There are 23 citizen boards, commissions and task forces recognized by the city of Santa Monica. Citizen members of these organizations are City Council appointed or approved. Yes Virginia, the positions are political bon-bons.
Some of the groups have the power to approve projects, spend money and/or set policies that affect us and our quality of life, such as the Planning Commission, Architectural Review Board and the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Others are mostly advisory such as the Disabilities Commission, Housing Commission, Commission on the Status of Women and the Sustainable City Task Force, among others.
There are hundreds of citizens who participate on these commissions and boards and give generously of their time, intellect and talents. Those who serve deserve our appreciation and respect.
Nevertheless, there are complaints that the nearly two dozen boards, task forces and commissions are part of a patronage system, appointed or approved by a City Council controlled by the Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights cabal. Detractors say commissioners and board/task force members carry out City Council and SMRR’s agenda and are a core support group for SMRR-backed candidates and issues at election time.
Perhaps nowhere is this more obvious than the Commission for the Senior Community. Even though many Santa Monica seniors are on fixed/limited incomes and in desperate financial shape, CSC’s current chair is a consistent shill for every SMRR-backed tax proposal to hit the ballot — taking even more money away from the poorest elderly.
It’s been years since I’ve been to a Social Services Commission meeting. At that time, I found most commissioners to be passionate about helping the homeless. Unfortunately, many were nothing more than cheerleaders for city-subsidized service providers. Their myopic approach to solving homeless problems was narrowly focused on more services.
The now defunct East-West Commercial Corridors Parking Task Force, Downtown Parking Task Force and Civic Center Task Force were all loaded with elected politicians and various seated or former board and commission members. These usual insiders concocted a stew of recycled, stale ideas peppered with sacred cows such as affordable housing. The result of too many bad chefs in the kitchen is an overcooked product that’s unpalatable and unsatisfying. Bring on the Maalox.
Last Tuesday, the City Council reviewed proposals for a new branch city library in the Pico Neighborhood. The project’s paid outside consultant is Koning Eizenberg Architecture. Hendrick “Hank” Koning, vice-chair of the Planning Commission, is a principal in the firm that frequently does work for the city.
The staff report mentioned the Virginia Avenue Park Advisory Board and the Recreation and Parks Commission approved locating the library in the Pico Farmers’ Market zone at Virginia Avenue Park. Apparently nobody included the market customers or vendors I talked to a week ago because they were surprised and not pleased to hear about the plans.
Now, we’re ready to add a 24th commission to the city’s stable of advisory boards and task forces. The Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force recently received unanimous approval in concept by the council.
Its membership would consist of seven city residents appointed by the council with the help of yet another paid consulting firm. Task Force members should have some knowledge and/or professional experience in urban forestry or landscaping. People “who just love trees,” are especially encouraged to apply as are current members of city commissions, such as Parks and Recreation, Planning and Landmarks. More Maalox, please.
City Hall promises that the new Task Force will “provide an effective venue for public input or requests regarding specific urban forest issues, review of major streetscape development projects and private development projects that impact public property.” This organization could be the forerunner of a permanent Tree Commission. I’m ready to pack my trunk and leave.
Do we really need a citizen task force to tell the planning department, and city arborist and his staff how to manage our treescape? If so, then we also need a Gridlock Commission to advise on traffic. How about a Street Maintenance or “Pothole” Board? Or, maybe a Bicycle Commission?
We could add an Expo Light Rail Task Force and a Sewer Commission. How about a Task Force on Parking Lots or Palisades Park Urban Wildlife Task Force? And, especially a Farmers’ Market Task Force. We need ‘em all because we still don’t have enough community input for the City Council to ignore.
With over 2,200 city employees, city leaders have enough people to micro-manage. Who better to advise the city than well-intentioned citizen volunteers? We get two for the price of one: more advisors for the social engineers on the City Council and new blood for SMRR power mongers. Wow!
Here’s an idea. How about a “City Council Watchdog Task Force?” Bet you won’t see that happen. So, when is it all going to end? Maybe when we get that City Council Watchdog Task Force. But, don’t hold your breath.