In a democracy, vigilance is required.
Over the last decade, the City Council has created three Advisory Committees, in the areas of Bicycle & Pedestrian, Equity and Human Relations, and Finance. In a progressive worldview, these citizen groups would be used as a catalyst for greater public engagement and public transparency. (As an eight-year member and Chair of the Finance Advisory Committee, I can attest that public fiscal transparency was front and center in the work we did.)
In the wrong hands, and without monitoring, the opposite has occurred with the Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC.) (The BPAC is involved in making recommendations on the use of the public right of way.)
Advisory committees should create greater transparency, and not be used as a shield to hide pet projects that don’t serve the public good. And yet, we find that on October 20, 2022 the BPAC violated provisions of the Brown Act and took other actions for which it had no authority. (The Ralph M. Brown Act is a California law that guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies.)
During an agenda item (listed as “RECEIVE A STATUS UPDATE AND DISCUSS ACTIVE AND UPCOMING MOBILITY PROJECTS”) the BPAC took an action to form a subcommittee to recommend a new project on Elenda Street, which had not been disclosed to the public previously in any form.
During this comment period the following issues arose:
1) BPAC members engaged in dialogue with a member of the public during the comment period. During this conversation, the Committee and the public commenter discussed potential projects that were not included on the published agenda.
2) The Committee moved to form a subcommittee to report on feasibility of the newly discussed, non-agendized potential project.
3) The member of the public, who was engaged in conversation with the Committee, was “appointed” to serve as a member of this newly formed subcommittee. (This action was taken without any approval by the City Council, nor was this person vetted for any potential conflicts of interest or any other normal review of fitness to serve as a member of a public committee.)
The Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee was operating outside of the normal controls and procedures of a public committee. Fortunately, at the request of concerned citizens, a member of the City Attorney’s Office monitored the proceedings of the December 2022 BPAC meeting, to ensure proper procedures were used.
This is not the first time the BPAC was found to be operating outside of normal procedures. Earlier in 2022, the Committee was found to be operating with no set of by-laws and minutes from prior meetings were months overdue.
The practice of decision making in Culver City that has been undertaken by a group of select insiders, operating outside of normal public review, has done tremendous damage to the public’s trust in its municipal government. Committees that grant special access to favored insiders and propose projects without any public disclosure only reinforce this distrust.
These practices must cease.
Crystal Czarnecki Alexander