Having to write a column on Tuesday night council meetings has always been a challenge because we go to press Wednesday around noon. This leaves little time for patient analysis.

From one standpoint, however, our two newest council members make analysis a little easier. By now, those who attend council meetings, or watch them on Channel 10, should know what I’m talking about. Council team members Gayle Washburn and Jamey Brooks have entered the arena: Jamey as the sword-swinging budget enforcer, and Gayle the super confident number-cruncher. I would feel more confident if either one of them had a clue to what they are doing.

Both were elected to council positions by promising dramatic changes. The target of most of their displeasure is our Special Projects Manager Roy Payne. They seek to have him removed from his present duties which include overseeing the construction of the new business park. They would also like to get rid of our Director of Public Works, Bert Rapp, and City Manager Tom Ristau.

Without exception, I have had issues with all three in the past. But it would be unusual indeed to agree with every decision made by city management.

There’s no doubt in my mind that team Washburn and Brooks bring a stubborn determination to the council which is focused on cutting just about all spending at any cost, for any project. They have already distinguished themselves at the first two meetings by voting NO on several projects critical to the health, safety, and welfare of Fillmore’s residents.

The Washburn-Brooks coalition voted (incomprehensibly) “no” at first efforts to purchase acreage in the Highway 126 bridge area, which ultimately will cost the city nothing, and would guarantee Sespe Creek storm flow in perpetuity. This would save hundreds of homeowners from having to purchase expensive flood insurance.

Then there was the issue of accepting a GRANT of $315,000 to acquire (from the Fillmore Irrigation District) a few acres at the northeast area of the bridge over Highway 23. The city would have to come up with 10-percent to make the deal go. This acquisition is critical for the completion of 415 feet of the bike path, and the completion of the levee to the northeastern abutment of the bridge. This was a grant from CalTrans. Washburn and Brooks voted no. Thank God Councilwoman Patti Walker understood the importance and joined with Steve Conaway to explain the importance of the CalTrans Bicycle Transportation Account Grant, or the path and levee would remain unchanged.

Then there was the effort by Washburn-Brooks to cancel Roy Payne’s contract to facilitate the business park and other work. After Conaway, and KDF Community Manager Rod McDonald explained how critically important Payne’s assistance has been, and remains, to the timely completion of the park, an ad hoc committee was formed to look into the terms of the contract. Again, Washburn and Brooks exhibited their ignorance of facts, but an eagerness to vote.

The last two council meetings have been extraordinarily long, ending at 1:45 a.m. and 11:48 p.m. due to the naive combativeness of these two.

My intentions were to say a few words about Clay Westling as our new City Clerk, and the curiously intense efforts by the Washburn-Brooks group to puff-up the job’s responsibilities. Westling appears happy with the outcome and is now seated comfortably at the council dais. He was mislead by overzealous Washburn-Brooks supporters and has now learned that, for example, he cannot attend executive and/or staff meetings, and cannot have all city records under his immediate control. Anyway, what I hear is that Clay is a genuinely nice guy and everyone seems to get along well with him. Amen.

With the new city council now easily able to vote contrary to what might have been expected of the old council, it is gratifying to see Mayor Patti Walker’s common sense and experience swinging the vote in the right direction on critical issues. We should all hope this sort of common sense prevails into the future.