Archive for June, 2013

Pat Jamieson and I never met face to face, but we were co-workers. We exchanged emails and phone messages on Wednesdays and Thursdays. She was a delight to work with. I was sad when she left the Islander. I was sorry when she left the Island. I wish she were still here. Farewell, Pat.

Happy 100th birthday, Avalon.

In California, that’s an achievement.

There were challenges along the way, of course. A couple of fires that we need not dwell on; a Great Depression and World War II. The government could just as easily kept the Island for military purposes after the war ended, but the Island was returned to civilian live along with a lot of other World War II vets and has continued to thrive.

The challenges will come. But for now, Avalon has a huge milestone to celebrate——so enjoy yourselves, folks.

Stage 1 Water Rationing has begun in Avalon. The water level in the Thompson Reservoir measured 542 acre feet as of as of Friday, June 7.
On May 7, the water level was 582 acre feet on May 7. That’s a 40-acre-foot difference, obviously. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, an acre foot is enough water to cover 1 acre of land 1-foot deep.

Water rationing became mandatory when the Thompson Reservoir water level dropped below 600 acre feet. But Stage 1 rules are not as severe as Stage 2, when residents will be given a fixed volume of water they can use. As Islanders deal with the inconvenience, I can only hope your fellow Californian’s on the mainland remember that they haven’t had much rain either.

This past week, the Avalon City Council held a public hearing to discuss increasing sewer and salt water service fees. No one spoke at the hearing because no one bothered to attend the council meeting.

The issue will come back to the next council meeting, but if you don’t want your rates raised and you don’t show up the council is going to accept your silence as approval. They have to do something. (see my article on the Catalina Islander website or on the front page of the print edition for details.) And, frankly, their many talents don’t include reading minds. If you don’t tell your representatives how you want to be represented, they have to make the best decisions they can without your input.

I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of unhappy Islanders in the weeks ahead who will accuse the council of not listening. But how can they listen, let alone hear, when no one speaks?

In the early 1990s, I was fresh out of journalism school and taking small assignments as a “stringer” (piece worker) for a weekly mainland newspaper. I covered a Southland Planning Commission in a small town. The city issued the proper notices for public hearings. Rarely did anyone bother to show up. Even business owners with applications before the commission usually skipped the meetings. I don’t think anyone ever appealed a commission decision during the year I covered the agency.

One night, a businesswoman with a bitter smile on her face accused the commissioners of trying to sneak something past the public. She was outraged when they and the city attorney insisted that they had conducted the public’s business in public. She stormed out, furious that the world would not accommodate her unless she forced the world to accommodate her.

A few months later, I was asked to substitute for the editor who normally covered that same community’s City Council. The big agenda item that night: the special Business Advisory Committee (which refused to allow journalists to attend their meetings) demanded that the City Council create a special Business commissioner position on the Planning Commission to listen to the business community. Remember, the business community didn’t bother to show up, but they wanted a special representative beholden only to them and not to voters.

The mayor wasn’t impressed with the Business Advisory Committee’s arguments. His own argument: business people can attend public meetings just like everyone else. If they don’t bother to show up, that was their failing—not the city government’s. The idea died.

Twelve or 13 years later, the mayor’s argument has stayed with me. If you want your government officials to do things your way, you have to tell them what you want. Circumstances may force them to say no—if Avalon doesn’t raise the sewer rates, the money to upgrade the system will have to come from the General Fund—but it isn’t possible for anyone to say yes to a request they haven’t heard.

With this weekend’s Flaying Fish Festival and next weekend’s Just for the Halibut fishing tournament, I find myself hankering for fish to eat. However, I don’t know any fish recipes. If you have one and are willing to post it here, please go ahead.