Supervisor Paul Teixeira’s proposal to create one advisory “super council” in the South County has some merit, but we believe that far more would be lost than gained from the change.
On the plus side, a single council with 11 appointed members would be more efficient, would likely require less support from county staff and could carry more weight with decision makers.
However, advisory councils have traditionally functioned as community sounding boards — not regional bodies. If one large council were to represent numerous South County communities, we fear the local focus would be diluted, if not lost altogether.
Meeting up with neighbors at a local town hall fosters a sense of connection. It gives residents a chance to voice concerns about a proposal or project in its earliest stage, to get involved in community causes and to learn about projects coming down the pike. That sense of belonging would be weakened if residents had to drive one or two towns over to attend meetings.
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Also, because advisory council members live in the communities they represent, they are uniquely qualified to take a first look at the applications they review. We’ve seen projects much improved thanks to input from advisory council members — and that saves valuable time when the applications eventually reach the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors.
We also have serious concerns about Teixeira’s proposal to appoint members to the council, rather than allow local neighborhoods to elect representatives. Elections help members gain visibility in their communities; make them more accountable to the residents they represent; and help ensure greater diversity on the council.
Are there problems with advisory councils? You bet.
Over the years, we’ve seen squabbles over elections, we’ve seen some advisory councils grow so large they’ve become unwieldy and at the other extreme, we’ve seen interest wane to the point where it’s difficult to recruit members.
Yet we’ve also seen advisory councils pull communities together in times of emergency; help draw attention to important issues such as a lack of recreational facilities for children, illegal dumping, crime, traffic and flooding problems; and of course, provide valuable feedback on projects making their way through the approval process.
Bottom line: If other unincorporated communities in the county — Avila, Creston, Santa Margarita, Los Osos, Shandon, Templeton — have their own advisory councils, we believe South County communities are entitled to the same representation.
We strongly urge Supervisor Teixeira to reconsider his proposal to combine advisory councils in the South County.