Culver City Observer -

By Lynne Bronstein
Observer Reporter 

Council Ok’s Finance Advisory Committee


October 10, 2012

Focus Will Be On Measure Y Funds

Last week the City Council rejected the idea of a citizens’ advisory committee on fracking. But Monday night the Council approved the formation of another citizens’ committee--a finance advisory committee that would primarily have the responsibility of overseeing the use of funds accruing from the sales tax that will be enacted if Measure Y passes.

The Council’s direction to city staff is to create a committee of no more than nine members. Three members will be residents of Culver City, three will be members of the business community of Culver City, two members will be chosen from city staff and will represent labor (one might be management and one rank-and-file), and one member will be chosen by the Culver City School Board (but will not be a School Board member).

The committee will hold regular meetings although no set time frame has been decided yet for those meetings.

The idea for a finance advisory committee (FAC) was put forth at the July 16 Council meeting when the Council approved putting Measure Y on the November ballot.

Staff researched FACs and similar bodies in other California cities. These included El Cerrito, Eureka, Piedmont, Oakland, and Emeryville. Staff recommended a structure similar to Emeryville, where the City Council Finance Committee, consisting of two council members, was absorbed into an advisory committee with two council members, two residents, two members of the business community, and one labor representative.

Speakers in public comment were supportive of the idea of a finance advisory committee but several of them thought that council members should not be on the committee.

“Council members are rarely on these committees—but they can be non-voting members,” said former mayor Gary Silbiger. He also thought that seven members was not enough and suggested up to 12 members.

David Voncannon was concerned that “not many people are free to volunteer” for a committee with such commitment. He also believed the staff’s qualification standards for volunteers to the committee were too high. The qualification description said that applicants “must have education or experience in business, accounting, finance or a related field…” and that “it is highly desirable that each of the members possess knowledge of governmental accounting or governmental financial operations.”

Several speakers and council member Meghan Sahli-Wells also spoke of the committee having a purview wider than simply overseeing Measure Y. Staff had listed other possible committee duties as including advice on: the mid-year budget report, City Council policies related to finance, the City’s investment policy and portfolio, the results of the annual independent audit, and selection of the City’s independent auditors.

Mehaul O’Leary reminded the Council that there is the chance that Measure Y might not pass. If so-what would the committee’s focus be?

“Should the measure fail,” he opined, “other economic items [of discussion] might be important to the city.” These might include examination of bankruptcy and contracting out city services.

Jim Clarke emphasized the committee’s main focus should be Measure Y since the idea of having an FAC was submitted when the Council approved Measure Y for the ballot.

It took over an hour of hashing out ideas for the committee: how many members, whether or not to allow council members to be aboard, what the focus should be. At length, Mayor Andrew Weissman put together what seemed to be the consensus opinions of the Council to create a direction for staff.

The committee plan will come back to the Council possibly as early as the October 22 meeting but more likely after the election on November 6.

In other actions, the Council appointed John B. Williams to the open seat on the Cultural Affairs Commission.

Another applicant, David H. Young, had applied for the seat but withdrew his application.

Williams is a musician with an impressive background in jazz, orchestra work, and spoken word. He has played with Horace Silver, Dizzy Gillespie, Hugh Masakela, and Doc Severinson’s orchestra on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” He also performed at The Speakeasy in Culver City with poet Wanda Coleman.

Thanking the Council for considering his appointment, Williams said he was aware that “fundraising is very important” to the position.

“I represent over a dozen music companies that I can get to help our schools and elevate the artistic level of the Arts Commission,” said Williams.


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