Friday, July 17, 2009

Mea Culpa & Dumping The Parks & Rec. Commission

As we head into another glorious weekend I have some housekeeping to do before turning you loose to gorge yourselves on chocolate-coated bacon and other culinary delights at the Orange County Fair. Besides, if the fairgrounds is sold to help Arnold balance the state budget, this year may be the last time the fair is held in Costa Mesa!

In an earlier post, HERE, I suggested that Planning Commissioner Colin McCarthy's offer of half his stipen
d to go to youth sports was a "shallow gesture". I also, in that post, indicated that the commissioners receive a stipend of $200 per meeting. Both comments were off the mark. A reader tried to set me straight with this comment:

CM Resident said...

Commissioners receive $400 a month, not $200 a month. Do you think $2400 a year is a shallow gesture? I disagree.

7/15/2009 12:01:00 PM

Ever since that date I've been trying to get the real skinny on commission stipends, with no success. However, today City Manager Allan Roeder emailed me with the correct information.

According to Roeder, Parks and Recreation Commissioners receive a stipend of $100 per meeting. They will now probably only meet once every other month, which will save the city some bucks both in the stipend and staff time preparing for only half as many meetings.

The Planning Commissioners, however, receives $400 per month, regardless the number of meetings they attend - CM Resident was correct. They will now only meet once a month instead of twice. As far as I know - and Roeder knows - no one has suggested reducing their stipend because of the limited meeting schedule. So, our "concerned commissioners" will now get basically a 100% pay raise! Yep, they get the same pay for half the work! Only Colin McCarthy's offer of half his stipend for youth sports - a big gesture, as I stand corrected - seems like the right idea.

Here's something for you to mull over while you're popping TUMS after your fair visit...

Perhaps, in light of the diminished workload and increasing budget pressure, it's time to disband the Parks & Recreation Commission, thank those five volunteers for their service to the city and fold their duties into the Planning Commission.

I think this might make a lot of sense, both from a service and cost standpoint. With the Parks & Recreation Commission only meeting every other month the "process" gets thoroughly mangled. If you request the removal of a tree that is damaging your main drain you could be swimming in sewage for months before you get permission to yank out the offending magnolia. If a city tree is damaging the sidewalk and creating a public safety hazard we could have lots of kids and seniors take nose dives onto the concrete before "the process" provides relief. These are serious safety questions that will almost certainly come up with the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting only five or six times a year.

From a cost standpoint, eliminating the Parks & Recreation Commission won't save much from a stipend standpoint. The way it stands now, the commissioners cost the city $500 per meeting for five or six meetings per year. That $2,500 isn't much in the grand scheme of things, but we are now counting pennies, so it makes sense. It will still require the same amount of staff preparation time, but the service will continue.

Maybe those haughty developer/commissioners on the Planning Commission will think such mundane issues are beneath their pay grade, so to speak, but that's too bad. As it is, they've got little enough to do until the economy turns around. I think combining the duties - at least for the duration of this economic distress - makes a lot of sense. Let them earn their pay...

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Anonymous said...

As a planning commissioner I read with interest the discussion of our stipend. The city council is where this discussion should originate and final action on our stipend take place. McCarthy was grandstanding and caught us off guard. Good for him to donate where he wants, just don't dictate where the rest of us should direct our stipend to. I also have a personal pet peeve against public declarations of how much one gives and to where. Whatever action council takes on our stipend is beyond my control obviously but I will gladly accept whatever their decision is. But we did not get a 100% pay raise Geoff. In fact we had a planning commission meeting Monday and a Joint session with CC Tuesday so there's two meetings to count. We have also had a few special study sessions in the past years and there will undoubtedly be more. As for absorbing the Parks Commission work at PC level, let's not get too hasty here. I have been a parks and rec commissioner before being on planning and parks and rec does more than just tree removals. The PC is probably shovel ready to do the work but I think the specialized work of the parks commission deserves retention.

7/18/2009 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Ah, Vice Chair Jim, welcome back. I knew you'd read this one and thought you might comment. About that pay raise... IF you attend HALF the meetings as in previous years AND you receive the SAME pay, that amounts to a pay raise of 100% - same pay for half the work. I wasn't talking about the past, but the future.

Yes, I know the Parks & Rec. Commission does more than bless tree removals - I do watch the meetings. The point is that they have much less to do - a good thing, really, because they just seem to have a heck of a time staying focused and getting things accomplished. If our municipal economy is destined for a couple more years of doldrums - that seems to be what Roeder tells us in his excellent City Talk piece currently running on CMTV - then creative pruning of municipal resources is essential. I think there should be a discussion of shutting down the Parks & Rec. Commission and having you guys on the Planning Commission pick up their work. Maybe it won't turn out to be a practical solution - but, then again, maybe it will.

I agree with you that personal "giving" is just that. However, we're dealing with politics here... right? Obviously, it was a sensitive subject to many of you on the dais. It seemed to me that Mensinger just couldn't wait to tell us all of his magnanimous philanthropy. I think I understand where McCarthy was coming from... trying to make a statement about saving some youth rec. programs. He made his point...

As always, I appreciate your perspective on issues. Thanks for participating.

7/18/2009 09:28:00 AM  
Anonymous said...

If you do 100% of the planning commission work and you get paid the same, how much of a raise is it again? Or, if you do no work and you get 90% of your pay for the rest of your life, is that a pay cut? Or as in Sacramento, if you only raise spending 5% when you usually raise it 10%, is that a reduction in spending? Just having fun. McCarthy agendized an item that we could take no action on to basically televise where he gives money. But, then again, how much staff time did he take to do this? Probably not much so it probably did not cost too much beyond paying the city attorney and a few staff members 15 more minutes in pay.

7/18/2009 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Vice Chair Jim, It's OK to have some fun here.. honest. Look, I know that to do the job of a Planning Commissioner well it takes a lot of work. It takes studying voluminous staff reports. It takes conversations with staff on particularly sticky issues. It takes conversations with applicants and site visits, etc. to do the job right. I suspect that some commissioners do that part of the job better than others. However, the simple fact is that the Planning Commission doesn't have as much to do these days because there's not much going on in the wonderful world of planning.

There may be some very good reasons that the Parks and Planning commissions should NOT be combined. My point is that there probably should be a discussion about it. I may be the only person in this town with that view - wouldn't be the first time - but if members of the council think it's worth discussing, then those discussions should take place.

7/18/2009 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Joe McGrath said...

When one of your critics makes a mistake, they are ignorant or haven't done their homework or worse. But when you're wrong, it's "off the mark."

7/21/2009 09:28:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Joe McGrath, right! You've got it! In this case, I was operating with dated information regarding the stipends - and was not alone. It took several days and several emails and telephone conversations to finally get the correct info from the city. However, I did admit it and corrected the record.

As far as McCarthy's gesture... it still may be viewed by some as "shallow".. I give him credit for making it, regardless how we choose to define it. Thanks for playing.

7/21/2009 10:02:00 PM  

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