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Tuesday, Mar 04 2014 06:01 PM

Councilwoman sorry for 'filibuster' charge

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Council members Jacquie Sullivan, left, Terry Maxwell, and Russell Johnson, right, talk business during an October 2013 Bakersfield City Council meeting.

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan has apologized to colleague Terry Maxwell for saying at the last council meeting that he'd victimized the panel with a 55-minute "filibuster" on widening 24th Street.

Sullivan, who represents Ward 6 to the south, said in an email to Maxwell and other council members Feb. 14 she was "humbled and put in my place" after her comments at the Feb. 12 meeting.

"Terry, you had the right to say whatever you wanted to say. I considered your presentation to be at the 13th hour, but your report represented many hours of research and did a good job," Sullivan wrote, thanking Ward 1 Councilman Willie Rivera "for coming to Terry's defense -- that was the right thing to do."

Sullivan referenced "several 'strong' telephone calls, chastising me," saying she felt she owed the council and the viewing public an apology.

Maxwell, who represents Ward 2, said he was impressed by Sullivan admitting she was at fault.

"I always think it's the bigger person who can admit when they've done something wrong and ask for someone's forgiveness, rather than someone who stands by a position that's indefensible," said Maxwell, who has voted against widening 24th Street and building cul-de-sacs to protect residents to the south from traffic.

Maxwell said he hadn't sought the apology. Rivera said he was glad to receive Sullivan's letter -- and ready to get back to doing the city's business.

"I'm glad she apologized and I think I'm ready to continue tackling the important issues we have before the city council," he said.

On Feb. 12, Sullivan challenged Maxwell as to why he felt compelled to keep talking for nearly an hour.

"Do you really feel you had the support to perhaps not do the project from three other council members?" the councilwoman asked him then.

Rivera then said he hadn't planned to speak but "someone set me off" -- and commended Maxwell for sticking to his guns.

The vote that night was 6-1 to approve the EIR, but Sullivan didn't get to go home before hearing from angry downtown resident Julie Young, whose house on 24th Street likely will be demolished by the widening.

Young and Vanessa Vangel, a founder of Citizens Against the 24th Street Widening Project, were among several residents who sought a meeting with Sullivan Feb. 25 to air grievances.

Vangel said she was appalled to hear Sullivan admit she hadn't read the EIR.

"That opens up a whole can of worms potentially. Talk about dereliction of duty," Vangel said.

"The only way the viewing public is going to know she's apologizing is if she apologizes to the viewing public, and that would be at tomorrow night's council meeting."

Sullivan remembered the encounter differently.

"I would not have made it sound like I was seeing it for the first time or hadn't spent a lot of time on it," the councilwoman said. "I'm certainly familiar with it. I've talked to (city) staff about it, we've gone phase-by-phase. I feel very confident that I'm familiar with it."

Young said she's happy with Sullivan's letter.

"I wanted her to apologize to us but I'm satisfied that she apologized to him," Young said. "He's somebody who's taken up for us."

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