By Shawn Raymundo
City councilors last week deliberated a proposed ordinance meant to restructure San Clemente’s committees and commissions, making revisions to the draft of the measure that could come back to the council for final approval later this month.
One of the major revisions made to the proposal came at the outset of the council’s discussion on Dec. 3, when Mayor Dan Bane agreed to withdraw his idea of having members on the Planning Commission and Investment Advisory Committee be appointed by councilors in a one-to-one selection—a sticking point among many of the committees’ current members.
Conducting a straw poll, Bane asked his fellow councilmembers on the dais whether they wanted to forgo his one-to-one appointment idea or keep the existing process, wherein the council body approves the committee membership at-large.
The majority of the council, excluding absent Councilmember Chris Hamm, voted to keep the at-large appointment process as is.
“I realize that change is hard, and sometimes it’s a good thing and sometimes it’s just a bad thing, so I can acknowledge when maybe it wasn’t the right direction to go, so we’ll reassess,” Bane said, noting that the impetus behind the suggestion was based on seeing other cities use a similar process effectively.
“It wasn’t a nefarious ‘we wanted to fire a planning commissioner if they didn’t do exactly what we wanted,’ ” he added. “It was really more of a situation where we thought we could vet out people with technical expertise, because frankly, planning commissioners should have a technical background.”
Some of the commissioners had initially signed up to speak during the public hearing portion and voice their opposition to the one-to-one proposal, but since that idea was nixed, many of them limited their remarks or opted not to formally address the council at all.
The proposed ordinance stems from the council’s review of the structure and composition of the standing committees back in June. The city has noted that the reorganization would improve the efficiency of city staff while expected to save $5,530 annually.
In general, the ordinance proposes to modify the number of members sitting on the various commissions, amend the frequency in which they meet and limit the duration of those meetings.
For instance, some of the meetings would occur only once every two months, while the Planning Commission would continue to meet twice a month and the Investment Advisory Committee would meet quarterly.
If passed, the ordinance also proposes to establish a Public Safety Committee that would include experts in public safety such as retired chiefs, officers and lifeguards who would be tasked with reviewing “performance measures and make recommendations.”
The initial draft of the ordinance had the new committee as a seven-member body. However, after the council’s discussion, it was reduced to six members, with one of those spots reserved for a representative of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to serve as an ex officio member.
With the exception of the Planning Commission, most of the groups would be reduced from seven members to five, according to the city’s report on the proposed ordinance. It was initially proposed that the Investment Advisory Committee would grow from five to seven members, but the council also dropped that idea at its last meeting.
The council also amended the ordinance to set the duration of the committee and commission meetings to three hours instead of only two, as previously proposed. During a joint meeting among the council, committees and commissions in late October, it was suggested that the time limit be extended to three hours because two would be too short.
Citing that suggestion at council’s Dec. 3 meeting, Bane noted that he wasn’t sure if he agreed with the remark, as the idea was to be respectful of the city staff’s time. However, Bane said he was willing to extend the duration to three hours, and the rest of the council agreed.
All members would continue to serve two-year staggered terms, according to the city. Should the council pass the ordinance, it would go into effect on July 1, 2020, with all the current members’ terms ending on June 30, 2020.
The city has noted that when the councilors make their appointments to all of the newly organized committees, if the ordinance passes, they’ll be able to determine the members who will serve for one year and those who will serve for two, allowing for staggered terms. The council will meet for its regular meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 17, when it could potentially vote on the ordinance.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.