Board of Supervisors Vote to Reduce Public Meeting Schedule

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The Orange County Board of Supervisors will be meeting less frequently, after supervisors voted to reduce their calendar to two scheduled meetings a month.

Starting with their March 22 meeting, the Board will now meet on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month and post meeting agendas two weeks in advance.

That would reduce the overall number of meetings for the year by six, although supervisors could still use those dates to call special meetings.

The vote was 4-1, with Supervisor Shawn Nelson voting no.

Chairwoman of Supervisors Lisa Bartlett, who proposed the reduction, sold the change as a way to give the public and supervisors more time to read the agenda and get questions answered by staff before public meetings.

Supervisor Michelle Steel supported the proposal, noting that English is her third language and she needs more time than her colleagues to study the agenda.

The rest of the board, however, pushed back at the proposal.

Supervisor Andrew Do raised concerns with how the scheduling change would affect the ability of the other four supervisors to add items to the agenda. Because agendas will be posted two weeks ahead of time, any items added after the agenda is posted would need a signature of the board chair.

Bartlett ultimately amended her motion to include Do’s recommendation that supervisors be allowed to add items until noon on the Wednesday before the meeting, which is consistent with the current rules.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who initially voted against the item but changed his vote before the end of the meeting, said Bartlett was ultimately asking them to bolster her authority at the expense of other supervisors.

“You’re empowering the position of the chair against everybody else…that’s why you’re getting the pushback,” said Spitzer. “I don’t want to go ask you nine and a half days ahead of time whether I can ask you if i can put something on the agenda.”

Nelson said the change is unnecessary and could get in the way of how the county operates — quickly, and sometimes unpredictably.

“You can say, ‘I like two weeks to read it,’ but it’s not practical to get things done that far in advance,” said Nelson. “Sure it would be convenient, and none of us want surprises…but it’s not feasible and it really isn’t necessary.”

Bartlett responded, noting that it can be a burden for both supervisors and the public to study the agenda between the Wednesday afternoon that it is posted and the Tuesday morning of board meetings. She said she often spends the entire weekend combing through the agenda.

“I have already passed this by the CEO and department heads..and they’re in favor of this. It’s a much more structured process,” said Bartlett. “It’s very consistent with city councils. They have the two week rule. At the Board of Supervisors, I think it’s entirely reasonable.”

Nelson disagreed.

“I want to remind you, we’re full-time here. City councils are part-time like coaching a softball league,” Nelson said. “I signed up for a full-time job and you all did. I think this is a mistake.”

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • LFOldTimer

    This is a classic example of Bartlett’s indifference to good governance and the interests and needs of the citizens who elected her to office. Six meetings less in a year is a lot of meetings. As it stands now, about half the meetings go longer than 6 hours. So you can imagine what 6 fewer meetings would do. This will truncate the discussions and might even cut into public speaking time for the audience. Bartlett probably thinks that by reducing the time available to give each item its deserved attention that she can pull a fast one and kick the items through on a whim. Especially the ones on the discussion calendar toward the end of the meeting when everyone is burned out.
    Plus, it will make the public wait MUCH longer to be able to give an off-agenda public comment at the end of the meeting. So it squelches public participation too. I’ve seen the look on her face when the public disagrees with her position on various issues. It looks like someone squirted castor oil into her mouth. If Bartlett really promoted public discourse she would move off-agenda public comments to the start of the meeting so concerned citizens wouldn’t have to wait 6 hours until the end of the meeting to speak.
    So what do you think of this Norberto? Do you still give Bartlett the benefit of the doubt? Or do you see her true colors emerging? 🙂

  • David Zenger

    Here’s the deal: fewer meetings means longer meetings. Longer agendas means more crap goes through on the nod (well, more than usual).

    Departments heads might like it because they won’t have to go sit in the back of the meeting room as often, but they will now probably spend just as much time there.

    The County needs MORE meetings, not fewer. The Supervisors are supposed to be full-time (although none of them spend anything like a forty hour work week in Building 10) and they each spend $1,000,000 of taxpayer money on their little personal stafflings who have PLENTY of time to find out what’s going on – that is if they were really curious.

  • RyanCantor

    “I want to remind you, we’re full-time here. City councils are part-time like coaching a softball league,” Nelson said. “I signed up for a full-time job and you all did. I think this is a mistake.”

    Agreed. While I’m all for more notice to the public, stating a Supervisor needs two whole weeks to process agenda items while it’s their full-time job is quite sad, whatever language you speak.

    • David Zenger

      True. A cynic might even argue that if the BoS hired competent professionals for their staff instead of former campaign workers there would be zero problem digesting a typical Board meeting agenda.