City Council, Public Safety Commission Work on Communication

Dr. James Lin is sworn in as an alternate to the city’s Public Safety Commission, and Jeff Boozell takes the oath to become a member of the body.
Dr. James Lin is sworn in as an alternate to the city’s Public Safety Commission, and Jeff Boozell takes the oath to become a member of the body.

The San Marino Public Safety Commission will rearrange the timing of its regular monthly meetings to more expeditiously respond to tasks delegated by the City Council.
In an effort to improve communicating to the council the conclusions and opinions it has reached, the commission also will explore filing page-long reports on topics — traffic flow improvement, for example — to be reviewed by the council in regular reports. The decisions were reached at a meeting between the two bodies last week.
“When we met a year ago, you shared with us some ideas to things you’d like us to consider. Hopefully, over the last year we’ve done that,” commission chair Al Boegh said. “However, one thing that has become quite clear to us commissioners is that in our role of gathering facts and providing a forum for members of the community to share their ideas, we don’t really have a formal methodology in place to provide feedback to the council on what we hear from the community. Council members who have acted as liaisons have, I’m sure, shared information with the rest of the council, but there are some instances in which we’ve dug our teeth into something and it’s just kind of disappeared.”
The disconnect results from the Public Safety Commission being an advisory body, as opposed to the Planning Commission or Design Review Committee, which are granted authority to make community planning decisions that essentially are automatically approved by the City Council. The nature of this commission means that meeting minutes do not transcribe all conversation, producing essentially nothing substantive for council members to personally review.
This creates a clear issue for members of the Public Safety Commission, which was created last year out of the former Traffic Advisory Commission. The group is tasked with diving into specific issues related to law enforcement, emergency response and traffic safety and tends to serve as an outlet for residents wishing to weigh in on their analyses.
“We need a formal framework to set that up,” said Councilman Steve Talt, who touts the commission’s formation as a legacy of his mayoral term last year. “Eventually a consensus is going to need to be fed, from what you’ve heard, to us. Perhaps I will sit down and see what other cities are doing with respect to that information.”
Boegh suggested having the commission’s chair prepare page summaries of meetings to highlight the desired information, without necessarily serving as meeting minutes.
“It’d be great to have some sort of way, when doing the one-page summary, to reflect the comments, the commission discussion and then the decision,” Vice Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey said.
City Manager Marcella Marlowe said municipal staff members could assist in beginning that process, specifically to avoid running astray of state law regarding records for public meetings.
“That’s potentially a legal issue for us. I know this is a weird fine line to walk,” she explained. “There are just risks with having a subjective summary of the meeting. When you have bodies that are kind of advisory in nature, it does get a little bit gray, so we can try to fix that.”
Commissioner Jeff Boozell added that sometimes the commission receives direction from the City Council long after it was decided — largely because there is virtually no time in between council meetings and publication of the commission’s agendas — and that it tends to be little more than a stack of information without strong directive.
The solution was, simply, to switch from meeting on the third Monday of the month (the council meets on the second Tuesday) to the fourth Monday, allowing ample time for city staff and the applicable department heads to prepare a thorough directive for the commission right away.
In other business, Boozell was sworn in as a full commissioner after serving as an alternate for the past year, and Dr. James Lin was sworn in as the new alternate. Lin, a city resident since he was in the 7th grade, is a physician who worked with the commission and city last year to have stop signs placed at the intersection of St. Albans Road and Adair Street, near his home.

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