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Council Shelves Ballot Measure Making It Easier to Change Key Commissions

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By Jorge Casuso

July 15, 2020 -- Worried about sowing voter distrust, the City Council on Tuesday postponed placing a measure on the November ballot that would have made it easier to change key Boards and Commissions.

The proposed measure -- which was shelved on a 5 to 2 vote -- would have removed the Planning, Airport, and Recreation and Parks Commissions, as well as the Library and Personnel Boards from the City Charter.

By moving them to the Municipal Code, the ballot measure would have allowed the Council to make changes to those bodies without the need for voter approval required under the charter.

Councilmember Ted Winterer worried the measure would become a "PR problem" given the "unfounded" and "vast conspiracy" that the Council would use it to "dismember" boards and commissions.

"These are really troubled times and there's a lot of anger there," said Winterer, who made the substitute motion to shelve the measure and reconsider it in 2022.

Winterer said he didn't anticipate any of the five boards and commissions covered by the charter to be "meaningfully changed in any way."

Mayor Kevin McKeown, who along with Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day cast the two dissenting votes, disagreed.

The Council, he said, was "missing the opportunity to make needed change when we are reconsidering how local governments work."

The Council had directed staff last December to explore placing the measure on this year's ballot.

The direction was given before the coronavirus shutdown slashed City revenues, resulting in a major restructuring of City Hall ("City Council Slashes Up to 247 Full-time Jobs; Cuts Will Be Felt at All Levels," May 6, 2020).

Those changes -- which included consolidating or eliminating programs and services -- will impact the boards and commissions, most of which have not met since the COVID-19 emergency took effect four months ago.

Staff is currently conducting a comprehensive review of the City's 14 Boards and Commissions to "avoid duplication of work" and "to streamline the number," said City Clerk Denise Anderson-Warren.

Most of the Council members worried that it would be difficult to evaluate the Boards and Commissions when most are not meeting.

The final recommendations from staff will be presented to the Council next spring, Anderson-Warren said.

Councilmembers noted that the Council could still make changes to the Boards and Commissions covered under the municipal code.

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