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City Council United On Feeling of Ad Hoc Committees

School Board Says Is Rare, But Very Helpful for Specific Issues

San Marino City Council is trying something new in 2016 – they will be relying on an ad hoc committee to tell them if city departments are being managed well.

With San Marino’s Ad Hoc Budget Committee meeting for the first time in January, city council reflected on what a committee like this could do for the community. They agreed it could help the city in the long-run.

Councilmember Richard Ward said a committee like this has not been formed before, and though he is not sure exactly how well it will work, he is pretty optimistic about it.

Vice Mayor Richard Sun said he thinks it will be a good start for citizens to get more involved and learn the inner operations of the city. This will save the city money as well considering San Marino will not need to hire professional consultants.

Steven Huang, a councilmember, added that there are a lot of excellent retirees who are specialized in a variety of fields. Hal Harrigian, for example, is a retired accountant who has pushed the city council for months to take a closer look at the city’s operations and budget.

“I think we’re going in the right direction. This is what residents want to see,” Huang said.

Councilmember Steve Talt agreed stating San Marino has an astonishing number of qualified experts. With the right people, Talt said the committee could be a great success.

If the committee finds no problem, then it assures residents that staff is doing a great job. If they do find a problem, Huang said they can try to save the city money, which can possibly be put toward something else.

The first Management Audit Ad Hoc Committee will meet on Tuesday, Jan. 5 from 2-5 p.m. at City Hall. Mayor Allan Yung and Councilmember Talt will lead the audit into administration, parks and public works.

Yung and Talt plus citizen advisors will meet and receive a report for each department they are auditing. This includes city clerk, finance director, treasurer, human resources, Contracts-CJPIA, assistant city manager and city manager in administration plus garage, streets/ sidewalks, sewer, storm drains and parks and medians in parks and public works.

The departments will be split up for each advisor, who will compete a list of questions or requested informational materials. Advisors will meet with the department heads on their own to get their questions answered.

A draft report will then be prepared to include observations about what is being managed well and any recommendations for improved efficiencies and cost savings. This report will be presented to the ad hoc committee members and any interested community member who will add suggestions, and then the report will be finalized and brought before the city council.

These are recommendations only. The ad hoc committee has no authority to make decisions – only the city council has that power.

The last time a temporary advisory committee like this was formed was for the General Plan, which was amended in 2003. A nine-member steering committee comprised of community members held a number of meetings to learn more about what was important to San Marino residents at the time.

Permanent advisory committees include the Traffic Advisory Commission, Recreation Commission, Library Board of Trustees, Design Review Commission and Planning Commission. The people that serve are appointed by the city council.

Citizen advisors who have previously expressed interest in this committee are Hal Harrigian, Susan Jakubowski, Stefan Dietrich, Al Bough and former councilmembers. For future ad hoc committees that will audit recreation and library, fire and police, interested community members can send a letter of interest and resume to either the city clerk, city manager or mayor.

School Board’s Experience

The San Marino Unified School District Board of Education President Nam Jack said she can recall only one ad hoc committee formed over the past several years, and it still exists today – the Cell Tower Advisory Committee. Jack and board member Chris Norgaard have both served on the ad hoc committee.

“It brings a diverse population with different opinions together to provide thoughtful recommendations,” Jack said stating the committee has been very helpful. “We really appreciate their input.”

She said they helped form an opinion on what options the school board has. Just like the city’s ad hoc committee, residents were invited to serve as advisors and all findings were purely suggestions. The school board would make all final decisions.

SMUSD has also been using standing committees for years for academics, athletics and arts. Their purpose is to look at programs rather than at finances, said Norgaard.

“They’re quite valuable,” he said emphasizing the committees utilized by the school district and the new one created by the city are very different from each other.

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