Saturday, October 31, 2009

You Could Look It Up

Like Samuel Pepys, I find myself inspired to write in spurts, only to abandon the effort for periods of time. Here’s something to get the juices flowing: Went to the Costa Mesa City Council meeting instead of just watching an item or two on-line. Still shaking my head.

I love that the public takes advantage of opportunities to participate. Often speakers at the podium dispense much needed wisdom, but why do these folks feel compelled to pontificate about that of which they are ignorant? Sure, I pontificate, but try to do my research, though admittedly through the prism of my own prejudices, like most people. But some just seem to expound out of thin air.

Example: At the last City Council meeting, elimination of the City’s Park Commission as a separate body was considered as a “cost-saving” measure, though the City would have saved $3,500 a year at most and possibly generated additional costs instead. For context, bear in mind that Costa Mesa Planning Commissioners are by far the highest paid city planning commissioners in Orange County, receiving $400 a month, even if they attend only one thirty-minute meeting for the entire month, even if they don’t show up at all.

At the Council meeting it was asserted that a park commission was “fluff”, whereas a planning commission was required “by law”. No one corrected this misinformation at the time, so here goes.

Both have the same standing. Both are included under the Costa Mesa Municipal Code and neither is required by any State or Federal law. State law does prescribe responsibilities of a planning commission, if there is one, for example, “When the city or county has a planning commission authorized by local ordinance or resolution … the commission shall … “ (Government Code Section 65353 (a)), but whether or not there is a planning commission is optional.

State law says “The legislative body [that’s the City Council] may create one or more planning commissions… (GC Sec. 65101(a))”. And “When there is no planning commission…” (Sec. 65861).

In fact, the City of Villa Park right here in Orange County has no planning commission.

So, if they were really serious about saving money, the city council could not just cut the more-than-generous salaries of our planning commissioners, which a majority declined to do, they could actually eliminate the planning commission.

Let me hasten to add that’s a step I don’t advocate. I believe all of our commissions and committees serve a useful function, though at least one is overpaid in the extreme.