Commission and Committee Structure
Chairman McNelly prefaced the discussion by explaining that its purpose of the meeting was to comment on the proposed changes to City Commissions and Committee structure. He explained that minutes on this discussion would be sent to City Council for their consideration at the July 2, 2004 City Council meeting.
Staff was directed to make sure City Clerk had the members updated information. Chairman McNelly also noted that the City web site is not being updated in a timely manner.
Committee Member Mitchell recommended their thoughts and comments be put in writing. She stated that she believed this communication should take an approach on two areas: one, their personal feelings as to why the Committee is needed and important; and two, why it is important to keep as many people involved in government.
Committee Member McCormack agreed that there are two issues, the broader issue is volunteerism and civic participation and it is the general issue at heart of this proposal. He stated that specific to this Committee is their relevance in the advisory capacity and its importance.
Committee Member Pugh asked for background information on the other Committee proposed to be merged with the ERMC.
Chairman McNelly briefed the group on the Citizens Infrastructure Review Committee (CIRC). He stated that it was formed approximately a year and a half ago to address questions regarding Fullertons infrastructure over the next twenty years.
He asked that staff go back and look to see when the City Council took action on the CIRC. He explained the joint meetings were held between the CIRC and ERMC to specifically address questions and issues related to the sewer lateral lines. A letter of recommendation was composed but never published with eight recommendations to City Council. He drew a diagram to explain what exactly was in question.
Vice Chairman Hardwick expressed his belief that the Committees job is to sift and filter through information and advise Council of options and make recommendations. He stated that if the Committee is only telling Council what it wants to hear, then the purpose of the Committee is not relevant.
Committee Member Adamson stated that one of the benefits of the Committee process is that there is another outside source of information beside Staff. This benefit of having an independent public voice different from Staff provides Council an outside source of information. He recommended that this point be included in the written response.
Committee Member Devlin expressed a concern that the ERMC is perceived as irrelevant.
Committee Member Twineham expressed disappointment that it appears that not all Council Members are aware of the purpose of the ERMC. He did not agree with Committees being disbanded or eliminated but did agree that from time to time, monitoring should be done to make sure a Committee is as efficient and effective as possible. He expressed frustration that City Council is perhaps not reading through the materials that this Committee provides.
Chairman McNelly suggested that perhaps one of the considerations City Council is proposing is to equal gender participation. He stated that City Councils effort to change the terms of induction, appointment, and organization of these Committees is a blatant attempt to manipulate them.
Chairman McNelly stated that based on his experience, a Committee should be comprised of an uneven number of members to resolve issues due to potential divided votes and a Committee should be large enough to ensure a quorum at all meetings.
Chairman McNelly recommended to members that as they provide their feedback they look at how this Committee is different from the CIRC and also look at other questions on volunteerism, citizen participation, and benefits of the Committee/Commission process. He confirmed with members present that they understood that each individual Council Member would have the opportunity to nominate at least one member and in larger groups they would nominate two. Committee Member Mitchell stated that Council can only do this in situations where they have total control.
Committee Member Adamson stated that he has read through the material three times and is still unclear what City Council is specifically proposing.
Committee Member Roberts stated that appointment under the proposed process means that individuals would be serving at the Council Members pleasure, which is extremely bad. He expressed his opinion that once members are appointed, they should be allowed to finish off their term and not be recalled. Recall is acceptable however due to lack of participation (three unexcused absences).
Chairman McNelly disagreed with the assumption expressed by a Council Member that the system is broken. He shared this Committees long history. He stated that the efforts to dilute this group and merge it with the CIRC would make the job of the newly-created group a very difficult one. The quality of the advice would decrease and the burden of this advisory board would increase since there would be many more issues to review.
Committee Member Mitchell agreed with the Chairman, recalling the months where these two Committees held joint meetings. She stated that this group was forced to hold additional meetings to address the items that were not able to be discussed at the joint meetings due to insufficient time. She questioned how there could possibly be enough time for this newly-merged Committee to go over all issues that come up.
Chairman McNelly questioned whether or not there is a process or plan in place should any Committees be disbanded. He stated that the proposed changes do not include specifics on the implementation of the proposed changes would resignations of existing members be required, would current members be able to reapply, etc. He reiterated that it was not defined if Council would pick and choose members. He also reminded members that this year is an election year. He expressed frustration that this issue was not well thought out. He was disappointed that not Council had brought this forward to Committees prior to proposing the changes.
Committee Member Adamson felt that if you politicize the process, then the expertise, experience and background of citizens is lost. He questioned whether Council Members will appoint members based on politics since rather than knowledge and background.
Committee Member McCormack expressed that although he can respect Councils principle which is to have influence in this process, he thinks it a far reaching proposal that does not distinguish between advisory Committees such as this one, and commissions like the Planning Commission which have decision-making authority. He described the current ERMC membership as a group of citizen volunteers with expertise and interest that five randomly-selected members would not be able to bring to the table and thus, shortchange this Committees function. He questioned if five members could do what is currently done with the Green pages. He also expressed that Fullertons current system is a hallmark of a healthy democracy and civic participation. He stated that Council should take pride in it and understand that this current system is not in conflict with what they are trying to do which is to have some type of influence. He stated that ultimately, in all cases, it is Councils decision on the Committees recommendations and the more people involved, the more of a democracy there is. The ultimate power is in Council who has the power to say no.
Chairman McNelly stated that this Committee remains as an education body to Council. He expressed concern that if the two Committees are combined the amount of energy and effort going into the environmental issues would be put on the back burner.
Chairman McNelly informed members that Don Hoppe from Engineering would be taking over the staff role to the CIRC since former staff, Jennifer Phillips, is no longer with the City.
Vice Chairman Hardwick expressed that without a clear understanding of what Council views as faulty with the current system, it is difficult to respond with reasoning or provide appropriate feedback. He feels that advisory Committees formed of concerned citizens effectively serve the City Council. Ultimately, if Council is not in agreement with these Committees they have the ability to say no and not take the recommendations. He expressed that if the ERMC does communicate a position to the City Council on this issue it should state that the Committee is unclear on the need for these changes since the current system serves Council well by providing a diverse amount of opinions and recommendations from which to choose. He expressed frustration that perhaps Councils mind is already made up and might not appreciate the recommendations and work put in by these Committees.
Chairman McNelly asked Staff to clarify if there has been an issue or meeting within Managers discussing Staff Time. He asked if there is thought that Committees are draining on City and staff time and in effect diminishing staffs efficiency to deal with other issues. Ms. Sowers explained that Staff was asked to provide a breakdown of the work done for each Committee but was unaware of the reason for the request or how the information would be used. She indicated that she was not sure if it was for budget purposes. Chairman McNelly asked if a staff report was prepared since this document would be public information. He explained that if there are other legitimate concerns such as the efficient use of resources, it would be helpful that these be made public so that Committees could provide better feedback. Ms. Sowers stated that Staff would investigate if these discussions took place.
Committee Member McCormack commented that the Committee is struggling with City Councils claims that the system is broken when there is nothing to back up this claim. He did not see the rationale in disbanding what is an asset to the community. He shared his struggle to think that they would throw away what in his mind is so important.
Committee Member Twineham stated that the work is important. He noted that his own ethic demands that he participate in the community.
Committee Member McCormack stated that these are concerns from the community but questioned how to get the message to Council. He expressed the need for a concerted effort with the other Committees since ultimately the strength would be in numbers.
Chairman McNelly shared his concern about Staff being able to cancel meetings and dictate to the Committee what needs to be placed in the agenda.
Committee Member Roberts confirmed that Council had already approved the restructuring. He stated that the system is going to change. He acknowledged that all members bring something different to the Committee and expressed concern that if there are direct appointments, the new members will serve as additional staff people to Council.
Chairman McNelly expressed a concern that the restructuring process is vague, not well thought out, unclear, illogical, and for some reason hurried. He felt that there is some rush to do something for some reasons that are not being fully disclosed; even with the July postponement. For these reasons, his opinion is that there seems to be major reshuffling to fit personal agendas.
Chairman McNelly told members that he was not sure if this Committee could stop changes but felt it important that they respectfully communicate the following: The interest of the community is not served if Council is only getting the advice that they want to hear. If they continue insisting to get only the recommendations that they wish to hear, the community will suffer. He stated that he thinks that this statement is truthful and they would be doing a disservice to council if it is not expressed.
Committee Member Roberts recommended that Committees should not include less than seven members. He noted that Committees are helpful to develop future leaders as they provide a mechanism for citizens to enter local politics. He expressed fear of losing the ability for regular citizens and regular business people to serve with rigor, learn, and move up along the way. He expressed worry about direct appointments and would love to see an independent review of the appointments. He felt that a system could be created that satisfies both. He concluded by stating that once the selections are made, members should be allowed to serve their terms without fear of removal by Council.
Chairman McNelly summarized the two issues at hand. The issues he brought up are:
- Pending guidelines and specifics as to what would happen to existing Committee members if the proposed changes are made or Committees are eliminated.
- It is not clear what it means to existing members.
- It is difficult to support the process without details.
- Pending formation of a new group between the ERMC and CIRC
- There is no guidance what will the process be.
Committee Member McCormack asked for clarification on what actions would be contemplated by Council at the July meeting and Chairman McNelly said his understanding was that the consolidation question would be discussed.
Committee Member Pugh MADE a MOTION that the ERMC Committee make a recommendation to the City Council that this Committee retain its current number of members and that it not be consolidated with any other Commission/Committee within the City.
There was discussion on the motion by Committee members Hardwick and Pugh that this motion be AMENDED to include that the correspondence be sent to City Council with signatures of all ERMC members in support of the motion.
This AMENDED Motion was SECONDED by Vice Chairman Hardwick with the AMENDMENT that the correspondence be sent to City Council with signatures of all ERMC members in support of the motion.
Committee Member Roberts confirmed with Chairman McNelly that the meeting for June 16th will still take place and recommended that this MOTION be tabled and placed on the Agenda as an ACTION ITEM for June 16, 2004. He asked Staff to make todays minutes available by this date to be used as background.
Chairman McNelly agreed that the timing was still good and felt that it would be appropriate to agendize this motion to be voted on at the next meeting. Chairman McNelly liked the idea to move this forward as an action item with a draft letter by Staff based on the comments from today. He also encouraged each member to write a note.
Committee Member McCormack asked if they should vote on this recommendation and Chairman McNelly recommended that they move forward. Ms. Sowers stated that she would draft the letter and asked members to provide input.
Committee Member Twineham asked if it was possible that they pass the motion and make the action item only approval of the letter.
Committee Member Pugh expressed that he understood this meeting was properly noticed to the public and felt that the MOTION was properly made.
After further discussion by members present, the MOTION on the floor passed UNANIMOUSLY. The MOTION passed is as follows:
- That the Energy and Resource Management Committee make a recommendation to City Council that this Committee retain its current number of members and it not be consolidated with any other Commission/Committee within the City.
- That a correspondence be sent to City Council with Committee Member signatures.