Coalition of Concerned Citizens forms in La Puente

La Puente City Hall has seen its fair share of ups and downs – a lot more downs most recently.

Over the past year, City Hall has lost 13 department heads due to a reorganization and has gained a new city manager, who is still getting the hang of things after years of instability at the top. It is currently addressing several risk management issues brought forward in August by its insurance agency, the Joint Powers Insurance Authority, because of many lawsuits and claims filed against the city. It has until Dec. 31, 2012 to turn things around.

And now, a group of residents and business owners say those issues – and several new city retrofitting policies that they say threaten the livelihood of downtown business owners – have forced them to form the Coalition of Concerned Citizens to keep the City Council and staff members accountable.

“There’s a whole lot of issues of wasting government money on trips and hassling citizens,” founder Frank Sanchez said. “We want to make a statement. We’re tired that our concerns aren’t being heard and we want a transparent government. We’re looking to get answers.”

A group of about 60 residents, business owners and former and current city staff members attended the Coalition’s debut meeting last month and its members have vowed to attend as many city meetings as possible to make their presence known.

Many say they are frustrated by “petty politics” within the City Council and the micromanaging atmosphere perpetuated by some council members – pointing to some ad hoc committees that recently formed, including an organizational committee and a city attorney request for qualifications committee.

City Manager Bret Plumlee, with the help of Councilman David Argudo and Mayor John Solis, hired Ward T. Komers last month to be the city’s Director of Administrative Services and Roxanne Lerma as the new Recreation Manager.

Komers previously worked as the administrative services manager for Riverside County’s building and safety and code enforcement departments. Lerma previously worked for the city of Walnut and Yorba Linda, and was a Parks and Recreation Commissioner for Placentia while she was still in high school.

Despite the progress, La Puente still has a ways to go, coalition members said.

“Our coalition mission is simple,” coalition spokesman Craig French told the council on Nov. 22. “The betterment of La Puente through community involvement and responsible and transparent governance.”

The group will be speaking during oral comment at the City Council meeting at 7 p.m. tonight at City Hall, 15900 E. Main St.

The coalition will hold its own general town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Big Blue Building, 123 S. First St.