Home Depot, The DRP and a Closed Door Meeting!
At 4:30 this afternoon, Avis Ridley-Thomas and her Dispute Resolution Program will hold what is being billed as a "Scheduling Meeting" at the North Valley City Hall in Tujunga. The purpose off this meeting is to set the date, time, & ground rules for any further talks between Home Depot and the Sunland-Tujunga community and is part of the Stipulation Order to Stay Litigation made between the City and Home Depot.
If you'll recall Home Depot filed a $10,000,000.00 lawsuit against the City last year after their building permits were revoked by the L.A. City Council. Home Depot suspended their lawsuit and agreed to file a new application and undergo environmental assessment for their proposed store as an alternative to further litigation. Part of this agreement included a clause that the Dispute Resolution Program would mediate between the community and Home Depot. This mediation is completely non-binding and considered by many a waste of taxpayer money and community time. This mediation will have zero effect on whether or not Home Depot is ever able to open their controversial store, as that decision currently lies with City Planning, who is currently reviewing their application.
And the story goes all downhill from here.
After the DRP held it's first open community meeting back in April that was attended by over 300 local residents and produced an overwhelming consensus of opposition to Home Depot's store,(Just ask the MS bloggers who were there-Michael Higby, Red, Zuma, Joseph Mailander, and Petrafried), the DRP promised more meetings that would be "open and transparent in the process".
That promise comes to a grinding halt at 4:30 this afternoon, when the DRP holds a private closed door meeting with "invited community leaders" (of their choosing) in the very public North Valley City Hall. Even after numerous requests to the DRP, no names of the invited participants has been provided.
Not only is the public not allowed to observe this meeting, the DRP has now threatened a police presence to prevent local residents from entering the hall.
The Sunland-Tujunga Alliance, the sponsors of "The No Home Depot Campaign" have spent weeks trying to contact the DRP to discuss the details of the meeting.
The DRP has not returned a single phone call or email.
After waiting on hold for hours (literally) last Monday, the STA finally spoke with a DRP staff member who informed them that the meeting would indeed be open to the public. Additionally, people who called Councilmember Wendy Greuel's office were told the meeting would be open to the public as well.
With that info in hand, and feeling somewhat relieved, late last week, the STA posted a public invite to today's event on the No 2 Home Depot web site (www.no2homedepot.com).
Last Friday, the STA received an email from Barbara Goldfarb, the volunteer DRP lead facilitator in charge of the meeting.
Here is the entire contents of that email :
Sunland-Tujunga Alliance/No2Home Depot
It has come to our attention through observing the notices that the Sunland-Tujunga Alliance is posting on the No2Home Depot web site and through phone calls being received in Councilwoman Wendy Greuel’s office, that the Sunland-Tujunga Alliance is disseminating false and misleading information regarding Monday’s upcoming scheduling conference.
May we remind you once again that this meeting is under the auspices of the Dispute Resolution Program and that the Sunland-Tujunga Alliance has no role to play in its organization or conduct beyond that of being one of many invitees who have been asked to have a representative attend. The meeting is for invited participants only. This closed door meeting at this location does not violate any existing laws and its closed door status will be strictly enforced.
The Alliance’s irresponsible behavior in issuing its unauthorized public invitation has forced the Dispute Resolution Program to request police presence at the meeting to insure that this process will proceed under the Dispute Resolution Program’s policies and rules. (emphasis added)
As was clearly stated in our letter, this meeting is logistical only. We fully respect and honor your right to express your opinions about the subject, but this scheduling conference is not the place for that and no discussion of the controversy as identified at the April 26, 2008 dialogue will be allowed. We are simply discussing time, date, place and ground rules and the Alliance’s representative will be asked for input along with all other representatives.
May we respectfully request that the Alliance issues a correction of the incorrect information on the web-site and call as many of their members as possible to instruct them not to attend. The last thing any of us want is a disturbance at the meeting and we should all do our best to avoid that possibility.
Barbara E. Goldfarb
Dispute Resolution Program
When Ms. Goldfarb was contacted by phone about the DRP staff member who said that the public could attend this meeting, Ms. Goldfarb was dismissive saying that the staff member didn't know what she was talking about. It is unfortunate that the DRP now blames the STA for their own lack of communication and misleading information. The DRP is ultimately responsible for creating this confusion and hard feelings among neighborhood residents, and the DRP is able to resolve this matter by calling off the police, and allowing the public to observe this meeting.
Sunland-Tujunga resident, Damien McGinnis, put it this way:
"What an outrage! Ms.Goldfarb seems to be making up the rules as she goes along and as she sees fit. The secrecy in the form of undisclosed participants/invitees, the closed door policy, apparent ulterior motives (which raises questions about possible corruption within and/or coercion of the DRP) and simple lack of congruency from the DRP and its office is intolerable and outrageous! I hope the news gets all over this and it becomes the latest city scandal."
Needless to say, angry residents upset about being excluded from this process will be showing up today at 4:30 pm to voice their concerns.
Perhaps you (and the Press) will consider joining us.
DRP Scheduling Meeting
North Valley City Hall
7747 Foothill Blvd.
(For those that don't know, Joe B. is the president of the Sunland-Tujunga Alliance Inc., and chairman of the No Home Depot Campaign, in addition to being a blogger on Mayor Sam.)