We strongly urge county Supervisor Paul Teixeira to reconsider his decision to deny $1,200 in community project funds to the South County Community Advisory Council.
We appreciate Teixeira’s concern about the county’s budget woes, but this is not the place to skimp. Volunteer advisory councils are an important link between local communities and county government, and denying them funds for office supplies is absurd.
Among other functions, community advisory councils give proposed developments an initial review. Over the past few months, for example, the South County Community Advisory Council has considered applications for the Excelaron oil exploration project; a horse boarding facility; traffic lights at Pomeroy and Willow; and an expansion of the Community Health Centers clinic in Nipomo.
Scrutinizing projects at an early stage benefits everyone. The community is better informed. Applicants have the opportunity to gauge local reaction and modify — or even drop — their proposals before sinking thousands of dollars into lost causes. And county staff can save considerable time if the applications they receive have already under gone some vetting.
In return, it seems the least that county supervisors can do is provide a small stipend to each advisory council to cover stationery, running off copies of county documents, maintaining websites and the like.
Yet the South County Community Advisory Council has repeatedly requested $1,200 from Teixeira, to no avail.
To put that modest request in perspective, each county supervisor received $23,438 this year to allocate to community causes, such as annual festivals, libraries, youth organizations and the like.
Teixeira approved $12,461 in such requests from 26 organizations. He even gave $100 to the Templeton Fourth of July committee, even though Templeton isn’t in his district.
“People need that kind of stuff in these economic times,” he told Tribune reporter Cynthia Lambert.
We agree. But we also believe that people need access to information and an opportunity to speak their minds. Community advisory councils provide those opportunities.
No, they aren’t perfect. It’s true that meetings are sometimes sparsely attended; the same core groups of people often wind up serving on boards and committees year after year; and not every constituency in every town is necessarily represented.
But those same complaints can be made about virtually every council or board in the county — including the county Board of Supervisors — and that’s no reason to throw up our hands and abandon the public process.
Besides, when there is a hot issue in town, you can bet that the community advisory council meeting will be packed with people who want their opinions conveyed to the powers-that-be at the County Government Center.
Teixeira may not like the politics of this particular South County group, he may take issue with the manner in which elections for board members are conducted or the way meetings are run, but to deny them the modest sum of $1,200 is a disservice not only to this group of hard-working volunteers, but also to the communities they represent.
If Teixeira is not willing to reverse course, we believe it’s time the county adopted a policy that would guarantee each advisory council a small operating budget, rather than leaving that to the whim of individual supervisors.