by Neena Strichart
I have a topic I would like to discuss since it has been on my mind for months; that topic is our local city commissions/commissioners and how the members are selected.
To the best of my recollection, during many of the past several Signal Hill City Council elections (I don’t remember the subject coming up during any recent Long Beach elections), the matter of appointments to the three commissions (Planning, Parks and Recreation, and Civil Service) have been part of the contention between the incumbents and the challengers. This election cycle was no exception.
During the three candidate forums, the matter was brought up several times. An incumbent or two, or maybe all three, asked why none of the challengers had ever served on any of the commissions before seeking elected office. In response, the challengers (one, two, three or all four) commented that he or she either did not see serving on a commission as a prerequisite to running for office or in one case, a challenger made it quite clear that he did indeed apply to be a commissioner but was turned down for the appointment by the majority of the council.
Given the above information, I would appreciate it if our readers would take these details into consideration and combine them with my opinion on the subject below. Once both sides have been taken into account, I would appreciate if those of you who care to would please call, write or email me and tell me where you stand on the matter.
Neena’s metaphor: Picture this…a young man goes into a job interview with his résumé in hand. The document is full of disparaging remarks about the prospective employer, including comments claiming the business owner is a charlatan, liar and law-breaker who more often than not hires corrupt individuals. During the interview process, the interviewee accuses the employer of being of questionable character and knowing nothing about running a business. Furthermore, under questioning by the prospective employer, the young man, who is hoping to be hired, admits that he has done no research on the company, has never spoken with any of the current employees and has based his opinions about the company and the employer on gossip. If this situation were to actually take place, what do you think are the young man’s chances of being hired?
What’s the difference between my first comments above and the metaphor? In my opinion, there is no difference. Using logic, a commissioner is to a city council what a cabinet member is to the President of the United States– an advisor. If my logic is sound, why would a city council want to appoint/hire an advisor who finds the entity to be repugnant at best? If you ask me, I would imagine serving on a city council to be a tough job, and, in many cases, quite thankless. One of the saving graces is the perk of hiring whom they want to serve as their advisors, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why they would prefer to appoint/hire those they believe will be effective, fair and open-minded in those roles rather than those who they believe would be constantly confrontational and hold them in contempt.
Disclosure– my husband, Steve Strichart is a Signal Hill Civil Service commissioner.