Public Safety Agenda-Setting Process Sparks Lively Discussion at Malibu City Hall
• Commission Members Say Major Concerns Are Stymied
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
A joint meeting of the City of Malibu's Public Safety Commission and the City Council Public Safety subcommittee shed some light on the issue of how the commission's agenda is set.
Several commissioners have repeatedly questioned a 2007 change to the commission's bylaws that requires the city manager to OK agenda item additions.
"Why are we not allowed to put items on the agenda?" asked Commissioner Susan Tellem. "What's the point of having the public safety commission if we can't determine what is public safety?"
"We have a lot of things that we ask you to do, and need you to do," responded Mayor Pro Tem Lou La Monte, who sits on the council's public safety subcommittee. "If you keep adding to that it waters it down. I think the process was designed for a reason. It's important that we have the authority [to set agenda].
"That wasn't my objection, it's just the opposite," responded Tellem. "The [Zuma] underpass item, we wanted to discuss it. School traffic safety, we didn't get it until it was over. My concern is the things that you don't assign."
"You know where the council room is," La Monte said. "I get a lot of emails from members of the commissions."
"I think you are right," commission Chair Carol Randall said to La Monte. "If we aren't narrowed down we won't get anything accomplished. The only problem is a time issue. We are constrained [by time]."
"I'm reading your duties as a lawyer," subcommittee member Pamela Conley Ulich said. "'May make recommendations…' You do have the absolute right to make recommendations. The way this law is written is not telling me or you that you can't…[You have] much broader powers." Conley Ulich said that the 2007 resolution appeared to conflict with city code. "My recollection is the law, not the resolution, would prevail. I think you have the right, right now."
"The code is very specific," said former public safety commissioner Ryan Embree. "I've been waiting for the city to get back to its core issues." He said that the commission was misinterpreting the procedure, and that the 2007 resolution could be suspended. "The chair should make the agenda with the commission," he said.
"You limited yourselves," Conley Ulich said. "It has nothing to do with [the city council]. You did it to yourselves."
"We have several commissions that have competing needs," City Manager Jim Thorsen said. "Everything can almost be a public safety issue. We always have overlapping and competing needs. [The agenda is] generally set up as tasks assigned by city council. Certainly other things can be added. If the commission wants to bring this up at a future agenda, let staff know. [It will be] brought back to me for review. If I feel it's very appropriate, I will say yes. If I feel that its on another commission, I will say no. My staff will bring it to me. If you don't like my opinion you can go to the commission and they can talk to me."
"It feels like we are little kids who have to raise our hands and say 'mother may I,'" Commissioner David Saul said. "There's a 30, 60, 90 day lag time before we can address it. I understand that there is a lot of competition for a slice of pie, but public safety is the biggest slice of the city's pie, I would hope that when we bring something to you there is a reason why we bring it up."
"I believe the council has the same frustration that it doesn't happen over night and it doesn't happen as soon as they want it," Thorsen said. "Contact me. I will contact chair and say, hey, someone has contacted me and wants it on the agenda. If I'm thinking it is appropriate, I will put it on the agenda."
"I disagree," Conley Ulich said. "If you see something that you think needs to be addressed you need to bring it to us [the city council]. Public safety is our number one issue. The Brown Act is 36 hours, you shouldn't have to go through the chair. I think you should be able to have that power, and I don't know how you are going to get it back on the agenda unless the city council or the city manager puts it on the agenda."
"It's got to work within the framework," La Monte said. "We get emails from everybody. We bring them up faster than you do here."
"One of the things that is very important to me is, if we are speaking as a commission, that it has been vetted here," Randall said.
"Talk to me," Thorsen said. "If I get an urgent issue, the first thing I'm going to do is talk to the chair."
"Parliamentary procedure," Conley Ulich said. "You don't have to talk about it. Make a motion to suspend rules, say 'I want this on the next agenda,' and vote on it."