas said that the procedural changes were not politically motivated; he said they are consistent with the way many local government meetings are run.

“It’s not an effort to silence him,” Vardas said. “It’s not a personal attack. It’s to make the meetings more efficient.”

Vardas said that under the old structure, staff and council were often left without a clear action to take when an un-researched topic was before them, and that it violated city code, by giving direction to the city manager, without taking a vote. Still, Rabenaldt said that the changes would only serve to disenfranchise Pismo Beach residents.

“Now,” Rabenaldt said, “a member of the public can come up during public comment period, but we can’t talk back and forth about it.”

Rabenaldt, who writes a biweekly newsletter about Pismo Beach happenings, said that he has been inundated with letters and calls from Pismo Beach residents, who are upset with the changes.

“This was calculated,” Rabenaldt said. “Two weeks ago [council] moved the council comment time to the back of the agenda, and then they took away the right to put anything on the agenda!”

He added: “I’d sure like to be able to prove that there’s some kind of conspiracy.”

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