Council eliminates most committees

In an action that members of the Ridgecrest City Council say will increase efficiency and promote public transparency, the council eliminated most of its standing committees.

However, the action to define and establish ad hoc committees was tabled and is expected to come back for council approval once staff has a formal recommendation.

With the exception of the ACTION committee, which functions essentially as a community partnership for public safety, the committees that examined other routine functions of city government were dissolved, with those issues being brought before the full council in the future.

The idea behind eliminating committees has been discussed for years as a means for reducing the requirements on staff time — which councilmembers agreed is now more impacted than ever after layoffs and attrition.

Others have argued the inefficiency of charting out a specific course with input from only two members (the Brown Act prohibits participation from more than that) at the committee level, only to see the consensus take the issue in another direction.

Bringing all issues before the full council will also allow all issues to be discussed in a manner that is transcribed and recorded for the benefit of the public.

Mayor Dan Clark brought forward an initiative that would form ad hoc committees for several functions of government, including public services and finance, in order to “wrap up all those loose ends before committees are eliminated.”

He said that if the council did not keep some committees intact, councilmembers would have to approach staff to get information.

“The whole reason for eliminating committees is so that we can talk about everything with the whole council,” said Council-woman Lori Acton.

“There is no reason to have these ad hoc committees. I feel that all the things you have brought up can be discussed here.”

She said she was not opposed to special committees being established for specific time frames to investigate specific issues, but the routine business of the city should come before council through staff reports and council discussion.

“You basically just stated everything I was going to say,” said Councilmember Jim Sanders.

He said his biggest concern was about classifying recurring functions such as finance as ad hoc items.

Vice Mayor Chip Holloway said he agreed that Clark’s list did not fit the definition of ad hoc committees and that those functions needed to be handled at the staff level. “Our goal is not to run the city, our goal is to set vision.”

Reception from the public microphone was mixed. Ron Porter said he wanted to see the city incorporate more public input. Steven Morgan said the council needed to put more authority in the hands of the staff. Paul Vander Werf asked the council not to limit community involvement.

Sanders said he also wanted to see more definition for ad hoc committees. Holloway said that it was dangerous for the city to take a one-size-fits-all approach, and agreed that some decisions needed to be driven by staff.

Sanders agreed that definitions should be broad, rather than rigid.

The item was sent back to staff for more clarification.

City Manager Dennis Speer said that he would have staff prepare a report to be brought back before the council at a future meeting.

Story First Published: 2013-09-11