At the March 17th City Council Meeting, staff proposed and council approved three major resolutions regarding the restructuring of committees, commissions & local boards. The first order was to revise the roster and the second and third orders revised the Council’s & Council Committee rules of procedures (commonly known as by-laws). The highly active Park Avenue District Committee (PAD) was eliminated in favor of the idea of a larger proposed neighborhood council. The model for the neighborhood council has yet to be established but would purportedly be based on the existing Park Avenue District structure. No input from committee members was actually solicited in the elimination & restructuring process.
The resolutions came was the result of an action item left over from February 3rd’s Council Meeting. The first notable change was the removal of two existing City Council Committees. The Committee on Preservation and Technology will be deleted while three remain: Public Safety, Public Works, and Transportation. Three new committees will be added to make a total of six, Budget and Governance, Community Services, and Sustainability. While the existing three will meet monthly, the new ones will meet quarterly.
Community Advisory Committees met with many transitions as well. The Emeryville Child Development Center Advisory Committee (ECDC) will be removed due to the lack of parental staffing. The less-active Marina Committee will be removed since major issues could be resolved administratively by staff or through Public Works. The Park Avenue District Committee will be removed at the end of June. City Clerk and presenter Karen Hemphill noted that the PAD Committee was founded to develop a neighborhood plan for the district and the work is now complete. They advocated for the PAD Committee to work with staff to create a template to develop “Neighborhood Associations” throughout the town. Smaller changes included the categorizing of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee to be its own standalone Committee (previously under Transportation) and the redefining of the Economic Development Committee’s membership to include a broader representation of community stakeholders.
Besides the changes in rosters and committees, the Council updated the rules of procedures. First, the City Council Members can no longer be Community Advisory Committee members. Furthermore, no Advisory Committee recommendations could be made regarding member appointments. This is to reduce the influence of Council Members and promote unbiased participation of the committees. Committees will now incorporate work plans and agendas as well as implement orientation for new members. Finally, membership changes will now coincide with the fiscal year instead of the calendar year. This helps in regard to California’s Maddy’s Act, which requires public noticing to all public vacancies in the next calendar year. Currently, when the City notices a position, it’s vacancy is now one year apart from the actual appointment. The realignment to a fiscal year system will make the notice to appointment time shorten to about six months.
It will take some time to tell the impact of these resolutions. Certainly, the myriad of changes shows a major shift in the City’s priorities. Notably, the removal of Council Members from Community Advisory Committees shows the City’s focus to reduce undue influence over the committees. Ultimately, the revisions are meant to encourage community participation for the town as a whole. While some of the revisions are akin to good housekeeping, others may undermine community cohesion. The elimination of the Park Avenue District Advisory Committee comes at a difficult time as contentious projects like the Sherwin Williams Project, Restoration Hardware, and Pellegrini Building projects are brewing. The committee is to be succeeded as a neighborhood association, something that the Council wants to see more of in the City. Council Member Nora Davis was hesitant about neighborhood associations and pointed out that there needs to be some accountability in their inception. She mentioned how similar efforts like the neighborhood watch program started out with great fervor but fizzled after it began. Davis advocated for some sort of measurement to their success and perhaps an annual report. Rightfully so, as a new era for Emeryville’s committees is coming.
Full List of Changes:
Revisions to local Roster Boards, Commissions, and Committees:
- City Council Committees will remove the Community Preservation and Technology Committees and add the Budget and Governance, Community Services, and Sustainability Committees.
- The Emeryville Child Development Center Advisory Committee will be removed.
- Marina Committee will be removed.
- Park Avenue District Advisory Committee will end on June 30, 2015.
- Meeting Frequency will default to quarterly unless committees vote to change it back to monthly; special meetings are allowed per committee.
- The Bike / Ped Committee will now be a standalone committee, which was previously under Transportation.
- ECDC will provide parental input regarding the Center’s operations and create an ECDC Task Force as needed.
- The Economic Development Committee will include a broader and more specified representation of stakeholders.
Rules and Procedures:
- City Council Members can no longer also be Community Advisory Committee members.
- Membership terms will coincide with the fiscal year instead of the calendar year.
- No Advisory Committee recommendations regarding member appointments.
- August will now be a month-long summer break for all committees and boards.
- The incorporation of the “10-day” noticing practice.
Changes to By-laws:
- No regular meetings in August.
- Implementation of a work plan and annual report to committees.
- Implementation of agenda settings and mandatory training and orientation for new members and staff.