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Supervisors mull scaling back meetings

February 14, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The county Board of Supervisors appears to be leaning in a direction that would cut the number of times it meets in half.

The change in the board's meeting schedule would have it meeting every other week instead of weekly.

The driving force behind the proposal is County Executive Officer Ann Capela, who says the county's business cycle would be more efficient with the change. Under her proposal the board would meet as a so-called committee of the whole on the Monday before each board meeting.

The board meets every Tuesday, and in its various committees every Monday, all of which are reportedly open to the public, despite being conducted in small conference rooms typically behind closed doors.

Adoption of the change would reduce those public meetings by half.

Supervisors Tony Tirado, Hank Kuiper and Joe Maruca said they were willing to give the proposal a try.

Tirado said one reason for the change is "hasty" decisions have been made due to little time between Monday committee meetings and Tuesday board meetings. He said under the proposal, committee discussions could occur twice, that is on consecutive Mondays, before a board meeting at which action would be taken. He said the added time would allow board members to visit other governing bodies to discuss the issue if desired.

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Kuiper said the proposal is worth examining.

"I for one would like to see it on a trial basis," he said.

Maruca said he doesn't like the committee idea, and that if the proposal doesn't work, it can be scrapped.

Supervisors Wally Leimgruber and Gary Wyatt urged caution.

"I have not yet made up my mind on this issue," Wyatt said, responding to public comments that sounded as if the board was ready to approve the change. He said feedback thus far has been against the change, and said he doubted board members would actually use time off to visit other board meetings.

Leimgruber said with the large number of issues facing the county, weekly meetings are better for sharing information. He urged the board investigate the matter further.

Meanwhile, members of the public, or those who represent constituencies gave their comments, mostly in opposition.

District Attorney Gilbert G. Otero said the change would leave the public ill-informed on public issues.

"If we narrow the public's access, we'll cut them out of the loop," he said, adding the board should not make any major changes until its members have been on the job for a while.

Three supervisors took office in January, while the other two have been in place two years.

"Politically it is something you have to be very careful with," Otero said.

Tom DuBose, manager of Development Design & Engineering LLC, told the board the county is on the verge of an economic development explosion and the change in schedule could result in numerous special meetings being called to address urgent development issues that could end up being delayed.

Further, he said the public is accustomed to weekly meetings, will be confused by the change and might end up with the perception that supervisors' decisions are really made at committee meetings and rubber-stamped at board meetings.

Bob Ham, executive director of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business of Imperial County, said the idea is intriguing and warrants further investigation. He said he wonders what the effects will be on committee meetings and subsequent board meetings with the numerous holidays that fall on Monday.

Calexico-area farmer John Pierre Menvielle said he supports the change to every other week but would like the board meetings to be on the week opposite those of the Imperial Irrigation District.

Finally, Felix Meza, publisher of El Sol del Valle, a local Spanish-language newspaper, said that despite committee meetings being open to the public, noticed and agendas provided, there is no guarantee media representatives would go to nondecision-making meetings.

The issue will be on next week's agenda again.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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