September 10, 2000-- Foothill Leader


By Anita Brenner

     I call 'em like I see 'em.
     If someone really goofs, I'll tell you. That's my job.
     If someone does well, I'll tell you. That's my job, too.
     So here goes: Kudos to the La Canada Flintridge City Council!
     Congratulations on a job well done.

* * *
     The City Council has followed through on a campaign promise made by minority Councilwoman Deborah Orlik.
     She promised to "open up" City Hall.
     Despite a spate of 3-2 votes on other issues, it appears all of the council members have endorsed Orlik's campaign plan to use information technology as a means of expanding citizen access to local government.
     It started last month, when city staff placed the municipal code online. Copies of the ordinances used to cost $700. Now we can read them for free.
     This month, city staff announced they will begin experimental cable television coverage of City Council meetings.
     Soon you'll be able to watch your favorite City Council from your favorite armchair.
     Huzzah and bravo.
* * *
     By permitting Internet access to the municipal code and cable access to City Council meetings, our City Council honors a philosophy of open access. This use of information technology will make it easy for the rest of us to stay informed and involved in the process of government.
     The information highway has lots of offramps, mostly at other people's city halls. La Canada Flintridge is on the verge of joining the cities of Burbank, Glendale and Santa Monica by providing cable coverage of city meetings.
     The next logical step would be Internet-accessible streaming video of council meetings, to be provided on the city's Web site.
     Information wants to be free.
* * *
     Imagine sitting in your favorite armchair on a rainy Monday night. You fire up your room-sized Sony digital television. Appearing on the screen before you is the entire La Canada Flintridge City Council. You can see them all: Mayor Dave Spence, Carol Liu, Deborah Orlik, Anthony Portantino and even Jerry Martin.
     At first, the council members seem nervous. Some speak haltingly. They are stilted and clearly uncomfortable with the cameras. This is not surprising. Television coverage is a new experience for the council. As the evening continues, the council members begin to relax. They are getting used to the idea that we are watching them.
     The council members begin to discuss an agenda item. You perk up. They are discussing the downtown Island Plan. Your curiosity is piqued because you own a rental in that area and you have plans to remodel.
     You fire up your laptop. Click! You see the city's Web site: Click! Tonight's agenda appears.
     Using your wireless digital mouse, you select the background materials for this discussion. One council member refers to Page 17 of the supporting materials. Click! You see Page 17 on your laptop. Free. No copying costs. No waiting in line.
     The council continues to discuss the plan. You wonder how other La Canadans feel about this issue. Click! You open a new window pointing to Res Publica -- -- a site that covers everything from movie schedules to the next Chamber of Commerce mixer. You skip the entertainment links and select original source materials on the Downtown Village Area Specific Plan.
     At no charge.
* * *
     You know that of all the council members, Orlik is the most wired because she's the only one with a Web site: Her site has links to City Council agendas, with commentaries. When Orlik begins to speak, you access her Web site. You read her annotated agenda notes. This helps you focus.
     You are comfortable in your chair. You are glad you stayed home. It is warm inside your house. Your spouse brings you some tea. Your laptop flickers, but the television is clear. Together, you watch your council in action.
     You hear the rain as it pelts down on your roof. All is well.

     * ANITA BRENNER is a La Canada Flintridge resident and an attorney practicing in Pasadena. Reach her at (626) 792-3175, or by e-mail at Back to

Copyright September 10, 2000 Anita Susan Brenner