By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Monday, December 17th, 2007 at 10:41 am in Contra Costa politics.
Contra Costa County’s push to reform and standardize the operations of its municipal advisory committees, or MACS, may meet with vocal resistance Tuesday.
The county Board of Supervisors called the all-MAC meeting to present its draft policy recommendations but opposition is already pouring in. Some members of these hyper-local community boards were already peeved after the county stripped them last year of their elected status and converted them to political appointees.
The county has 10 MACs in unincorporated communities such as Byron, Knightsen, Rodeo and Kensington. The county assigns MAC duties to two elected community service district boards, one in Discovery Bay and the other in Diablo. These boards have no authority and receive little funding but serve as a sounding board on local issues and make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on issues that may impact their residents.
These boards have operated for years under inconsistent rules, funding and oversight, and the county wants to create a single playbook. For example, the supervisors are considering the imposition of minimum standards for reporting and storage of minutes, term limits on membership and uniform funding.
On the surface, it sounds like a housekeeping matter.
But in Supervisor Mary Piepho’s district, some local folks view the move as a hostile take-over designed to silence and intimidate her critics. Piepho has had repeated run-ins with MAC members in Knightsen and Byron over the community board’s authority to send letters stating their positions to any entity other than the Board of Supervisors. Former Knightsen MAC member John Gonzalez, and a Piepho critic, says the county has plenty of laws in place to govern its MACs and questioned the use of public resources for a minor matter at a time when the county faces far more serious issues. “I’m hoping there is not an ulterior motive,” he wrote. “The talk of the community lately is why would the supervisors make it so difficult to work with them?”
Piepho has said repeatedly that her intent is to open the MACs to the entire community and lend more transparency and accountability to their activities.
The bigger question may be whether or not Piepho and fellow Supervisor Federal Glover, who lead a sub-committee charged with developing the MAC guidelines, really want right now to start a battle over citizen advisory committees. Both face the potential of strong opponents in their 2008 re-election campaigns. Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, has said he will challenge Piepho and most expect Antioch Mayor Don Freitas will declare his candidacy in Glover’s supervisorial district in January.
If you’re interested, the all-MAC meeting will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Dec. 18 at the Board of Supervisors’ chambers, 651 Pine St., Martinez, CA.