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Where is Councilman Jim Vreeland?

With two unexcused absences and many excused absences from city council meetings, community members are asking, "Will he step down?"

Councilman Jim Vreeland has been conspicuously absent since he was reelected in Nov. 2010. 

He's missed something like 12 or 13 city council meetings (I stopped counting after a while) since coming in . This has many community members, myself included, wondering, "What's going on? Will he resign?"

Tom Clifford, a city council hopeful in the last election, expressed as much at Monday night's city council meeting. 

Clifford suggested that the council select the next vote getter from November's election to replace Vreeland (which would not be Clifford) and concluded that he "just wants to be represented."

There's been no word whatsoever of resignation and rumors about why Vreeland's been gone have run rampant. I won't get into those here as they're strictly rumors except to say they fall into two camps: pure apathy and medical issues. 

And, honestly, the reason behind his absences is beside the point. Illness or no, Pacifica needs a full city council in order to deal with the daunting task before it now that the fire suppression assessment tax : cuts to city services, layoffs and economic development.  

There is no doubt in my mind that Vreeland could lend insight and experience to current council discussions about those issues. 

He was the first Pacifican to chair the City/County Association of Governments (C/CAG), which organizes land-use policy in San Mateo County and aids cities in improving infrastructure and developed land, and held on to that post for two terms. 

Vreeland, along with others, played a large role in the rehabilitation of Linda Mar State Beach and the planning of the coastal trail that will eventually (hopefully) link the Manor with Devil's Slide and beyond. He's also been on the San Mateo County Transportation Authority and served as Pacifica's mayor two or three times.

In short, he has a beefy résumé regardless of how notorious he's become in some residents' minds for his flightiness, temper and inconsistency. 

That experience, however, means nothing if the councilman does not attend meetings. 

There is one way the city council can depose Vreeland without his resignation according to state law. If he racks up four unexcused absences within a period of 60 days (he currently has 2 that are applicable), a community member can step forward and issue a formal complaint. That's all it takes.

There is no limit to the number of excused absences a councilmember can have. What is considered an excused absence and what isn't has, until recently, been largely up to the city clerk. Stricter rules may be coming, however. 

If Vreeland is formally booted, it will be up to the council how it chooses a new member. It could hold another election, but it won't. The expense for that would fall on the city and the it doesn't have the cash. It could choose the next vote getter in November's election, , but my bet is that it wouldn't do that, either. There are too many ideological differences between the current councilmembers and Leon for him to be an attractive choice. The only other option for choosing a new member would be to pick an individual at large. It could be me (I, of course, would respectfully decline), it could be Todd Bray (the new blogger opponent of many at city hall and on the council), it could be a former councilmember such as Julie Lancelle or it could be the guy who sits with all of the pigeons by the Pacifica Pier on sunny days. Who knows?

Vreeland can save his seat indefinitely very easily, however. If he shows up to one meeting before he accumulates four unexcused absences, the count begins all over. He can miss a huge number of meetings by balancing unexcused absences with excused absences and occasionally popping in at meetings. This raises a question: should the law be changed so that it's harder for a councilmember to reset his or her unexcused absence tally? Is it right that he can skate by with little to no engagement?

I ask again, what is going on with Councilman Vreeland?

Will he resign? 

Will he make the city council whole again?

M. Curious April 13, 2011 at 08:23 PM
In the real world, such a rate of absenteeism is grounds for termination, unless there is an explanation. Vreeland was elected to do his job; if he cannot he is obligated to provide an explanation. Is the number of councilmembers mandated by law - if not, is it feasible/possible to not replace him at all and just have a smaller council? (Apologies for my lack of knowlege about how this works.) Regardless of whether Vreeland stays or goes, the city should create more stringent rules. Vreeland's behavior, absent an explanation (which should have been given before now), is negligent at best, and I would try to force him to pay the city back for the times he has not attended meetings.
PTP April 13, 2011 at 09:24 PM
Camden, have you attempted to get an interview with Councilmember Vreeland? It doesn't sound like it. But if you did, what was his response? You should print that response here. He is, after all, an elected public servant and we are his boss. We, the stakeholders of Pacifica, have the right to know why our paid, elected voice has gone silent. If he is stonewalling the media then that would not bode well for him. Certainly, if he took his fiduciary responsibilities to the citizens of Pacifica seriously, he would resign for the greater good. Sure gives the appearance that he cares more about that inflated paycheck than performing his councilmember roles and responsibilities. There is another option Camden - recall. It may definitely be warranted in this case. Since he will not pull the plug himself perhaps we should pull it for him.
Camden Swita April 13, 2011 at 09:57 PM
I haven't called in the last month, but past attempts at making contact have been met with silence. I will reach out soon for a response. My main point in this column is not to ask for the reason he has been gone. Ultimately, that's nearly irrelevant. The question is, why, without prodding, hasn't he said anything to the public explaining his absence?
Camden Swita April 13, 2011 at 10:23 PM
Called and left a message at 3:23p.m.
Lionel Emde April 14, 2011 at 04:21 AM
I tried eliciting comment and/or answers from Jim Vreeland last year about his position on the Hwy 1 widening recommended by Caltrans. He would not answer, whether by official city emails, blog posts, or general appeals. I wish him well, and do not want to see ill health overtake him. But, the citizens of Pacifica deserve full-time representation from their councilmembers. I also object to your (Camden's) characterization of Todd Bray as "the new blogger enemy of the council." What does that mean? If a person takes an opposing position, is that a signal to be called an "enemy?" I don't like that characterization at all. I've take plenty of opposing positions, still do, and the democratic process should be accomodating to the opposition, no matter how much you may not like it.
Camden Swita April 14, 2011 at 04:59 AM
Lionel, I take no issue with Todd Bray's political opinions whatsoever. I characterized him as the "blogger enemy" of the city council because of the written campaign he sustained during the lead-up to the tax vote and continues through comments on Fix Pacifica and the Riptide. What he's doing is a great example of written activism and I applaud him for it. That doesn't mean he hasn't positioned himself as an opponent, or enemy, of just about everyone at city hall and in the city council chambers. Camden
Lionel Emde April 14, 2011 at 05:04 AM
Attacking a position, or argument, should not qualify one as an "enemy." The word is loaded. I applaud Todd for examining the evidence, and changing his position. I have been at this long enough to know that knowledge is hard-won, and people who are willing to examine the evidence and come to a conclusion based upon it are to be , at least, considered serious.
Camden Swita April 14, 2011 at 05:08 AM
I also think he took a good look at the fire suppression assessment tax and wrote some compelling stuff. It's hard to tell whether he made a difference in the vote, but I'm sure he convinced more than a few people to vote against it. And (sigh), I see what you mean about the word "enemy". As much as I hate doing this retroactive edit stuff, I'll change it to "opponent". Thanks, Camden
Lionel Emde April 14, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Thank you Camden. Words mean something.
Bruce Hotchkiss April 14, 2011 at 06:16 PM
Mr. Vreeland owes it to the voters to explain his absence. If there is a health issue the public (in my opinion) will respect that. It isn't about prying into his private life, it is about knowing why a public official has seemingly abandoned the electorate.
Lena Robinson April 14, 2011 at 08:03 PM
Now will you please explain that to Todd Bray.
Bhatman April 14, 2011 at 08:17 PM
Hotchkiss owes it the the Patch readership that he no longer a resident or voter in Pacifica.
James Wagner April 14, 2011 at 09:17 PM
2010 pay to vreeland: Regular pay $7269.26 Car allowance $1755.39 RDA meeting $120.00 Cafeteria cash $11,040.00 $20,184.65 total! He missed 7 meetings last year. Counting the 2 they cancel, that's 9 he didn't go to, not to mention a ton of budget study sessions, regular study sessions and TA meetings. He's missed 3 council meetings already this year. That's out of only 7 meetings total. How many of you would still have a job with that record?
Bruce Hotchkiss April 14, 2011 at 10:33 PM
I've made it very clear that I moved from Pacifica to everyone who reads the Tribune, Patch and Riptide. And my name is either Bruce or Mr. Hotchkiss, unlike those who wish to operate behind a false name I use my full, correct, and real name.
Scotty April 15, 2011 at 12:32 AM
Hallman owes it to the Patch readership to actually come up with a defense of Vreeland, rather than accusing someone else of something that they freely admit on a regular basis.
Eddie Shore April 20, 2011 at 03:06 AM
how did the city make you feel after you took up a contrary position with them, Mister Emde? like a friend? hardly!
Camden Swita April 26, 2011 at 02:34 AM
4/25: At the city council meeting. Jim Vreeland is in attendance.
Camden Swita April 26, 2011 at 03:36 AM
Medical issues.
Bruce Hotchkiss April 26, 2011 at 04:00 AM
I wish him well.
PTP April 26, 2011 at 04:07 PM
Camden, this is your opportunity to become a break-out investigative reporter - worthy of Woodward and Bernstein genre. I understand Vreeland has at least two unexcused absences. Would missing a meeting for "medical reasons" ever be classified as an unexcused absence? I really don't think we are that cold or cruel in this town. While you are at it, perhaps you should investigate this "Deep Throat" tip: Vreeland's job responsibilities with the EPA include the Los Angeles vicinity. Perhaps he was away on business and just doesn't want to acknowledge that the logisitics of his job run counter to his fiduciary responsibilites to the city and his constituents. Remember, he had a poor attendance record before the last election yet he decided to run anyway. Whatever was going on in 2010 continues.
Eddie Shore April 26, 2011 at 07:53 PM
PTP how dare you sir. Vreeland's persistent absences are his to excuse. He does not answer to you, the taxpaying citizen, or the media.

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