I thought that I would respond to the Lamorinda Patch Editor's invitation to share some of my thoughts. I have chosen not to address, point by point, each factual inaccuracy contained in the letter, but, rather, to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts as they relate to many of the points contained therein.
The truth is that I care very much about the opinions of our citizens. I do my homework and come thoroughly prepared to every Town Council meeting. I listen carefully and respectfully to all input provided, and, then, as an elected official, it is my responsibility to make the very best decisions on behalf of the Town of Moraga. Each Moraga Town Councilmember serves as an "at-large" representative, and that means we are to always make decisions that are in the best interest of our community-at-large. While individual passions can run high on given issues, decisions must be made that reflect the values of a civil society. Moraga citizens can, and should, have the expectation that their elected leaders will consistently look out for their best interests and will always keep in mind that they are in their elected positions, first and foremost, to be effective stewards of the Town and its resources.
With regard to the notion of a non-existent "silent majority" in the Town of Moraga, the reality is that many of our citizens are working adults with children whose lives are filled with a plethora of responsibilities, including the maintenance of professional careers, raising of children, school-related commitments, extra-curricular involvements, and volunteer assignments. Because of these numerous commitments, many of our citizens cannot attend Moraga Town Council meetings — at least, not on a regular basis. For this reason, they have elected representatives they hope will do just that — represent their interests — when making decisions that are important to their quality of life.
Safety concerns are paramount when making any decisions related to public park use. Rancho Laguna Park (RLP) has been the site of an off-leash dog mauling so severe that it required surgery for the victimized dog and the putting down of the attacking dog. It does not require much imagination to realize how easily that victim could have been a small child. In addition, an off-leash dog has been reported to have knocked to the ground one of our senior citizens while she visited the park. Several reports have been detailed of off-leash dogs stealing food from residents trying to enjoy family picnics at Rancho Laguna Park. Moreover, many individuals who are on-leash dog enthusiasts will not use RLP during off-leash hours because of the potential conflicts between on- and off-leash dogs.
Off-leash dogs in public parks necessitate careful attention be paid to safety priorities, and to minimize the importance of this consideration is a serious mistake. Our parks are not privately held amenities; they belong to all of our citizens, and off-leash dog activity in a public park is a privilege, not an entitlement. For good reasons, many municipalities do not allow off-leash dogs in any public park, and those that do almost always mandate a fenced, appropriately sized, and separate area for off-leash activities.
Finally, it is important to note, that in an environment of scarce resources, these precious park commodities must be fairly shared. In order to realize that goal, it is necessary to move from an advocate's perspective to a diplomat's reality. There is no perfect solution to most problems or challenges, but there is usually the opportunity to craft a realistic compromise that is respectful of the diverse needs and priorities of a heterogeneous community.
Karen Mendonca is a candidate for re-election to the Moraga Town Council Nov. 6.