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Council to Debate Term Limits for Regional Boards

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By Jorge Casuso

December 13, 2021 -- On Tuesday night, the City Council is expected to decide whether to impose term limits on two regional boards that have been represented by the same appointees for more than two decades.

As part of the recommended policy changes to boards and commissions, the Council will consider limiting terms on the boards of the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California and the Los Angeles County West Vector Control.

The City's representative to the MWD board, former mayor Judy Abdo, was first appointed by the Council in May 1996. Santa Monica College Trustee Nancy Greenstein has served on the Vector Board since March 2000.

On Thursday, Abdo sent an email to City Manager David White and three top City officials under the subject line "some words about Santa Monica and the MWD and my role for clarification."

The letter stresses Abdo's years of experience dealing with complex water issues and her strong bonds to fellow Board members, who unanimously appointed her secretary, "the second highest ranking officer of the Board of Directors."

"The City of Santa Monica has benefited from the seniority of its representatives," Abdo wrote in the email. "Boardmembers tend to defer to those who have been on the board for longer periods of time.

"As the representative of Santa Monica, I have established good relationships with nearly every board member," wrote Abdo, a community leader in Ocean Park and a leading member of Santa Monica Forward.

Abdo noted that while there are 38 members on the MWD Board, Santa Monica cast a "crucial vote" in June when it narrowly selected Adel Hagekhalil as general manager, "a turning point because he is shifting the agenda to development of local water resources."

Unlike City boards and commissions, which advise the Council, appointed representatives to regional boards represent their cities, noted Abdo, whose term expires in December 2023.

Unlike members of City boards and commissions -- who can serve a maximum of two terms, or three if they receive a super-majority vote of the Council -- members of regional boards can serve indefinitely.

The majority of the Council is expected to back term limits for the two regional boards.

The question that will likely be debated is if the policy should be retroactive, given the more than two decades already served by the current members.

Phil Brock, a member of the ad hoc committee, believes it's time for new blood, especially when it comes to the MWD.

"In this particular case, it's time for other new people to serve," Brock said. "We've been talking about equity and diversity. We want all of our residents to have a chance to serve."

Mayor Sue Himmelrich, whose husband's term was immediately cut short when the Council approved a nepotism policy last month, believes Abdo should be allowed to serve until her current term expires.

"I ran on term limits, but I'm not going to do what they did to my husband," Himmelrich said. "People should be allowed to serve out their terms if they've done honorable service."

Some community activists believe Councilmembers shouldn't wait if they can legally impose the policy retroactively.

"I think it should go into effect immediately," said Tricia Crane, who heads Northeast Neighbors.

"This woman (Abdo) has been in there since '96," Crane said. "It's time for new blood."

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