Commission to Become a Committee? Proposal for Equity and Human Relations Draws Controversy

Whenever an agenda item draws hours of discussion, speakers from every corner of the community and a shift that will effect policy at many levels, it’s almost a guarantee that it can’t be resolved in one meeting.

At the City Counsel Meeting on October 28, 2019, Item A-2, the proposal for the creation of an Equity and Human Rights Commission, and the end of the Civil Service Commission began morphing as soon as it was introduced.

Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells spoke “Before beginning this item, the city manager is recommending that the Civil Service portion of the discussion be moved to a future agenda, so as to give the city manager time to discuss with employees.”

The City staff offered that “Committees and commissions are similar, in that they are both Brown Act bodies… but a committee is generally formed by resolution…If the new body would be formed as a committee, we would not be introducing it tonight.”

Sahli-Wells noted that, “They only real difference between a committee and a commission is the paperwork and the pay.” Both commissioners and committee members are paid a stipend by the city for their work.

Vice Mayor Goran Eriksson disagreed, saying “To me, a committee and a commission are very different. Our agenda item is about a commission; maybe this should just go back.”

Council member Alex Fisch pushed to hear from the speakers who had come to talk to the council, and let the issues aired lead the discussion.

Fourteen people came to speak, and the pro and the anti were very divided.

Rebecca Rona-Tuttle introduced herself as a “member of the Culver City Human Relations Work Group, the community group that proposed this in January of 2019 and we are very pleased that this will be about the Equity and Human Relations Committee. A matter as important as the status Civil Service Commission deserves a full discussion, separate and apart from the establishment of the Equity and Human Relations Committee.”

“There are some very good ideas being put forward, ” said Vicky Daly Redholz, “but this has all come from one group that is supportive of four members of the council, so I hold out little hope that my opinion will matter to you.  Much of what you are proposing could be handled by [current commissions] and if you do establish a new commission – why nine members instead of five, as we have on the council? I’m also unhappy that I had to read deeply to discover that this would change the appointments for all commissions.”

Both former mayors Jeff Cooper and Steve Gourley spoke in opposition to many parts of the proposal.  Cooper noted the diversity of the current council, and offered that the proposal was unneeded.

Gourley said, “This may be a good idea – but has ever such a good idea slipped in a through such a sleazy back-handed way? Your city attorney and your city manager know that, or they wouldn’t be scrambling to reorganize the presentation.”

Michelle Weiner took the podium, saying “I’m speaking in favor of this committee. I know that Parks, Rec and Community Services have put on some excellent programs in recent years, but they have not been well attended …maybe we need a group that is focused exclusively on this kind of work.”

The issue was returned, to be reconsidered, and will be brought back on a future agenda.

Judith Martin-Straw

 

www.culvercitysymphony.org

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