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Councilman Kenneth R. Hetge addresses the issue of placing decals that say "In God We Trust" on police and city vehicles at the July 15 City Council meeting.

Tehachapi City Councilman Kenneth R. Hetge requested updates and discussion on several matters during the July 15 City Council meeting. Some topics addressed public comment from previous council meetings.

Elimination of timer

At recent meetings, the Tehachapi City Council has enforced a a three-minute public comment limit per person, with a timer counting down and a clerk announcing when 30 seconds are left for a speaker who approaches the podium.

"I understand, Madam Mayor, the purpose of the three-minute timer, but I really think that if our citizens are coming forward and talking about their concerns, that we ought to provide some flexibility," Hetge said.

Mayor Susan Wiggins said she allowed one person five minutes to speak on one topic Hetge addressed under councilman reports that night, but made no comment on extending time.

Councilman Phil Smith said, “I think it can be used the way it is. If you can’t make your point in about three minutes, then bring it back for an agenda item. These items come up. They are not for a motion or vote, but if they are not getting enough time, we can reschedule more time at another council meeting.”

Second Amendment rights

Hetge requested more information on possibly declaring Tehachapi a constitutional Second Amendment sanctuary city and how citizens' rights can be protected from new gun laws, along with rights for people to carry concealed weapons. This was referred to staff.

"The United States constitution provides protections for its citizens to keep and bear arms. Neither state nor local law should impede nor restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens to purchase firearms or ammunition to protect themselves, and their families," Hetge said.

Hetge submitted a letter asking that city staff look into sending a letter to Tehachapi Police Chief Kent Kroeger, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood and the state calling on them not to enforce firearms laws that conflict with the Second Amendment.

Gun laws have become stricter and recently larger cities in California have taken the lead in passing laws, and influencing smaller cities. These changes may endanger the right of people to carry concealed weapons and protect themselves, said Hetge.

"Those decisions that they make will ultimately propagate their way through the state of California and make their way to our door," Hetge said. Research and investigation costs would come with this issue.

Tehachapi resident Socorro Schmidt said, "I think this needs to be a matter for the public’s vote." 

Definition of city attorney

Hetge also asked for a definition or job description of City Attorney Tom Shroeter's role in council meetings.

"We do whatever we need to do, but we as the elected board for this community take charge for how this meeting runs,” said Hetge.

Wiggins said, “We pay our city attorney, our city manager, our police chief, a very decent salary. Part of the reason for that is to know their expertise...they come to us with their degrees, their certifications, and with years of experience and I have no problem with any of them assisting me."

More than two people from the public asked to speak; Wiggins said there was no action to be taken.

Wiggins said, “No. These are just his little things," referring to Hetge's councilman reports.

Definition of city manager

Hetge asked for the definition of the city manager's role as acting chief HR administrator.

Tehachapi City Manager Greg Garrett said, "I am the human resources manager. I hire, I fire, I promote, I demote, I review reviews. I am the in-charge manager. There are several people within our organization that assist."

He added that if any employee has a concern they are "strongly encouraged" to come to him and together solve the issue.

Smith said at times there is a committee that helps participate in solving employee grievances, and it is possible it could be used again.