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Have you attended a city meeting in Alhambra? Why or why not?

Why do more residents seem to turn out at South Pasadena meetings than those in Alhambra? That is the question resident Lola Armendariz asked at a City Council meeting on Jan. 28, referring to a recent South Pasadena Strategic Plan meeting.

Armendariz charged that the reasons included lack of details being shared with the public. “Give us some information," Armendariz said. "But you don’t. You don’t keep us informed." Mayor Barbara Messina responded,  “I’d like to think that we are doing more in our city than South Pasadena does." Vice Mayor Steven Placido suggested that the Alhambra's efforts are sufficient and that residents can go online for information since the information is on the city's website.

When USC Annenberg researchers conducted a survey of residents, they found less than 25 percent had attended a local city meeting.

We'd like to know: Why have you attended a meeting? Why do you stay home? Let us know what you think!

Have you attended an Alhambra city meeting?

The Alhambra Source encourages comment on our stories. However, we do not vet comments for accuracy or endorse links to posts in the comment section. The thoughts and opinions expressed belong solely to the author of the comment.

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26 thoughts on “Have you attended a city meeting in Alhambra? Why or why not?”

  1. A few East LA folks banding together behind a leader to fight the building of a prison or support the demolition of abandoned houses is completely different than attending a city council meeting. As you can imagine, there’s quite a few people interested in anything that sounds like “defending injustice” in those East LA communities.

    People will always fight to prevent something from getting worse (ie a prison being built locally) but they will not fight to make things better. That’s human nature. The only reason people fight for excellence is if all their prior needs are met. They must first sit high enough on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to be concerned with needs beyond self.

    All I’m saying is – looking at the stats, Alhambra residents are not at that level where it would be logical to assume that civic engagement is a priority.

    That being said – the city council could absolutely be doing a better job. They could easily create a program where civic-engagement is rewarded with incentives (not necessarily monetary ones): recognition in a “Citizen of the Month” type deal or something.

    1. Civic engagement comes in all shapes and forms. Banding together is only the first step. It’s after that that people begin to figure out the hows and what fors. It’s then that one begins to realize that their group needs to get involved with their local government process. I agree, that programs of teaching civic engagement are vitally needed everywhere.

  2. Vicki, as well-intentioned and educated as you may be, you clearly have no real-world experience.

    Research? You have clearly done zero. I don’t have the time to Google all the links I’ve read, but let’s just start with the easiest one to find: http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/neighborhoods/neighborhood/alhambra/

    Only 27.5% of Alhambra residents over 25 years have a four-year degree.

    Why don’t you provide me some articles of blue-collar communities rising up to mimic the same behaviors of white-collar communities? Apples to apples Vicki! A Honda has got to be the best Honda it can be, not try to imitate a Lexus.

    So really – why does the city council treat Alhambra citiziens like children? (which I agree with btw) BECAUSE THE CITY IS UNEDUCATED. And if you let uneducated people voice their opinions, the system will collapse.

    A democracy works ONLY IF the population takes the time to be understand the issues and how they all fit together in the big picture. That’s NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN in Alhambra. So we just have to make it the best we can.

    1. Here is a 2010 report on civic engagement. I could not find a more recent report for the same entity. It goes into civic engagement for the state of California as a whole: http://ncoc.net/index.php?download=103kcfl703

      El Sereno Activists: http://theeastsiderlacitizen.blogspot.com/2009/08/el-sereno-residents-ba…


      As it states in the first link, civic engagement is a learned behavior. Just because one is not highly educated does not mean they don’t care or won’t become involved and that they would not have viable ideas. Yes, education and class can be a deterrent to becoming involved, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

  3. Do I lump myself in with the Alhambra B-Grade population? No. I wasn’t born and raised here. But I am trying to help without being a helpless idealistic liberal (and I’m liberal btw).

    You act like caring for the community means ignoring harsh truths and uncomfortable realities. I do A LOT for the community – which is why I can say things like “Alhambra is, at it’s core – an uneducated blue-collar town”. BECAUSE IT JUST IS. Have you ever done anything in this town? Every single piece of scientific demographic research about Alhambra backs up that statement.

    Now that we acknowledge what we’re working with – there can be progress because expectations will be tempered.

    1. Preface: I’m not asking the following questions to be sarcastic. I am truly interested.

      Is this why the council has taken on the stance of being both mommy and daddy and not allowing the community to grow? It appears that they treat anyone like a child who dares to step forward and question their authority. I’m relying on you to explain this, as you seem to have a handle on it. I’m confused because there are many, as you put it, “B” grade communities that have stepped forward when enough was enough.

      I have dealt with lots of blue collar folks. It’s not that they don’t care. They just think whatever is wrong is inevitable and they feel helpless to fight it, so grumble amongst themselves, not knowing what to do. Once whatever the issue is is explained and what needs to be done, there is a sense of empowerment.

      I would love to see the demographic research on Alhambra. Do you have links to that research?

      Also, what process are you employing in order to help the community on this level? It could be helpful to others.

  4. First off, I’m not saying the Alhambra city council couldn’t do a better job.

    But they are working with B-Grade pieces to begin with.

    Successful civic engagement is a complicated equation. Everyone has to do their part for the system to run smoothly.

    In Alhambra, you have a B-Grade population demographic, B-Grade city council, and end up with C-Grade civic engagement. However, I do think all things being said, Alhambra is a solid B-Grade community.

    I mean – what do you want? San Marino type systems? Do you want an UCLA education at Cal State LA? Move to South Pasadena if you want South Pasadena things.

    1. No one wants San Marino-type systems. LOL Do you lump yourself into the B-grade population? I don’t think Alhambra has a B grade population. I think it’s a matter of not knowing the ropes as I said above, being resigned, not knowing how to be an effective activist. See my answer to Tom2 above. Teach the population how to change things for the better. I don’t think you give the people of Alhambra the credit they deserve. No one said it’s easy to get people involved, but it will pay off in the end.

  5. Speaking for myself, the “getting involved” issue is that being a “good” citizen is a lot of work. Vicki hit it on the head when she said, “Lord knows we all work and have other responsibilities and cannot attend every meeting we would like to attend. We all have a lot to do and not enough daylight to do it in, not including the unexpected.

    The voter’s job doesn’t stop after submitting the ballot. It is the voters job to keep those candidates “honest” by attending the meetings and asking point blank questions, expecting hard answers. Consider it preventative medicine. Don’t wait for the illness to then try to find the cure.

    Remember, the council is there for YOU. The mayor is there for YOU. We are not at the mercy of these people. They are at ours.

    Perhaps providing “streaming” of council meetings over CCTV or the city website? Maybe they already have it. I have not looked.

    I for one have been considering getting more involved in the activities and future plans of the City with the construction of the new apartments/commercial building where the library used to be. I kind of want to know what the future plans of the city are. For that I’m going to have to go to a council meeting and start asking questions and expecting dates for responses.

    my 2 cents

    1. Jose, the city council IS NOT AT THE MERCY OF US, neither are we. You keep that attitude up and we will never get anywhere.

      I’m glad you want to start going to city council meetings. PLEASE DO! Ask lots of questions but keep in mind there are many answers as well on the city website. Also, what future plans for the city are is dictated not only by the city, but by the open market and what the law allows (and doesn’t).

      You have a big learning curve ahead of you my friend…

      1. Tom2, ANY elected official is absolutely obligated to open honest dialog face to face, not on a website that cannot possibly answer the very hard questions. Tom2, you are echoing what the council said in the video. Messina said she thinks they are doing things just fine and the other council member stated that all the answers are on the website. This is a misnomer. Hard questions deserve answers. What “it’s on the website means” is that the sheep should accept what is said there. They don’t want any opposition. I’m afraid that the “big learning curve” anyone is to expect is more of a realization that more people are shut down like Ms. Armendariz is than not. It is not all right for her concerns to be dismissed like that.

    2. Jose,

      Firstly, see response to Tom2, as it is in a different vein.

      Don’t let them scare you into not voicing your questions directly. Even if they dismiss you and give you a police escort outside. Remember that there is power in what you say and how hard you work at it over and over again and power in numbers. It is our duty as citizens of our cities to keep our officials honest. They do answer to us. We voted them in, we can vote them out, and if need be, we can have them recalled. Show up for your cause, bring others with your same concerns. Demand face time and answers. Write e-mails and keep copies in a separate folder. It’s work, but if you really believe in your cause and concerns, you’ll be okay.

      1. Vicki, what do you mean by scare? Please do go to city council meetings and voice your complaints. In the long-run, what counts is what you are actually saying. And trust me, what you say means alot to what you understand of the issues and how you portray yourself to others. My point is that before you rattle off complaints, know what you are actually talking about and the various facets involved. Like what Joseph said, division of labor. Unless you aren’t willing to take the time to understand the details involved, your opinion won’t have much substance…

      2. Tom2, I agree. Don’t just go to complain. It’s like going on a job interview. Know what the company does and its culture so you know what you are talking about when you get there. In other words, do your homework. If you do have a complaint but don’t know the answer, then say you don’t know the answer, but ask that it be worked on and if there is an unacceptable answer, then don’t be afraid to say it’s unacceptable.

        I also don’t think that lowly of the population in Alhambra. What I think is that they don’t know where to start, and when Messina gets condescending and poo-poos one’s concerns, one cannot give up or back down. I think a lot of people are frightened by the “system” and the people who run it, not just in Alhambra but anywhere there is a lack of participation. I think people who do know the ropes should slowly teach the folks who don’t know the ropes. I encourage Jose to go for it, but don’t get discouraged. They will try to make you feel small, and it might take a long time, but small changes will happen and then maybe it will all add up to a big change.

  6. Joseph, Please don’t assume that those who talk about attending meetings or becoming involved aren’t taking their own advice. Lord knows we all work and have other responsibilities and cannot attend every meeting we would like to attend, but becoming involved at some level *is* becoming involved. Just writing your views on a subject in a comment section like this makes your view known and you get to see others’ views. Maybe we end up finding out that we are not so different in our end goals as we think we are. We aren’t here to bash anyone. We just want to learn more about why this article/question was written/posed in the first place. Questioning authority (or *the* authorities) when things don’t seem to be as they should be is something I tend to live by. I see the fact that Ms. Armendariz being shut down like she has been on multiple occasions, among others who have been met the same way, to be wrong on many levels and should be questioned.

  7. It’s easy to type here on a keyboard and say that people should be more involved. Maybe it makes people feel better about themselves.

    I prefer to deal in reality. Most people who say we should be more involved do not take their own advice. I am not trying to pick on people here. Its actually nice to see more people posting on this site. So I appreciate it.

    I think I have just been around a long time and have seen this type of thing time and time again. Someone says people should get more involved, and then a bunch of other people say the same thing. Then no-one ever does.

    1. Joseph, true there are lots of keyboarding slactivists out there. Things are changing. I think more people are interested in action. It’s fun when you have a mobile phone internet connection and go to these meetings, record the weirdness and comment on it, then Twitter it around the globe. A grand opportunity to show something good happening too.

      Thanks, Vicki <3

      It’s okay, George. Sometimes I take things out of context and don’t read a whole statement to understand its meaning too. Let’s hear it for the shorter attention spans nurtured by texting.

  8. I believe in the division of labor. We put people in government jobs so that we don’t have to deal with it. This allows us to work in the private sector and do what we do best.

    Every few years someone decides to ask why there are not more people involved with city meetings or business. That really should not be the question.

    If the citizens don’t like what is going on then put someone else in those jobs.

    A small turnout of citizens to these meetings is actually a good sign. It means more people are happy with what’s going on. A huge turnout to city meetings is usually indicative of a city that is not doing their job.

    So the logical conclusion to this issue is that the city is doing a pretty good job. Other wise the meetings would be packed.

    1. Hi Joseph S., Your comment is sarcastic? Very funny. An activist against Citizens United (corporations having equal rights as people-individuals) made me laugh recently when he said in response to a question about corrupt public office holders. He said, “Aren’t all public officials credible? Otherwise, how could they get elected?”

      We know the answer, don’t we? It’s money. And some of the “people” are actually representing a corporate interest not a public one.

      What is a democracy then? When people flee countries with oppresive goverments they become experts on how to behave under similar situations. Keep your mouth shut or leave if you don’t like it.

      I think when meetings get packed it’s a great thing. It means people believe in democracy and are using their freedom. We are all better for hearing thediffering ideas of our community not promoting silence as a sign of success.

      1. Well said, Patrizzi.

      2. Patrizzi, “Keep your mouth shut or leave if you don’t like it.”

        So we’re to believe you about freedom and democracy with that kind of attitude and views?

        And hearing differing ideas also means hearing not only good ideas, but bad ones also!

      3. George, I think you misunderstood. Patrizzi was talking about oppressive governments saying “shut up or leave” and that is why many come here — they leave their oppressive governments. She did not mean that anyone posting here should shut up or anyone going to council meetings to shut up.

      4. Why can’t I keep my mouth shut?

  9. Let’s be real here, South Pasadena is a historically very white and affluent city. Alhambra is filled with less affluent Asians and Latinos who are at most, a few generations removed from their motherlands.

    There is a gigantic cultural, socio-economic, and demographic difference between to the two environments. So DUH, civic engagement if far lower in Alhambra.

    That’s like asking: Why does a Lexus drive better than a Honda? Well, it’s a different car. So yeah, that explains it succinctly.

    1. In general, city council meetings are not that interesting unless there is something they have decided on that has caused a citizen great discomfort or damage. Lots of people see through Mayor Messina empty motherly assurances that traffic in the city is because of the 710 Freeway not being big enough, connected enough, and blames outside traffic management for this problem instead of taking responsibility for her own city’s bad planning.

      You are right about the demographics of the population of Alhambra. In particular, Alhambra is not inviting or engaging their residents on purpose. Look at the rules for public comment and tell me if they intimidate you. It’s not diffucult to interpret these rules as a clear threat of arrest should you be critical of this council.

      That’s why they’re drunk on power over there in the Alhambra Mayor’s office, and they want to keep it that way.

    2. M. Payne, There are many cities that have involved citizens who go to their council meetings. Many of these cities are the same as Alhambra, anywhere from low to high income and in between. What you appear to be saying is that anyone who isn’t white and affluent could care less about what happens at a city council meeting that effects their community.

      However, for the sake of argument, let’s say you are correct that less affluent immigrants don’t go to these meetings. Would one not expect that their city council would try even harder to engage their citizenry? Try to make them feel comfortable to come and voice their concerns? Have translators available?

      All I see here is this lady being shut down over and over again in multiple meetings regarding multiple subjects (multiple articles). Maybe people in Alhambra don’t go to the meetings because it is a futile exercise. Maybe the City of Alhambra doesn’t want their little world disrupted by citizens who ask the hard questions and expect answers and solutions, a true dialog. Mayor Messina and the council remind me of parents who say, “Why? Because I say so,” and the child walking away frustrated with no information. Treating citizens in this manner is inexcusable, yet it continues. If citizens state that they are not getting details and information, it should not be poo-pooed by the council. Whatever is lacking should be addressed.

      According to this poll, (only 18 total votes so far) 22.22 percent don’t know the dates, times, and place of the council meetings. Don’t you find that odd? 22.22 percent are not interested. 22.22 percent said “other” but neglected to explain as asked.

      Basically, it appears that Alhambra citizens are disengaged and uninvolved, possibly due to the treatment mentioned above and much to the delight of the council.

      In fact, I think that USC Annenberg should conduct a more detailed study to find out why the citizens of Alhambra are being left out of the process. Something is very wrong in Alhambra.