Southern California: Long running ad hoc committees trample open government

With 14 ad hoc committees, one four years old, the Highland City Council is needlessly conducting vast amounts of the people’s business behind closed doors, says an editorial in the Highland Community News. -DB

Highland Community News
December 17, 2009

Ad hoc committees can serve a very useful purpose.

Operating out of public view, they can sometimes work out difficult and challenging problems meeting one-on-one with those involved in controversial items.

Ad hoc committees are not subject to the Brown Act and are not open to the press and public. They are “limited to a single purpose, are not perpetual, and to be dissolved once their specific task is completed,” according to a city of Highland report to the City Council.

That report also listed 14 ad hoc committees, one (San Manuel Planning) dating back to 2004.

The Open Space EHR/Forestry committee is four years old, Mobile Home Rent Control Committee 2 1/2 years old; five others over a year old.

First of all, we suggest that the city’s ad hoc committees should be fewer and more narrowly focused. A subject as wide as “San Manuel Planning” should be a permanent and public committee, for example. If there is a specific issue to be resolved with the Indians, that would be one matter. There will always be need for communication and cooperation with the Reservation, but to broaden it to “San Manuel Planning” covers too much territory and does require a standing committee.

That suggestion includes most of the city’s ad hoc committees.

The second issue is holding meetings out of the public view.

The Sign Review Committee, for example would include discussion that much of the public should know about and include public consideration. Not only that, but the committee includes members of the City Council, Planning Commission and Chamber of Commerce. It would be interesting to know how each stands on the sign ordinance.

Another, the “Orange County Property,” is dealing with development of the huge section of property between Seven Oaks Dam and Yucaipa.

Talk about a general subject!

We believe that the public’s business should be conducted in public with very few exceptions, and those exceptions deserve thoughtful and focused decisions by the mayor, who appoints ad hoc committees.

We are not alleging any wrongdoing; but there is the legal option against the right thing to do. We prefer the latter.

Copyright 2009 Highland News