After a long and jumbled discussion of city boards and commissions primarily focused on the Youth Commission, the Anaheim City Council last week formed an ad hoc committee to address attendance problems that prevent some commissions from functioning. The ad hoc committee of Mayor Pro Tem Lucille Kring and Councilmembers Jose Moreno and Jordan Brandman will report back in 60 days wit recommendations for council action.

In order for a board of commission to hold a meeting, a majority of commission or board members – a quorum – must be in attendance. Otherwise, the meeting must be cancelled.

Mayor Pro Tem Kring pointed out failure to achieve quorum issues was most serious for the Budget, Community Services and Youth commissions.

The 21-member Youth Commission – which meets nine times annually concurrently with the school year – has the worst track record: 44% of its 2017-2018 meetings were cancelled due to attendance problems, as have 60% of the meetings so far in its 2018-2019 term.

Community Services Director Larry Pasco’s recommended making the Youth Commission more functional by:

  • Reducing membership from 21 to 7, aligning it with other city commissions
  • Change the commissioner age range to 14-20 years old. Currently, each council district has three appointees from the 14-17, 18-21 and 22-26 year old age ranges.
  • Make it an advisory body rather than a commission – which would eliminate the quorum requirement.

Kring and Councilmember Trevor O’Neil expressed support for these changes because they would help the Youth Commission succeed. Moreno, who spearheaded the formation of the Youth Commission, stated his desire to retain its existing structure but said he’d be willing accept reducing the membership to 14.

But he objected strongly to the other changes, saying, “The Youth Commission was a function of youth themselves, asking for a stronger voice in the city.”

Moreno basis for that claim was a “focus group” of 25 youths that he and his staff organized sometime in 2017, prior to the Youth Commission’s formal creation.  Was this a representative group with equal representation from all six council districts? Or a cherry-picked group of youths who had volunteered for his campaign or were involved in organizations connected to Moreno and his political allies? The answer would be helpful in evaluating Moreno’s claim it is the youth of Anaheim called for the creation of the Youth Commission, and in its present formulation. Kring, who represents District 4, said no youth in her district ever asked her to support creation of a Youth Commission. One suspects the demand for its formation was limited to Moreno and his supporters.

Be that as it may, the Youth Commission exists and the intent of the current council was clearly to find ways to make it functional – not least for the benefit of the commissioners themselves.

When Kring moved to adopt Pasco’s recommendations, Moreno dramatically exclaimed, “I cannot support the motion if we’re looking to downgrade the voice of youth in our city.”

That’s bush league demagoguery. None of Moreno’s council colleagues was “looking” to “downgrade” the voice of Anaheim youth.  Their interest was in reform to help a failing commission become successful.

Furthermore, Anaheim youth have myriad ways to make their voices heard aside from being a Youth Commissioner – as community or campaign volunteers, communicating to the elected officials, voting. The same as any other citizen of the city. Most Youth Commissioners are legal adults who are eligible to run for office, if they so choose.

It’s a stretch to view the Youth Commission as the official voice of Anaheim young people, and ludicrous to contend that reducing its membership from an unworkable 21 to a manageable 7 is “downgrading” their voice.

Other Commission Considerations
While most of the discussion centered on the Youth Commission, the council also delved into reforms to ensure commissions are able to perform their respective missions.

O’Neil called for tightening up the rules of attendance, pointing out that existing rules permit commissioners to have infinite excused absences with no repercussions.

One of the bodies suffering from quorum issues is the Community Services Board, which canceled nearly a third of its 2018 meetings due to insufficient attendance. As Councilman Jordan Brandman observed, that has a real impact. The CSB makes recommendations to the council on allocating funding to social services and community groups.  Brandman noted that when the CSB doesn’t meet, the funding process gets held up.

Earlier in the evening during public comments, District 1 Parks Commissioner Ryan Balius informed councilmember of recent instances in which the city council took action on items related to parks that had not been previously presented to the Parks and Recreation Commission. Moreno referenced Balius’ testimony when he recommended staff route agenda items through the appropriate commission before bringing it to council, so councilmembers could benefit from the relevant commission’s input. Moreno’s suggestion is eminently sensible suggestion and a productive utilization of city commissions. It’s surprising that parks-related items had bypassed the Parks and Recreation Commission en route to the council.

This author was a member of the OC Parks Commission for several years. OC Parks staff brought all parks-related to the commission for a vote before agendizing them for Board of Supervisors consideration. We questioned staff about their proposals, vetting those items prior to voting our recommendations. This helped staff anticipate questions they might get from supervisors and improve their presentation to the Board. Our votes were advisory and rarely departed from the staff recommendation, but one those occasions where we opposed the staff recommendation, it carried weight with the Board of Supervisors or led to staff re-thinking the proposal.

As the council discussion tumbled along, it became apparent reforms were called for and Kring withdrew her motion and asked instead for an ad hoc committee to take up that task. She asked Moreno to serve on it with her, and Brandman agreed to serve as well.