July 2018: Mayor/City Mgr. Seek Tighter Control Over Discussion/Votes On "Unapproved" Topics By City Hall "Advisory Comm'ns" And Council Defers Public Action; Jan. 2019: Mayor/City Mgr Quietly Create "Working Group" Of Mayor-Picked Comm'nrs (Who?) To Review (When? Where?) Possible Changes (What?) To Advisory Bodies, Plus Possible Increased Compensation For Some Advisory Body Appointees is reader and advertiser supported. Support independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.
(Jan. 14, 2019, 9:20 a.m.) -- A July 10, 2018 City Council agenda item sought Council support to change LB's Municipal Code in ways that could effectively tighten control over subjects discussed or voted on by Mayor-chosen/Council-approved "Advisory Bodies." Unlike City Charter (voter enacted) Commissions (e.g. Water, Harbor, Planning Comm'ns), Council-created "advisory" commissions can only make recommendations to the Mayor/Council who chose/approved them; they have no decisionmaking powers.

After reported the July 2018 proposed action, a minor brouhaha ensued and the Council enabled a temporary retreat from public attention. On motion by Councilman Uranga, seconded by Councilman Austin, it laid the item over to an unspecified future Council meeting (passed 8-1, Richardson absent.)

Six months (and a special citywide election) have passed without public Council discussion of the matter...but has learned that last year's proposals, temporarily withdrawn from public discussion, may now be advancing below the public radar.

In a non-agendized January 8, 2019 memo, City Manager Pat West informed all Councilmembers (who have decisional voting power) that the offices of Mayor Robert Garcia and the City Manager (who don't have those powers) have taken the following steps:

[Jan. 8, 2019 memo]...To conduct a thorough review of the City's advisory bodies and receive information from a diverse cohort of stakeholders, the City Manager's Office collaborated with the Mayor's Office to create an informal working group of current Commissioners to review the status of the City's advisory bodies and report back to the City Council. The working group will conduct a comprehensive review of the proposed changes to the City's advisory bodies, as well as provide input and recommendations to the City Manager. Members of the working group will be selected by the Mayor and City Manager.

Who? What? When? City management didn't disclose these matters to elected Councilmembers. Accordingly, plans to use the Public Records Act to get the full story for our readers.

It's a matter of record that in its July 10, 2018 agendizing memo, city management told the Council in pertinent part:

[Scroll down for further.]

...[B]oth the [advisory] bodies and the City Council have recently expressed some confusion about the bodies' roles and responsibilities, including best practices for how bodies should operate, transmit ideas to the City Council, and set agendas. Moreover, a lack of clearly identifiable roles and guidelines have prevented the bodies from operating in an effective and efficient manner. In response, the Offices of the Mayor, City Manager, and the City Attorney have discussed various options to enhance the delivery of services by the bodies, and determined that amending key sections of the LBMC pertaining to the bodies would significantly improve how the bodies operate with the City Council and City staff. The proposed changes will enable members of the bodies to better understand their roles and responsibilities, allow City staff to better support the bodies through defined operating procedures, and provide guidelines for communicating input to the Mayor and the City Council. Specific changes will clearly address defining the duties and functions of advisory bodies, identifying the City staff responsible for setting the advisory bodies' agendas, clarifying the permissible uses of City staff resources, and clarifying authority over City officers and employees. The intention is to strengthen the impact and effectiveness of the City's advisory bodies, and make the work more efficient and productive.

Below are some of the changes sought in July 2018 to make the advisory commissions "more efficient and productive."

Advisory Body Agenda

The LBMC [Municipal Code] is currently silent on naming the City staff position charged with setting the agendas for the advisory bodies, and also charged with controlling what items can be placed on the agenda. This missing designation in the LBMC can become a source of confusion when an advisory body member attempts to place an item on an agenda that is either not within the advisory body's jurisdiction, or concerns a subject matter that is within the purview of another body or even the City Council. It is recommended that Chapter 2.18 be amended to designate the City Manager, through his/her designated staff, as the person delegated with the authority to control the agenda. The Mayor and City Council will retain the right to provide direction to the advisory body through formal City Council action; however, revision of Chapter 2.18 would greatly reduce confusion about who can place an item on the agenda, what that process is, and any conflicts or redundancies between the work of the advisory bodies...

City Council Agenda

Chapter 2.18 does not specify in detail the way advisory bodies may provide input to the Mayor and City Council on items not specifically referred to such bodies. To clarify this role, it is recommended that a section related to duties and functions be added to the LBMC, which would include a description of advisory bodies' functions that follows the general language outlined in the Handbook. Moreover, because advisory recommendations are more structured when processed through the City Manager, language should be added defining the role of the City Manager and designee for placing advisory bodies' items onto the City Council agenda...

Removal of Members

To ensure efficiency, staff is recommending that the LBMC be amended to eliminate the requirement to show cause, and simply make advisory members removal become automatic (that is, occurring without the need for City Council action) when a member has had unexcused absences from three meetings within a six-month period or no longer lives in the City. The LBMC should also follow City Charter Section 510 concerning the process for removing members for other reasons; however, requiring a majority, instead of two-thirds, vote of the City Council.

In addition, city management's Jan 8, 2019 memo notes that the City has 242 Mayor-chosen/Council-approved commissioners" in 35 active Council-created bodies...and it's been at least 20 years since the Council considered any changes in compensation paid to some members of some Council-created commissions ($50 to $100 "stipends" for members of 7 such bodies.)

[ independently notes that the City's "Housing Authority" consists of all nine City Councilmembers plus two tenant representatives, each of whom receives $50 for each meeting attended, usually very briefly before Council meetings. A quick check shows the Jan 16, 2018 "Housing Authority" meeting ran six minutes; the December 11, 2018 meeting ran 5 minutes; the body met 11 times in 2018; not all Councilmembers are present for all "Housing Authority" meetings.]







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