The meeting started off with the Pledge of Allegiance presented by the Whittier girl scouts, followed by the Council recognizing two Whittier families who had a loved one deployed to Iraq and safely returned (the Llamas family and the Longstreth/Aguilar family).
The Military families were followed by an awards ceremony of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), honoring Whittier Police Officers for going above and beyond when it comes to taking drunk drivers off the road.
The last two points of the Presentations was a Proclamation honoring Public Works employees and the Mayor receiving an award for the Greenway Trail.
After the Presententations, the Oral Communications were up next! And this is where the public gets involved. From what I understand, Council Meetings aren't always so lively, but this one sure was. 41 residents got a chance to speak up and voice their support and/or concerns.
Members of both the Whittier Uptown Association and F.U.N. (Fix Uptown Now), as well as many independant Whittier residents and merchants showed up to mainly talk about the Wednesday evening Uptown Festival. While F.U.N. advocated moving the fair to Sundays and asked for an improvement in the quality of vendors, the Whittier Uptown Association held on to the Wednesday time slot but promised an improvement in vendor selection as well as trying to get the local merchants more involved.
It was a very friendly "debate", there was no finger pointing between the different groups, just different opinions on how to address this matter and good ideas on how the festival could be improved. There were also many vendors that voiced their opinion and spoke of past experiences from the festival - ranging from having no impact at all on their business, to being a big money maker, to having a negative impact.
With all this feedback and different points of views, the City Council was truly faced with a difficult decision. Due to Council members Bob Henderson and Joe Vinatieri having to recuse themselves due to being part of the Whittier Uptown Association and/or owning property in the area in question for the permit, the decision making came down to Mayor Nordbak, Mayor Por Tem Cathy Warner, and Councilman Owen Newcomer.
Councilman Newcomer was the first to speak in favor of granting the permit, while Mayor Nordbak and Mayor Por Tem Warner had many questions left for the Whittier Uptown Association, which lead to the Association President, Paul Brenier, taking the stand and fighting for his cause.
Some of the major issues were the fact that the Association had not yet picked a Production Company and therefore were not in the position to give the Council a good idea of what type of merchants would be at the shows. Another issue was the question of whether local vendors would be allowed to sell food AND have seating arrangements in front of their businesses. According to the Council Advisor, this would be against the Uptown Specific Plan, however, the Council agreed that it would be a good way to tie the local vendors into the Festival (if the display was in compliance with all the necessary provisions). But again, this would have a big impact on the liability of the Whittier Uptown Association because including the sidewalks would change the permit for a "curb to curb" event to include the sidewalks.
There were actually several times during the Council's deliberations where it looked like no decision would be made that evening, but after going over all the issues and the Whittier Uptown Association President agreeing to go back to the Association to discuss the inclusion of the sidewalks, the Council unanimously granted the permit.
Now the ball is back in the Whittier Uptown Association's court to put together a quality festival that will at least make the majority of Whittier residents and merchants happy. There are many criteria that the Council attached to the permit (such as increased clean up of the festival area throughout the year, etc.) which the Association will have to adhere to or face the risk of having to pay fines or having the permit revoked.
Many residents have already voiced their excitement about the fact that the Council has granted the permit and that the Festival will return to Uptown. It will be a team effort to make it a great event and I hope it will be a great success, for the Whittier residents, the Association, and our local merchants.
Looking forward to the Festival and the changes, AND the next Council Meeting :-)
Thanks for reading,