In October newly elected Councilman James Casey had suggested changing the way the City Council appoints members of the Ceres Planning Commission. His idea is to appoint members to coincide with council districts.
Current practice involves for interested citizens to apply for open seats no matter where they live in the city, and to be interviewed before an appointment. On Monday the council not only delayed action on Casey’s idea, but voted 3-2 to reappoint Dave Johnson, whose term was up last December.
Johnson reapplied for the seat. Mohinder Singh Kanda, who previously had applied to be appointed to a council seat, also applied for the open commission seat.
Ceres resident John Warren offered that the city doesn’t really need a Planning Commission citing how few times it has met.
“Last year I believe at least 50 percent of the meetings that were scheduled for the Planning Commission were cancelled and I’m assuming the reason they were cancelled because there were no items to discuss,” said Warren. “And this year, I know, there’ve been several meetings that have been cancelled, probably for the same reason.
He noted that the real power to decide planning matters lies with the council, not the commission.
Citizen John Osgood agreed, saying the commission’s actions are mere recommendations to the council. He also favored commissioners being appointed on the basis of districts.
“We’ve been single-district heavy on that commission for many years and that’s unacceptable,” opined Osgood. “That’s a lack of representation as far as I’m concerned.”
When Mayor Javier Lopez called for a discussion, Vice Mayor Bret Silveira motioned to appoint Johnson to another four-year term, seconded by Councilman Mike Kline. It was then that Councilwoman Linda Ryno interrupted and asked if there was any discussion about Casey’s idea.
Ryno said the city has both appointed with and without taking applications but wanted to know why the council didn’t want to take applications from others who may be interested.
Casey seemed confused about the council’s bypass of discussion by directly reappointing Johnson.
Silveira said he wanted to appoint Johnson quickly since the council was negligent in not addressing his term expiring in December. He said he is open to the council taking up the matter of changing the appointment process later before the next vacancy arises.
Kline noted that Johnson has only served only one term but didn’t think it was time to discuss making changes while there is an open seat. He signaled that he’s open to changes but said making appointments other than at-large basis would be “tougher” since it would limit who could apply.
Casey said nobody on the commission has been a resident of District 2 (west of Highway 99) “since I’ve been paying attention.” That prompted Silveira to reply: “We can make districts all we want. If nobody applies then what are we going to do? Nobody’s ever applied from those districts. If they don’t apply then it doesn’t matter … if we say there should be one in every district.”
Warren opined that the city hasn’t been good about getting out the word about vacancies to get applications.
The terms of Laurie Smith expires in December, prompting Kline to ask the council to consider changes to the appointment process before that time.