Wednesday, December 19, 2007

And the final word from David Allen

Sounds like David Allen was at the same meeting that I was this past Monday, which leads me to trust his observations about the earlier meeting. I, Goddess, did get a chance to meet and greet with David Allen at the end of the meeting, which at least made the meeting worth the price of admission! Unlike what today's photo implies, I don't think we are putting this matter to rest quite yet. Here's the next installment of Romero v. Torres:

"David Allen: No one's copping a plea in Pomona's city scuffle
By David Allen, Columnist
Article Created: 12/18/2007 08:08:20 PM PST

The Joe and Norma saga appears to be winding down as mysteriously as it began.
Monday's Pomona City Council meeting was inconclusive: Mayor Norma Torres didn't apologize, Police Chief Joe Romero sat silently and no concrete action was taken on Romero's threat to quit.

However, a contract for the chief was presented in closed session, and it's now up to Romero whether to sign it. "I don't think I'm going anywhere," Romero assured me before the meeting.

What's in the contract? We don't know. What was this all about? I'm not sure. Is it over? No clue, sorry.

But that doesn't mean we can't engage in some good, clean, baseless speculation. Thus, with apologies to David Letterman, here are the Top 10 Items in Police Chief Joe Romero's Contract:

10. Chief's name must be in the Daily Bulletin a minimum of five days per week.

9. Next time the mayor criticizes the Police Department in public, the chief is allowed to rise and, a la Robert DeNiro in "Taxi Driver," respond, "Are you talkin' to me?"

8. During council meetings, a physician will be on hand to monitor chief's blood pressure.

7. City engineer will lay down masking tape on floor of council chambers between mayor and chief, like the kids did on "Brady Bunch."

6. New perk for chief: two tickets to the next reunion concert by the Police.

5. When the mayor says "jump," everyone must respond "How high, your mayorship?" (Item 5 inserted by the mayor.)
4. Chief's e-mails to mayor will include not only crime reports but forwards of stale jokes and urban legends.

3. Henceforth, the official snack food of Pomona will be jelly-filled doughnuts!

2. Instead of being critical at council meetings, the mayor must dial an 800 number and, over a series of 20 prompts, register her complaints via her touch-tone pad or by speaking clearly ("If you said, `Didn't get cheese females,' please press 1 now").

And the top item in Joe Romero's contract:

1. You know what? From now on it is a popularity contest.

OK, back to business.

What was this dispute all about? Perhaps it was as simple as what we saw at the Dec. 3 meeting, when Torres went on a tear.

She chastised the Police Department - implicitly, Romero - for allegedly not notifying her of some killings in the city or of a woman's promotion to lieutenant.

Torres also berated city staff for not opening the armory to the homeless as instructed, saying that animals get better treatment. She criticized council members for supportive comments in this newspaper about residents who would like a tax to support more police, saying they were out of line.

She also referred to the downtown farmers market as "a dud" while the market's director sat in the audience.

FYI, a good Christmas gift for the mayor would be a copy of "How to Win Friends and Influence People."

Romero said he lost his cool not only because of Torres' comments but because other council members sat on their hands.

"They set the tone," he told me.

I admitted the council could do better but advised Romero that if they improve too much, I might be out of a job.

So, Monday's meeting. The chambers were full, yet there weren't as many supporters of the chief in attendance as many expected, or supporters of the mayor, for that matter.

Ten people spoke, nine of them in favor of Romero, one in favor of Torres.

Torres launched into a lengthy response. She blamed the Bulletin for "the twisting of what really happened" at the Dec. 3 meeting. (She's right: She was actually ruder than we let on.)

She admitted, without apologizing, that she didn't remember receiving the chief's e-mail about the woman's promotion. She said she has no issue with the chief. And she said council members George Hunter and Paula Lantz get better information from police, and faster, than she does.

"My role is to hold department heads accountable. I make no apologies for asking for information. If I don't get information when I ask for it privately, I'll ask for it here, from the dais," Torres said.

In other words, even though she's mayor and she has a council majority, she's going to behave as if she were the council's black sheep.

When his turn came, Hunter began dryly: "So much for joining hands and singing `Kumbaya."'

Hunter said he checks e-mails from the Police Department and "every single e-mail has everyone's name on it" as a recipient.

Issues should be raised in private, council members should act professionally and poor behavior doesn't "engender confidence or trust," Hunter said.

Lantz agreed and said she'll speak out more often when her colleagues behave disrespectfully.

What's my take on all this?

Romero is better than Torres at public relations. Is he a good chief? I don't know. But his department doesn't seem to have any glaring problems, and the community respects him, which counts for a lot.

Is holding department heads accountable the job of the mayor? No. Holding department heads accountable is the job of the city manager. The council's job is to hold the city manager accountable.

Torres may have legitimate beefs with the Police Department, but she didn't voice them Dec. 3, instead focusing on petty stuff.

As mayor, she has energy and enthusiasm and shows flashes of charm. Sometimes, though, she doesn't seem ready for prime time. Even when she was on prime time, on Fox's "Kitchen Nightmares."

I'll share what an Inland Valley council member told me privately: "She's her own worst enemy. ...Why in the world would you pick a fight with your police department in public?"

While Torres was speaking Monday night, justifying her behavior, I stole a glance at Romero. He sat there impassively.

I had to wonder if he was thinking about quitting all over again.

David Allen writes Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, chiefly. E-mail, call (909) 483-9339 or write 2041 E. Fourth St., Ontario 91764. And read his blog at"



John Clifford said...

Sorry, can't let David have the final word. Not that I have a word, but don't want to let him have final.

Pomona Joe said...

I love your Blog!