Here are some qualities we seek and expect from our local (or any) elected government officials: honesty and transparency in their actions and decision-making, accountability for their actions and decisions, as well as taking responsibility for mistakes or failures without pointing blame at others.
Furthermore, we expect a willingness to work collaboratively with others, an ability to communicate effectively with the public and to provide clear and accurate information, and a willingness to listen to concerns, feedback and to adjust policies or decisions when necessary.
We are fortunate to have at least one Los Banos City Council member who strives to meet our expectations, Councilwoman Deborah Lewis. I have attended in person and watched tapings of the live feed of Los Banos City Council meetings for over a year now, and in my observations, I have witnessed Ms. Lewis ask questions that citizens cannot seem to get answers to.
Emails from citizens to city staff and council members are censored or designated as “spam” in the city’s IT system. Phone calls or messages left by citizens for city council members go mostly unanswered.
Ms. Lewis was elected to and is upholding her oath of serving in public office, just as all the council members were elected to do and should uphold.
Once again, Ms. Lewis faced a public lambasting at the dais by Councilman Brett Jones during the Jan. 17 council meeting. Councilman Jones continues to publically lambast Ms. Lewis when she has questions on items she is being asked to vote on, also constituents whenever they ask questions or speak at public forum and even this newspaper for printing fact-based news items.
It has since become most certain to occur at every city council meeting, disturbingly contrary to the qualities listed above.
To be fair, Jones has not been the solo council member to push back at Ms. Lewis’ requests of clarification before she casts her vote, Mayor Paul Llanez and Councilman Kenneth Lambert have had their fair share of publicly lambasting Ms. Lewis as well. Although Councilman Jones can be counted on to pushback with almost every question Councilwoman Lewis has.
The system of checks and balances is a fundamental principle of any government. By maintaining a system of checks and balances, the government remains accountable to its citizens. Ms. Lewis’ inquiries to consent agenda items ensure to maintain the checks and balances system, and she continues to be lambasted for it almost every time by her fellow council members.
She is not afraid to admit she needs clarification before she casts her votes. Are the other council members unwilling to ask or feel it is unimportant to ask questions before they cast their votes?
I appreciate her for asking questions, getting clarity and gaining insight before casting her votes for the items presented, something I do not observe any other council member doing before casting their votes. Are we to assume that civility, collaboration and respect to colleagues and citizens are now a thing of the past in our local city government?