The OC Board of Supervisors voted last month to spend approximately $10k to join a Pseudo Government — an unelected membership body that includes only 26 of the County’s 34 cities and a group of dues-paying lobbyists. The decision to join the Association of California Cities — Orange County was not unanimous — Supervisors Moorlach and Nelson opposed it. The action was unreported in the Register and the union-funded Voice of OC. The only announcement was via Supervisor Todd Spitzer’s 3/8/13 email newsletter:
(Santa Ana, CA) – The Orange County Board of Supervisors this week approved a measure to join the Association of California Cities – Orange County (ACC-OC). ACC-OC works with local government leaders who are committed to good public policy on a vast range of issues. The approach employs several committees, tools and resources for local leaders including the New Elected Official Orientation, Local Government Innovation Taskforce, Economic Development and Job Creation Committee and the Pension Reform Committee, on which Supervisor Spitzer participates… “We are a non-profit entity, focusing on public policy and bringing cities, agencies, non-profits and businesses together as a community,” said Lacy Kelly, CEO of ACC-OC, speaking before the board in support of the measure. Supervisor Spitzer proposed the measure and praised ACC-OC for its “good work as a regional body.” “I’m impressed by the work ACC-OC is doing, and that’s why I want the County of Orange to be a part of this partnership,” Spitzer said.Tustin Mayor Al Murray also spoke in support of the organization and asked supervisors to support the measure, joining with cities countywide. “I offer my strong support for this organization,” Murray said. “They are a leader in crafting responsible, effective public policy.”
Despite its grandiose name and lack of association with any other counties in the state, the ACC-OC focuses on only Orange County. It’s a spinoff from a few years ago of the more arrogant and presumptuous League of Cities. One of it founders, Orange County Business Council CEO Lucy Dunn makes a career out of lobbying and acting as it she speaks for County businesses and residents, even though she’s never run for or won public office. Her self-propelled OCBC, which has spawned politicians like Anaheim Councilmember Kris Murray, acts like a Chamber of Commerce, but is actually a lobbying organization that seeks to get its membership closer to tax coffers and the electeds that are trusted to wisely, without prejudice or influence, spend our money.
Our county government, and the Transportation Corridor Agency (the OC’s failing toll roads), at least five Water Districts, the OCTA and OC Fire Authority need NOT also have joined this group — these agencies lend it too much authority, credibility and, almost, legitimacy. No one asked them to evolve, no one really saw the need, and they’re certainly not legally appointed or authorized to act on anyone’s behalf. While the ACC-OC would not, we believe, prevent an ordinary taxpayer or voter from attending its meetings (in fact, they charge for some of them, even for their members that have already paid five-figure annual dues from city general funds to join), but neither does such attendance seem like it’s encouraged. Unlike government, their meeting agendas and minutes are not published. Their meetings are not streamed (as is now common at the county and municipal level, with downloadable recordings made available off the web). Despite the attendance of electeds, no input to ACC-OC’s meetings can be made by ordinary taxpayers, and no reaction can be had afterwards (e.g. as we’ll often do at this Blog). The County’s “press corps” has never to our knowledge reported on an ACC-OC meeting or committee.
The bottom line here is that representative government — those folks we legally elect — are involved with an organization which operates in the shadows, and outside the usual and proper scrutiny of the public and press. From their “About” web page, the
ACC-OC facilitates local government leaders who are committed to good public policy on a vast range of issues. We do this by working with city and local leaders on what we call “Public Policy – From the Ground Up,” meaning the best solutions are identified locally – to meet the unique needs of each community.
This is policy-making and problem resolution NOT involving the voting, taxpaying public and without legal sanction under government code. ACC-OC is NOT directly accountable to the county electorate and has no legal or judicial oversight. ACC-OC’s membership includes only 76% of our Orange County cities — that does NOT constitute a majority, it simply indicates that eight of them apparently believe there’s no value in paying its dues and to be influenced, or have their arms twisted, by them and their lobbyists. ACC-OC is NOT representative, fairly elected government — ONLY our duly elected, legally established government speaks for us and may set policy.
The City of Fountain Valley is the only local government known to have cancelled their ACC-OC membership (about $14k/pa) — they did not see its value, and like a number of others thought it redundant to the League of Cities membership they still believe they need (at least their retiring city manager does).
We also believe that a review of ACC-OC and their membership’s adherence to the Brown Act is in order. One would think that a majority of a city council attending an ACC-OC meeting would be in violation of it, but if such attendance is then precluded, that would seem to defeat the purpose of the organization of working with all “city and local leaders” (any not any of the unwashed).
But we’re not finished.
Especially pernicious in our opinion are the similar but larger, and actually government-sanctioned groups like the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) SCAG operates like a government agency, and has plenty of power to tell cities how to run their business — for example, in the past they’ve dictated affordable housing policy to the city of Irvine. We’d encourage Supervisor Spitzer, who voted to join the ACC-OC and represents Irvine, to review this linked OCR editorial, as we believe similar outreach not beyond the ACC-OC’s unelected body of bureaucrats.
Stephen Frank, proprietor of California Political News and Views wrote about the End of Elected Government: ABAG, SCAG and Other “Regional” Governments last week:
Many of my readers attend city council meetings in their home town. Very few attend meetings of unelected region government, meetings held almost in secret, with little fanfare of public notice. Yet decisions about housing, zoning, transportation and the allocation of budgets are no longer set by your city council—but by the unelected region governments. That is why politicians like to serve on these committees—they have the force of law, run by special interests, few know what they do and no pushback by citizens.
“In California there are a total of 17 regions, including in Los Angeles and San Diego, that are implementing sweeping changes to future development so that, Kumbayah, we’re all in ”sustainable communities.” For the Bay Area, that plan will include two-thirds of all new housing to be mid- to high-rise buildings. These buildings will be located in certain areas, called Priority Development Areas (PDAs) and according to One Bay Area, and by the year 2040, nearly 70 percent of all new housing in the Bay Area will be in these PDAs. In fact, only four percent of the region’s total land area will be used for the PDAs, according to the plan. The plan is being administered by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), so the general public is removed from actually effectuating change through enlightened recommendation or dissention.”
We’ve got enough government already, and we dearly pay for it. Making it easier for lobbyists by supporting and then paying to participate in their organizations is wrong. The right thing to do by the 26 ACC-OC member cities and the agencies we identified, and the dozens that belong to SCAG and similar exclusive collectives, is to stop these associations and no longer accept their clubby influence as a substitute for the work government is expected and paid to do. The Board of Supervisors, and 26 Orange County cities need to understand that the ACC-OC and SCAG are NOT your constituents — those are the folks who trusted you, voted you into power and expect YOU to make policy.