Raising the Banner- Another Monday Meeting

Approval of a Professional Services Agreement with AAA Flag and Banner for Banner Installation and Removal for FY 2010/2011. It’s not the sort of agenda item that seems to bring out strong feelings, or call for extended debate. But on Monday evening, Feb. 22 at the City Council Chambers, it was a chance for everyone to raise their own banners, yet again.

The full notation on the agenda item called for the council to “Approve a professional services agreement with AAA Flag and Banner for on-call banner installation; authorize the City Attorney to review/prepare the necessary documents; and authorize the City Manager to execute such documents on behalf of the City.”

The moment the Gary Silbiger stated “I will not be supporting this motion,” anyone in the chamber willing to bet could get easy odds that Mayor Andy Weissman and Councilman Scott Malsin would be voting to support the motion. Predictable is too mild a word.

The discussion focused on outsourcing the job of hanging banners for the city to AAA Banners, the local company that created and hung the banners for the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984. Staff noted that the Public Works department, whose job it was to hang the banners, had many other jobs to take care of and that to interrupt their regularly scheduled work to go and hang a banner for an event was not cost effective. Cost was where Silbiger picked it up, noting that the price of hanging one banner was a savings over the city’s schedule, but that the cost of hanging two or more seemed to him to be too high.

Malsin pointed out that the staff was already overworked, and that having professional banner hangers do the job would save both time and money.  Weissman noted out that the company could be called in on a case by case basis, and the agreement was only to have them available, not have them contracted for all the work.  Councilman Mehaul O’Leary made a bridge-building effort, pointing out the financial advantage to hiring the company, addressing the comments made by Silbiger and Armenta.

Outgoing City Manger Mark Scott stated that it was a bit of an odd jobs anywhere he’d worked. “In Beverly Hills, the Fire Department hangs the banners, and in Spartanburg, it’s the Transportation Department. Here it’s Public Works.” He went on to say “It’s not a big dollar item, it’s not a liability issue.” It began to seem that the amount of time spent on the discussion was longer than it would have taken to hang a banner.  Scott concluded that it made sense to approve AAA Banners, “It’s what they do for a living.”

With a motion by Malsin and a second by O’Leary, the vote passed 3 to 2.

The personalities that make up our current council each have their perspectives. It isn’t that one is right and the other is wrong, it’s that they way we take care of an agenda item takes more time than it ought. Silbiger will pick out details that are at best slight and at worst, truly petty. Armenta, like a good bluff in a debate, will pick out the one detail he can speak to and  raise it to an often undeserved height of attention. Weissman and Malsin both tend to look at the bigger picture, which must seem to them to be clearer from that height, or perhaps just more expedient. O’Leary looks at it as business, and has a short pro- and- con mechanism in his arguments that is why he is so often the swing vote. The shift from the mirco-focus of Silbiger and Armenta to the macro-focus of Weissman and Malsin leaves many of us in the audience with a touch of motion sickness. O’Leary is left to play the role of the balance on the teeter-totter, looking for a level moment that rarely arrives.

April is coming soon, and banners of another sort are being raised all over town. Details are important, but we don’t need to count every mite. Expediency is a virtue, unless it leaves the citizens feeling that the aren’t getting the full story. We can only hope the next council can move forward with more alacrity on the issues that truly matter to all of us.

The Actors' Gang

1 Comment

  1. This is perfectly observed and trenchently stated, Judith. I think we should put your last three sentences on T-shirts and wear them, not just until the next election but to every City Council meeting, forever more!

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