Bianca Richards spoke about three perceived problems in the city’s administration at the Nov. 7 City Council meeting. She did so during the public comment period on behalf of Women Involved in South Pasadena Political Action (WISPPA). Richards is the group’s current president. Some half-dozen members of her 80-member organization expressed concerns to her over the past three months, as well as at the organization’s Nov. 3 meeting, Richards said after the council adjourned.
“Residents and [city] commissioners commented that they have attempted to speak on the phone or meet with our City Manager and received no possible options to speak directly or to meet,” she said during her public comments.
“Most received no response at all, and others were asked to leave a message,” she said.
In response to an email of Nov. 8, John Pope, city Public Information Officer (PIO), replied by email on Nov. 11.
“City staff was unaware of the concerns expressed by WISPPA prior to the Nov. 7 Council meeting,” he said. “We are more than happy to meet with WISPPA members to address these and any other issues.”
“The City management team has the highest respect for WISPPA and the organization’s goals,” he added, “so it is important to us to keep the lines of communication open.”
Richards raised a second concern about the role of commissions and boards. WISPPA members serve on 10 out of 12 of these in the city, Richards said after the meeting. Some are also on ad hoc committees, according to the city’s website.
“They have reported some frustrations regarding means of communication from city staff to commissions,” she said to the City Council. “Changes and decisions have been made without clear consensus from [commission] members.”
In addition, she said some members expressed “vacancy concerns of senior-staff levels.”
Interim or acting heads are serving in three of the eight city departments. These are Planning and Building, Police and Public Works. This is according to an internal phone list for city staff dated Oct 10. Some support staff positions are also vacant, Richards said after the meeting.
“We encourage the city to find replacements as quickly as possible,” she told the City Council.
Richards said she hoped these topics will appear on a future City Council agenda.
Meanwhile, Pope said the city is investigating new software systems that would allow staff to track requests from residents better.
Regarding vacancies, Pope said, “In the first quarter of 2019, we expect to fill several key positions that are now vacant, including the Police Chief and Public Works Director.”
“City staff is working very hard to find the best possible employees to fill critical positions,” he said. “In the case of the Police Chief, we are seeking community input on the values, skills and qualities the ideal candidate should possess.”