Wednesday, March 23, 2022

3.21.22 Special Session

The Council met in special session on Monday (3.21.22) to discuss two things.  The first was a goal setting session.  After discussion, the Council agreed on three goals for the upcoming year:

1.  Develop a plan for fiscally and structurally sustainable budget.  Being sustainable means that our budget cannot rely on one time funding or reserve spending.  Cloven pushed for agreement that our goal should be to have one unified message around whatever is agreed upon to address our looming budget shortfalls - to which I responded that that would be premature.  Without knowing the specifics of a proposal or plan, I stated that I would reserve judgment as to the efficacy.  Instead, I suggested the goal that we actually adopted.

2.  Have a discussion around bringing our staff tools and resources up to modern standards.  It's been mentioned at different times some of the challenges that staff work through on a regular basis.  This goal is essentially to assess those, and discuss potential approaches to mitigate or alleviate those challenges.  One theme that was raised was related to the growth of the city, and the growth of the bureaucracy required by the state.  While our staff size has remained relatively flat over the years, the population of Clayton has increased which increases the need for city services.  Some of these services are scalable, but many are not.  In addition to population growth, the requirements that the state imposes for regulatory compliance reporting have increased as well.  The volume of reporting is not affected by city size so the administrative burden these requirements impose is not insignificant.

This is an important matter to be addressed, but why it was needed to be established as a goal as part of our annual goal setting session seemed odd to me.  The Mayor controls the Council agenda and this discussion item could have been placed on the agenda at any time.

3. Submission of a Housing Element that is compliant with the law.  This too seemed odd as a goal as it's commonplace to comply with the law.  The law requires a compliant Housing Element be submitted every eight years and we've already done significant work as a city to meet this requirement.

There was also discussion around a change to Council Guidelines.  Nothing in the guidelines supersedes what is established in the CA Gov Code, and nothing in the guidelines is binding on the Council.  The guidelines are established however, as a way to communicate norms that may make the operations of the Council smoother.  Our City Manager proposed a change to the way that items are agendized.  The practice of the Council has been that any Councilmember can request an item be brought forward on the agenda and anything that is requested would then be brought forward for a future discussion.  City Staff don't take action unless directed by the Council collectively, but we can discuss among ourselves if we want to provide that direction.

The proposal that was advanced was to have Councilmembers vote on whether something is ever put on the agenda.  I was opposed to this for a couple reasons.  First, we as Councilmembers are not allowed to discuss among ourselves any issue that has not been agendized, either at a Council meeting, or outside of a Council meeting.  This means that we would need to vote on whether we want to take up an issue, before actually understanding what that issue was.  Without ever getting to the merits of an issue, something could be dismissed.  This limits overall discussion.  Second, this would mean that a majority could prevent an issue ever being raised or discussed on the merits.  

Ultimately we did not adopt this proposal.