Opinion - Should the Elk Grove City Council Form a Community Advisory Council?

By Connie Conley | October 28, 2015 | In light of yet another item buried in the Consent Calendar for tonight’s Elk Grove City Co...

By Connie Conley | October 28, 2015 |

In light of yet another item buried in the Consent Calendar for tonight’s Elk Grove City Council meeting, I believe it is time the Elk Grove City Council revisit an idea that has been brought before the current Elk Grove City Council and their predecessors many times since Elk Grove became a city:  A Community Advisory Council (CAC).

If I hadn't read Elk Grove News, I would have never known about the latest item buried on the consent calendar which is supposed to be for non-controversial, routine items. When is the matter of a sales tax revenue increase “routine?”

A brief description:  A Community Advisory Council is made up of residents from the area covered by the advisory group. They volunteer their time to represent community interests within the city processes.  The job of the CAC would be to represent views and ideas from the broader community on issues of interest to the City Council.  This speaks directly to many issues facing the Council today – and may be a reason why there have been no decisions made on what needs to be done first – only a long list of items. 

I am of the opinion that more and more items are being buried and that is contra to what the Council professes is an open and transparent government.

When the Elk Grove Community Connection held the first Neighborhood Summit back in 2006, we had an open format whereby residents from all over the city discussed matters not only important to their respective areas, but to the city as a whole. 

Soon after Gary Davis was elected to the Elk Grove City Council, he asked us if he could take over the meetings.  We agreed.  However, at the one held last September 30th, it was mostly presentations and very little time was allocated for open discussion. A community advisory council would certainly resolve that issue. 

For example: This is what the consent calendar says on the agenda for the item in question of hiring a consultant to ascertain if the voters would approve a sales tax increase. One has to search the purchases to find it. Who has the time? 

8.1  Receive report on City Manager approved purchases and contracts authorized by Elk Grove Municipal Code Chapter 3.42 Contracts and Purchasing, filed through October 21, 2015 [p. 1-3] (CITY CLERK)

The community needs to discuss issues important to them in an open format – three minutes at a council meeting is not conducive to that. The issue of a sales tax increase is certainly one of them.  It went from a “suggestion,” to now spending $47K on yet another consultant. When did the Council openly deliberate this issue? And who made the decision to hire this group?

A Community Advisory Council would give all residents a platform in which to voice their concerns.

Another example:  The new gun range.  No matter what side of the issue you are on, the residents would have had a platform in which to voice their concerns and learn about the process from other residents.  It was unclear if the opponents even knew the correct process for appealing the Elk Grove Planning Commission’s decision. They could have brought that matter to the CAC for open discussion.

We continue to have a transparency issue in that Elk Grove City Council members are continuing to use their personal email accounts to conduct official city business. This precludes those emails from being requested as part of a public records request. This matter could go before the CAC and the CAC could potentially recommend to the Council that all city business must be conducted via official governmental channels.

There must be more public transparency and accountability in our local government.  A Community Advisory Council would certainly move the city of Elk Grove in that direction.

Copyright © 2015 by Connie Conley. All rights reserved.

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Anonymous said...

It is the job of the council to be in touch with their constituents. Hold them accountable by voting them out if they fail to do their jobs. It is clear that EG does not have the intestinal fortitude to make changes.

A city-managed, coordinated advisory council doesn't make sense. If you can't "trust" the city then why give them the keys to manage it?

No, if you really want change, it must be independent.

Anonymous said...

Why can't the City of Elk Grove give a free trip to Pakistan for all council members?

Anonymous said...

If I understand what Ms. Conley is speaking of, it is not a council controlled CAC. It is a committee made up of residents who meet and discuss city issues and then take those to the council. If you noticed last evening the Mayor commented to the students about the meeting being short...have never heard a comment thanking all us taxpayers for attending and that they maybe heard us.

I look at our council meetings as something that was held at the beginning of the century. They are the adults and we are the children...we had our three minutes, now go sit down. Just forgot to give us our glass of milk and cookies.

Ice Rink said...

Region Builders is probably already working on the plan--what more do you need!

Connie said...

When Elk Grove was still unincorporated, and an arm of the County, we had a CAC. Members included Dan Gougherty of Elk Grove News and Mike Monaksy, certainly two members in which the word sycophant is not in their vocabulary. That CAC did great work.

If the current Council had any chutzpah, they would form a CAC and put active residents on it who aren’t afraid to speak the hard truth. There is a quote that says, “I respect people who tell me the truth no matter how hard it is.”

I don't see the CAC as a "bitch session" either for residents. There are a lot of active residents who have contributed much to our city. These people have the institutional knowledge that needs to be shared with others who want to learn about the process. Where can they currently go for that background knowledge?

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