The city of Chula Vista is looking at the possibility of creating a hybrid public safety committee following a recommendation from Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox.
During a Feb. 5 council meeting, Cox proposed creating ad hoc committees as needed, in lieu of continuing standing council subcommittees.
The change would help eliminate any redundancies between similar groups.
Subcommittees are generally formed to meet on an ongoing basis, regardless of agendas. Ad hoc committees are created to deal with a particular time-sensitive issue.
The majority of council discussion focused on the Chula Vista Police Department’s Community Advisory Committee versus the city’s Public Safety Subcommittee.
Councilman Rudy Ramirez added to Cox’s initial suggestion by proposing to add two council members to the department’s committee.
The idea irked councilwoman Patricia Aguilar, who has sat on the city’s Public Safety Subcommittee for the last two years.
“…It just seems inappropriate to me,” Aguilar said. “First of all, it would politicize those meetings. Secondly I think it would or could have a chilling effect on a frank and open discussion between the chief and members of the community.”
Aguilar opposed Ramirez’s suggestion. However, the majority of the council agreed to have City Attorney Glen Googins return with information at the end of the month on forming a hybrid public safety committee, adding two council members to the police department committee.
Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano was asked to speak at the Feb. 5 council meeting about the department’s committee, which was established in 2002 and is governed by the Brown Act.
Bejarano said the meeting acts as a forum, where members of the community are invited to hear discussion on any given public safety topic.
“Topics are either emerging in the community or are a public safety issue,” Bejarano said.
Aguilar questioned Bejarano about the committee, unaware of its existence and purpose, asking why she never saw information promoting it.
“The Community Advisory Committee reports to the police chief, not the council,” Aguilar said. “Really that’s the major difference of the subcommittee. I think that the Public Safety Subcommittee served a critical role in the public safety arena in terms of getting citizens input.”
Aguilar argued that although the groups are similar in nature, the Public Safety Subcommittee still serves an important purpose.
“The vast majority of the city’s budget is spent on public safety,” she said. “It’s really the most important thing that the city does … Given the importance of public safety why would we want to end another opportunity for people to address the council?”
Former Chula Vista Councilman Steve Castaneda was responsible for bringing the initial idea of a public safety subcommittee to the council in 2006 to advise council members on public safety matters, specifically police, fire and code enforcement issues.
In the last two years, the Public Safety Subcommittee has held 10 public meetings to discuss various public safety topics, including medical marijuana dispensaries, graffiti, synthetic drugs, DUI enforcement and police department improvements.
Some of those mentioned led to new city ordinances and additional funding.
Castaneda said that while the decision is within the purview of the mayor and council, he doesn’t agree with it.
“Over the six or seven years it’s been in existence it’s been a great forum,” Castaneda said.
“I think that subcommittees like the Public Safety Subcommittee areneeded now more than ever … with crimes rates increasing and graffiti becoming more prevalent and concerns from neighborhoods with bars and alcohol-related violence.”
Castaneda said he found out about the community advisory committee approximately five years ago but never attended a meeting, saying they weren’t publicized to the community or even the council.
“If that’s going to the be the only opportunity for the public to talk about issues on public safety then I’d hope they’d be more aggressive with publicizing the information,” he said.