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The irony of public participation in city government 

It’s ironic that on the same night that the San Luis Obispo City Council received a Davenport Institute Platinum Award for civic engagement it also discussed limiting public comment to a total of 15 minutes, with each speaker limited to one minute. In light of this, it’s not clear how the Davenport Institute rationalized making this award. Many of us believe that public trust in our San Luis Obispo city government is at an all-time low. Why?

Because this discussion on placing limits on public comments came after the city settled a lawsuit over a rental housing inspection program. Yet the city attorney had the audacity to characterize this lawsuit as both “opportunistic and without merit.” This discussion came on the heels of raising non-applicant appeal fees from $281 to $683 in spite of wide public opposition. Over the past three years, neighborhood groups in San Luis Obispo have filed and lost nine appeals. This ominous pattern of denial on both the previous and current councils’ parts suggests that councilmembers’ minds are already made up well before hearing our public testimony. If this is true, limiting public participation in local government clearly makes sense.

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