Mayor Clark proposes changes at City Hall

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Among the routine responsibilities of a new council are the appointments to the Planning Commission and assignments to city committees and regional boards and commissions.

During the Dec. 19 meeting, Mayor Dan Clark proposed several departures from the city’s historical approach to the responsibilities of commissioners, as well as members of the public.

Clark said he has been disappointed by the feedback the council has received from the public.

“I have a problem with community members coming up here questioning your integrity,” he told members of the council. “Is it time for a code of decorum that says we expect the same of them as they expect of us?”

“Are you talking about making rules to limit speech the public can make at the podium?” asked City Attorney Keith Lemieux.

“I am talking about the disrespect out there. I have a problem with some of what I hear from this public.”

Lemieux said that unless that speech causes a major disruption to the meeting, it is not the role of the council to dictate what can be said. Listening to public criticism is part of “the job you signed up for.”

“People can say whatever they want. It’s part of being an American,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jason Patin. “It doesn’t hurt my feelings. You have to have thick skin.”

Clark said he only made the proposal to protect other members of the council; he deferred to the recommendation of the attorney.

“You’ve got a great way to deal with it,” said Lemieux. “You can also speak publicly. Take advantage of your position and promote respect.”

With the election of three new members, and another planning commissioner moving up to council, the council faced a dramatic change on the commission.

Vice Mayor Chip Holloway reappointed Chris LeCornu to the commission in order to have one hold-over. Councilmember Jim Sanders appointed Scott Davis, Councilmember Lori Acton appointed Pat Brokke, Patin appointed Robert Obergfell and Clark appointed former councilmember and planning commissioner Steven Morgan.

Clark said during his campaign that he would like for the city to evaluate eliminating committees as a way to preserve staff time, noting that as the force is reduced most of the obligations on their time remain the same.

Holloway said that he believed cutting committees and bringing all discussions to the council level increased transparency, but that some actions required the time to work through details that was better facilitated by having committees. He proposed some sort of hybrid model where some committees were eliminated, and only those with specific need were preserved.

Sanders, who is the most recent commissioner to be elected to the council, said he believed service on committees provides a valuable training ground for potential future councilmembers.

Clark made committee assignments, and the council postponed any action to dissolve committees to the future.

Clark also recommended removing planning commissioners from committees, and redirecting their focus to researching the benefits of becoming a charter city, rather than the current status as a general law city.

Holloway was among those who questioned whether researching the merits between charter and general law city was within the purview of the planning commission.

Former councilman Jerry Taylor agreed with Holloway from the public microphone.“The discussion of a general law city needs to be happening with the public in front of TV cameras.” He cited Bell city scandals — which many argue was facilitated by the lack of oversight in charter cities — as a strong argument against converting to a charter form of government.

Clark said that research doesn’t cost anything, and that when the council members discuss that option they need to have the research material in front of them.

Holloway said the League of California Cities recently assigned a task force for that very topic, and recommended the city wait to hear their findings.

See related story, this edition, for the city’s discussion of the current fiscal crisis.

Story First Published: 2013-01-02