Del Mar committee volunteers will continue to select their own officers

By Kristina Houck

Volunteers serving on Del Mar committees will continue to select their own officers, after the City Council decided against adopting a new policy that would have given council members the power to appoint committee leaders.

Three members of the public, including two former mayors, urged council members not to approve the policy, which was originally listed on the consent calendar during the Sept. 2 council meeting.

“For almost 30 years, that I know of, committees have always elected their own chair,” said former Del Mar Mayor Brooke Eisenberg-Pike. “For a council subcommittee to usurp that function is to undermine the committee’s independence.”

“I appreciate the work that all of you do for Del Mar, and so do many other people,” said former Del Mar Mayor Jan McMillan. “We also appreciate the service of volunteers, who lessen your own burden.

“All these volunteers are educated adults who have offered to serve their city. They are not back in kindergarten where the teacher chooses the leaders. … Please give them the respect they deserve by preserving their own right to select their own officers.”

Deputy Mayor Al Corti said the proposed policy change was added to the agenda in order to help committees improve their performance and better represent the community. As a council liaison to the Planning Commission, Corti noted he has looked at how the committees differ, from agenda preparation to officer leadership.

Corti said it wasn’t his intention to “usurp power.”

“As a responsibility to the city, I feel that it is my oversight to make sure they are being run as objective and as consistent and truly representative of the entire community,” he said.

Agreeing with the public speakers, Councilman Don Mosier said the council wants “independent advice.”

“It’s best to let the boards, commissions and committees select their chairman and be independent,” he said. “If the council appoints the chair, then the chair is more reporting to council and gains more power and potential authority.”

Councilman Terry Sinnott added that the proposal was “well-meaning.”

“We have all been working hard to try to make the time our volunteers spend as valuable as possible.”

The change in policy was among a few proposed amendments to the council’s policy book, which covers a variety of matters, from the selection of the mayor to council meeting procedures. In March, the council adopted an amended policy book. Since then, staff reviewed the book and proposed minor revisions.

Eisenberg-Pike also asked the council to consider adding a policy that would require public interviews for all committee applicants. She noted that previous councils had interviewed all applicants in the past.

The council only interviews applicants for the Design Review Board and Planning Commission. Council liaisons make recommendations for the other committees, and then the council votes on them.

“This was more efficient and took less time. That does not mean it was better,” Eisenberg-Pike said. “In fact, it weakened the committee system because it removed both the public and the entire council from the selection process. The whole council, not just the subcommittee, should be actively involved in the appointment of every committee member, and interviews should take place at the council. Your goal should be to involve the public as much as possible in the process.”

Because there are usually so few applicants, council members ultimately did not require interviews, but recommended that future applicants introduce themselves at council meetings.

Although council members eliminated the proposed policy on committee appointments, they approved a few minor policy changes regarding the use of city stationery and council meeting minutes.

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