Terry (center) with Oak Hills Property Owners Association members.
For county, ’transparency‘ is just talk
Terry Kostak is president of the Oak Hills Property Owners Association.
Following proper channels and protocol, I contacted my First District field representative approximately two months ago requesting that the live video-streamed public meetings of the San Bernardino County Planning Commission be made available for viewing to the public on their personal computers. I was already aware the Board of Supervisors and the planning commission meetings had been streamed live since 2007, but the meetings of the planning commission were only accessible by county personnel for some reason still unknown to me.
The staff at the county government center in San Bernardino informed me that an audio cassette tape was the only recording of the meetings that a member of the public could pay for and receive if they were unable to attend a meeting in person. This practice is totally unacceptable and archaic. How many people even own a cassette tape player in this age of computers? Unless you are familiar with the voices on the tape, you don’t even have an idea of who is speaking. No written document or audio recording can truly replace the experience of seeing an event live.
Being the president of the Oak Hills Property Owners Association, whose main purpose is to defend our community plan which covers approximately 28 square miles and is a part of the County General Plan, I have the responsibility to stay on top of land use issues and decisions made within the largest county in the country. No unincorporated community is an island and many of the 14 unincorporated communities share the same ideals and problems.
The general public should also be given a better tool to enable them to view this important decision-making body in action without having to travel hundreds of miles from remote locations to the County Government Center in San Bernardino and back again every time there is a meeting. Numerous planning commission meetings across this country are being live video-streamed as a way to reach more citizens and enable the various local governments to become more transparent to their constituents.
I thought transparency was also a goal of this county. I thought it would present a win-win situation for both our county government and the people they were elected to represent. Unfortunately, our top county government elected official obviously did not agree with me.
Gary Ovitt, supervisor for the Fourth District and current chairman of the Board of Supervisors, has denied my request. I was told the planning commissioners are “hired employees” and my request is “not within county policy.” Our county planning commissioners are appointed by the supervisors, one from each district. I am not sure why a planning commissioner being hired or appointed should have any bearing on the subject. County legal counsel has let it be known that there is nothing within county policy denying streaming.
Most frustrating and annoying to me is that Chairman Ovitt said in his own press release (April 23, 2007), “I am committed to ensuring San Bernardino County is the most open and transparent county in the United States.” In another quote (Feb. 23, 2006) he said, “We are doing the public’s business” and “We need to be as open and transparent as possible.”
Has he now in 2009 decided that transparency is no longer a good idea?
May 21, 2010
Has the Mojave Cross have been removed for good?
A cross replacing the original at the Mojave Desert war memorial has been declared illegal and taken down.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the 9th Circuit overstepped its bounds when it ruled the cross must be removed. Since then, the memorial had remained covered with a plywood box until it was stolen on May 9.
Linda Slater, public information officer with the Mojave National Preserve, said the cross that mysteriously appeared last week was unauthorized.
"The main reason that we can't put a replacement cross up or allow one to be put up," she said, "is because we are under court order to not display a cross on Sunrise Rock."
Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of Liberty Institute, said his team will work to convince the Justice Department to replace the cross.
"That's not a proper act to take," he said. "Our veterans deserve more than that, and that memorial needs to be put back up."
An anonymous donation means there is a $125,000 reward posted for tips leading to the conviction of whoever stole the cross that served as a memorial to Americans who served during World War I.
A decorated military veteran offered $100,000 for the reward, said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel for Liberty Institute. That figure was added to the previous $25,000 offer.
The cross stood at Sunrise Rock, which is about 15 miles south of the 15 Freeway along Cima Road in the Mojave National Preserve.