Over the last two budget cycles the council majority, which included Councilman Victor Vega, has sought reductions in the city staff. These reductions have created a serious backlog simply because there is no one to conduct research, develop a response, hold meetings and submit reports to the council.
All five councilmembers are aware of the problem.
Councilman Vega’s request concerned making Amendments to the Handbook for Commission, Committee, and Board Members Relating to Future Agenda Item Requests and Cancellation of Meetings.
He says he “wants to have a path so meetings aren’t cancelled, and commissioners can have their requests discussed.” In other words, after reducing the staff, he wants more meetings.
To be frank, few of these commissions serve any useful purpose and public attendance is sparse. Over the last several years, there have been few recommendations provided to the City Council and when they are, they are generally ignored.
The exception is the Planning Commission, which is a quasi-judicial function and has the authority to conduct public hearings and make some decisions, and their recommendations were generally supported by the council.
The staff points out that” “With regard to requesting future agenda items, the Commission Handbook does not contain a clear procedure or rule for doing so.”
However, on page 32 of the handbook, it clearly states that: “When a member wishes to propose an idea for the board to consider, the member must make a motion;” and “Another member seconds the motion.” So, it sounds like at least a motion and a second are needed to place a future item on the agenda.
The staff says the handbook doesn’t even address how meetings are cancelled; but on page 33 it clearly states that: “The Chairperson and the staff should be in contact prior to each regularly scheduled meeting in order to review and discuss the agenda.”
I served as an appointed commissioner for more than two decades; my experience on these commission’s was that when a commissioner made a request, we used the same practice as the council and required threee votes for the requested information.
As far as cancelling meetings, as the chair, if the staff had no items for discussion I would receive a call as a courtesy that the meeting would be cancelled for lack of business and it would be followed up with an email notifying all members, including the City Council.
I also attended many other commission and committee meetings; I observed that, except for the Planning Commission, these groups frequently strayed from the agenda, which may have been a violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act. These commissions, however, do not conduct public hearings or make any decisions, they only talk about various subjects.
The staff offered five recommendations for consideration; the council discussed the merits of each, however Councilman Vega, who made the request, offered little to the discussion, and simply agreed with the other members.
Councilwoman Gilda Cordova said, “Why can’t we just write in the handbook as what is written in the Council Handbook; is it clearly written in the handbook that commissioners cannot request an item that would incur cost?”
The city attorney responded, “No.” She thought that commissioner requests should follow the same process as used by the council.
Councilman Vega had a concern that when meetings are cancelled, “no one is notified.” Mayor Jenelle Osborne and others pointed out that the city clerk always notifies councilmembers when a meeting is either scheduled or cancelled.
Vega went on to say he was just asking that an item can be discussed and that no staff report was needed; in other words, these meetings wouldn’t produce anything.
Mayor Osborne supported one option and Councilman Jim Mosby favored another. After Mosby made his point, Osborne agreed with him due to the potential for a Brown Act violation. Option three was chosen:
“Between meetings, if a commissioner desires to request a future agenda item, the commissioner notifies staff. Staff will then hold the meeting so that the commissioner can make the future agenda item request at the meeting.”
She summarized the discussion in her motion and added that a five work-day notice was needed to add an item and a majority needed to agree to discuss it (just like council); and lastly that the request could not incur any cost of labor or materials; Mosby seconded it and it passed 5-0.
Councilman Vega has his eye set on the mayor’s seat; his latest council request clearly demonstrates why he isn’t up to the task.
After requesting the discussion, he did little more than agree with the others. He didn’t even offer a motion or second, instead allowing all the others to do the work. And he didn’t even know that he receives notices of meeting cancellations.
If he is serious about being mayor, he is way behind the power curve and should wait until he figures out how things work.
Staff report: https://www.cityoflompoc.com/home/showdocument?id=29782.
Commission Handbook: https://www.cityoflompoc.com/home/showdocument?id=1530.