7 Reasons Pleasant Hill Should Reject Michael Harris

When asked to explain his record at a recent Pleasant Hill City Council candidate forum, 12-year-incumbent Michael Harris replied, “You know me.”   Posturing as everybody’s pal allows Harris to dodge scrutiny of his record. 

Experienced politicians frequently employ tricks like these because they work.  They know that most voters are too busy to pay attention to what city government is doing.  Most people lead hectic lives, trust their elected officials and have neither the time nor interest to follow what’s going on at City Hall.  But it is critical to know what is going on and to understand the facts before you cast your vote on November 4. Continue reading “7 Reasons Pleasant Hill Should Reject Michael Harris”

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Pleasant Hill amends zoning rules; upholds gun sales restrictions despite legal challenge

On Monday, June 9th the Pleasant Hill City Council introduced zoning ordinance amendments to “sync up” with its law adopted last year that regulates firearms and ammunition sales. As expected, introduction of the zoning changes was approved on a 3-2 vote that mirrored last year’s adoption of the new gun law (Councilmembers Carlson and Weir opposed; Durant, Flaherty and Harris in support).

The zoning changes adopted by Council are the same ones unanimously rejected by the city’s Planning Commission last month because they were considered unnecessary.  The zoning changes are the last step City implementation of its controversial firearms law, which limits gun and ammunition sales to specified locations.  The City Council is expected to adopt the final zoning rules in July.

Both Sides Speak Up

jack weir
Pleasant Hill Concilmember Jack Weir

The public hearing attracted a large, generally well-behaved crowd of residents, business owners and interested Bay Area observers on both sides of the gun control debate.  A total of 26 people spoke at the meeting, 19 in opposition and 7 in support of the proposed zoning changes that define restrictions on gun sales.  Only 8 of the speakers identified themselves as Pleasant Hill residents (4 on each side of the issue, pro and con).

Supporters who spoke in favor of the new zoning changes included attorneys with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, whose model ordinance was used to develop Pleasant Hill’s gun law.  Speakers expressed pride in Pleasant Hill’s leadership, by enacting so-called “smart gun laws” intended to prevent “illegal gun trafficking” so “people can feel safe and secure.”

Opponents speaking against the zoning changes echoed many of the same objections raised by Planning Commissioners, including concerns about the “irregular process” in which the City Council bypassed the Commission before adopting the gun law last year.  In addition, some expressed concerns about adverse impacts on the city’s reputation, overall business climate and existing gun retailers.  Several speakers urged the Council to rescind the gun law, to avoid litigation costs associated with the legal challenge against it from the National Shooting Sports Foundation and City Arms East.

Prickliness About City’s Tarnished Image

Photo Tim Flaherty
Pleasant Hill Mayor Tim Flaherty

In the evening’s only dramatic moment, Mayor Flaherty interrupted Councilmember Weir in an uncharacteristically angry outburst.  Weir expressed concern the firearms issue has created a “strained relationship” between the City Council and the Planning Commission that reflects poorly on the city and its management. Flaherty interjected by saying, “I’m tired of hearing the City is not well-managed.”

After a brief verbal tussle with raised voices, Flaherty backed off and permitted Weir to finish his comments. Later in the meeting Flaherty apologized to Weir, while also acknowledging his sensitivity to “criticism of the City’s reputation” that had been the subject of public comment earlier in the evening (including reference to the City’s mishandling of its former City Clerk).

Perhaps Flaherty was unusually touchy due to discomfort with being in the limelight as the “swing vote.”  In addition, during the public hearing he was publicly criticized for flip-flopping on the firearms issue, which he opposed as a Planning Commissioner and City Council candidate, before inexplicably changing his mind during 2013. Flaherty’s early opposition to gun-related zoning restrictions was unsurprising, given his profession as a real estate attorney.

Flaherty’s failure to offer an explanation for his 180 switch on the gun regulations prompted some to conclude he’d traded his vote for the Mayor’s seat.  Perhaps Flaherty’s deposition will be taken, as part of the NSSF/City Arms litigation process, to clarify the reasons for his flip-flop.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho . . .  It’s Off to Court We Go

At one point in the meeting Councilmember Weir made a motion to reconsider the entire firearms law at a future Council meeting. Carlson seconded the motion, which elicited brief cheers from the audience.  Moments later the motion was rejected on a familiar 3-2 vote.

The NSSF/City Arms lawsuit is scheduled for an issues conference before the Judge in August, before the case moves to trial in September.

In November, Michael Harris and Jack Weir are expected to run for re-election.  Pleasant Hill’s firearms law and the court challenge against it are likely to be issues during the campaign, especially in light of the City’s projected deficit in its operating budget.

 

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The Silver Lining of Pleasant Hill City Clerk Scandal

The wacky City Clerk is gone, but the root cause of the problem remains. City mismanagement of the scandal offers an instructive case study in what-not-to-do when things go wrong.

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As a rule, City Clerks don’t seek the limelight. But Kimberly Lehmkuhl, the infamous former City Clerk of suburban Pleasant Hill, California, has made a sport of breaking rules and marching to her own drummer. So it’s no surprise her unprecedented job failure and wacky resignation letter made nationwide news.

While public attention to this story has focused largely on Lehmkuhl’s failures and Twitter antics, the enduring lessons of this story have nothing to do with her. Rather, City mismanagement of the problem offers an instructive case study in what-not-to-do when things go wrong. Continue reading “The Silver Lining of Pleasant Hill City Clerk Scandal”

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CC Times Blasts Pleasant Hill Mayor rotation fiasco

pleasant hill mayor rotation fiascoIn a refreshingly candid commentary, the Contra Costa Times editorial board blasted Pleasant Hill Councilmembers Michael Harris, Tim Flaherty and Ken Carlson for their move last month to bypass fellow Councilmember Jack Weir in the traditional Pleasant Hill Mayor rotation. Continue reading “CC Times Blasts Pleasant Hill Mayor rotation fiasco”

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Union power grab in Pleasant Hill sets stage for 2014 campaigns

Ready for a Power Grab in Pleasant Hill? Every December the City of Pleasant Hill rotates its Mayor among Council members. In the customary rotation schedule, Vice-Mayor Jack Weir was expected to succeed outgoing Mayor Michael Harris. At Monday night’s Council meeting, in what appeared to be a pre-planned power grab of the Pleasant Hill City Council, Council members Michael Harris, Tim Flaherty and Ken Carlson elected Flaherty as Mayor. Thereafter Flaherty nominated Concord Police Officer Ken Carlson as Vice-Mayor, which then was approved by a Council majority. Continue reading “Union power grab in Pleasant Hill sets stage for 2014 campaigns”

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