Board of Supervisors Vote to Reduce Public Meeting Schedule

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.