The LookOut sm confidential

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C. Castle

A Not-So-Open-Door Policy

What's going on with the school district's newly formed Advisory Council?

That's what we'd like to know. We tried to attend the meeting, but found ourselves with an empty notepad out in the hallway. The press, we were told, was not allowed.

We found that odd. After all, the group -- made up of some of the city's most influential leaders -- is charged with overseeing the superintendent's hand-picked Financial Task Force.

Unfortunately we were told the group's first meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 18, wasn't open to the public, despite the school district's own press release, which states: "It is anticipated that Advisory Council sessions would be meetings at which the public is welcome to observe." The same release said the meetings may be televised.

The council, which includes former mayors Judy Abdo and Nat Trives, former Outlook Editor Skip Rimer, prominent land-use attorney Chris Harding and RANDVP Michael Rich, was told the first meeting was closed because it was a briefing.

"I've raised the issue of the lack of public process," one member said. "I'm being told the meetings are open to the public from this point forward. The one last night, they wanted a briefing only. I don't agree with that approach.

"I think that it was wrong not to allow the press in, but I've been told that will be rectified. If it's not rectified I will not participate in a non-public process, and I'm not alone."

The Advisory Council will review the work of the Finacial Task Force, which consists of four Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School District parents. The task force will review district funding sources, evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness with which the district uses existing resources and evaluate budget planning and expenditure practices, according to a press release.

The school district is facing $4 to $5 million budget shortfall described by Superintendent Neil Schmidt as an "absolute disaster."

"I tend to think they will move in a positive direction and be open even though they haven't done it thus far," the member said.

Boxing Jalili Style

Seems John Jalili's rekown as a low-key player behind the scenes carries over to his packing methods. For several Days, the 62-year-old City Manager has been clearing out the desk he has occupied for 15 years.

"In a John-like way, he does it subtly and behind the scenes," said Assistant City Manager Susan McCarthy, who takes over the top post at midnight Saturday. "You see him bringing in boxes, but you don't see him taking them out. He'll be clever about it."

Meanwhile staff is still trying to get used to life without Jalili.

"I can't imagine it," said Jeff Mathieu, the city's director of Resource Management. "We all know he leaving and have been preparing for that. But we all expect him to be there on Monday."

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