Council Stifles Attempt to Reduce Subcommittee Quorum

Mayor Terry Tornek was surprised by council’s reaction towards Item 3 and decided to re-assess his committee appointments. – Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News


City supports Measure H; implements permanent water conservation efforts

By Gus Herrera

On a night when council united to combat homelessness and reduce the city’s water usage, the mayor was forced to postpone consideration of another item after realizing that the room was clearly not in agreement.

Item 3 proposed reducing the number of subcommittee members necessary to achieve a quorum from three, to two. City staff’s report claimed that doing so would “improve the efficiency of operations … and reduce inconvenience to the general public, who on occasion, must wait in order for a quorum to be achieved before a meeting may begin.”

Quorum is a very old word (Middle English, originally derived from Latin) that simply refers to the minimum number of individuals that need be present for business or a meeting to take place.

The city currently has five council subcommittees (finance, municipal services, economic development and technology, legislative policy, public safety) each responsible for analyzing and forwarding recommendations to the full council for consideration.

The subcommittees are made up of three or four council members, appointed by the mayor.

Item 3 was met with significant opposition from the public and council members alike. Some argued a more fundamental defense of democratic principles that honor the right of the majority and fear placing too much power in the hands of the few.

“This will result in less, not more opportunity for dialogue and solutions … it appears that the intent of the recommendation is to increase the ability of one or two persons to champion recommendations to forward to council,” said David Llanes, treasurer of the Pasadena Police Officer Association.

Others, such as a Council Members Margaret McAustin and Andy Wilson, defended the importance of the work done by the subcommittees in forwarding thoroughly-examined recommendations to the full council.

“When things come to city council we know they’ve gotten a thorough vetting … we’ve come to rely on recommendations from committees because you know hard work was done,” said McAustin.

“I echo Margaret’s point of view … the quality of a three-person minimum gives me a level of confidence … if we only have two people, I wouldn’t have the confidence in our work … hard work and extra effort is worth the benefit,” said Wilson.

On the other side of the coin, Mayor Terry Tornek and Council Member Tyron Hampton both believed that a reduced quorum would indeed contribute to the efficiency (and convenience) of meetings and, ultimately, the city’s democratic process.

“I’m a little surprised of the reaction,” revealed Tornek, “committees don’t get to make definitive decisions … it’s a matter of trying to expedite business.”

“I think this would be a service to the community that would like to show up to meetings … I appreciate this being on the agenda tonight … if it doesn’t pass, it is what it is, but I’m voting for it,” said Hampton.

Once council’s deliberation revealed that there would not be enough votes to approve, Tornek decided to table Item 3 and said that he will speak to council members and re-assess his committee appointments.

As the meeting proceeded, council found common ground, unanimously approving items (ironically, recommended by subcommittees) related to combatting homelessness and conserving water.

After being split over Item 3, council quickly found common ground, unanimously approving efforts to combat homelessness and conserve water. – Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

Item 8 officially supports LA County’s Measure H, a quarter-cent special sales tax to fund homeless services, on the March 2017 ballot.

Item 9 aligns the city’s water conservation efforts with the state’s new draft plan, which promotes efficient water usage on a more permanent basis. Additionally, the city will institute a permanent three-day-per-week limit on landscape irrigation, require multi-family properties to install efficient showerheads, and more.

McAustin lauded Pasadena’s conservation efforts, citing that the city’s water usage is at its lowest since 1952, “conservation is a new way of life … this is the way we’ll be using water going forward.”

February 8, 2017

About Author

Gus Gus Herrera was born in Los Angeles and raised in Pasadena. He attended Flintridge Prep in La Canada for high school and then spent four years on the East Coast at Boston University where he graduated with a bachelor's in philosophy. He first began covering the City of Pasadena for the Pasadena Independent in February 2016.

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