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The Anaheim City Council this week narrowly approved a plan to dismiss all appointees to city boards and commissions so they have more equal representation under the city’s new district-based electoral system.
Under the new rules, all seven members of the City Council will appoint a member to commissions, with priority going to residents of their districts and people already serving on a commission. However, the current appointees will need to reapply.
Mayor Tom Tait proposed the change last month as a nod to the new council districts formed as part of the city’s settlement of a Voting Rights Act lawsuit. November’s election was the first under the new system.
“The Planning Commission has only members from district six and three, and that’s two small areas of town,” Tait said at the council’s regular meeting. “And nobody from West Anaheim, and I think we need to spread that out.”
The council vote on the issue was delayed until Tuesday’s meeting so Councilman Steve Faessel, who was concerned that dismissing commissioners wholesale would mean a loss of knowledge and experience on boards like the planning commission, could come up with an alternative.
His plan called for the four council members who were elected in November under the district system to appoint a new representative to city commissions this year, while three commissioners would remain at-large until 2018, when the district-based system is fully phased in.
“We’re just keeping three members…and having their anniversary dates be consistent with the new incoming elected members,” Faessel said of his plan. “In all other respects, this is meeting your request. The only real change is I’m trying to keep a few members in there.”
That plan was supported by councilwomen Lucille Kring and Kris Murray. Councilman James Vanderbilt said he was strongly considering it for the sake of compromise and having a consensus among council members.
“These aren’t hobbies that people take because they have nothing better to do during the week,” Murray said. “They’re fundamental to what we do in government, and if we wipe them out in a summary way we are losing the experience and knowledge and flow and efficiency.”
Kring added, “It doesn’t say ‘thank you you did a great job,’ it says ‘go away’ and I’m afraid some people won’t come back.”
Tait was not swayed.
“It’s no surprise you’d want to keep things the same, because most of these people were appointed by you and Councilmember Murray,” Tait replied, saying that when he was in the minority on the council, his appointees were never approved by his colleagues.
The council voted 4-3 to approve Tait’s plan, with Murray, Kring and Faessel voting no.
Tait originally proposed that the four district-elected council members would appoint a representative, with a preference for those living in their district, while the remaining three vacancies would the appointed at large by a vote of the full council. He changed that just before the vote so that all members of the city council, whether elected by district or at-large, would be able to appoint someone.
The change will still take a few months to enact. City staff will need to formalize the changes in an ordinance, and the earliest date for new commissioners to be appointed would be in April.
The council decided the changes won’t apply to the Sister City Commission, which is large and has a group of people who have been working together for a long time.
Contact Thy Vo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.