The committee is the next step in the process of fixing the city’s budget problem and rebuilding the general fund reserves. Earlier this year, voters passed a measure that will allow the city to continue to make rent payments on Interim City Hall for the next four years without making major cuts to city programs.
The four-year buffer also creates time for the city to build a new City Hall. To fund a new City Hall, however, another tax-raising measure will need to go to voters in the next year.
Similar measures for a new City Hall have gone to the voters three times before, and each one failed. To improve their chances of getting such a measure to pass, City Council decided to create a City Hall Advisory Committee earlier this year.
The committee will consist of nine community members who applied for the position. Each were interviewed by the City Council. Then, during Thursday night’s meeting, the council discussed who they thought should be on the committee.
During the interview process, each councilmember gave the candidates numbered scores in a variety of categories. At first, several councilmembers thought their best bet was to go with the top nine candidates based on those scores.
However, some councilmembers cautioned against that, as they said they interviewed 15 highly qualified candidates and felt each would bring something valuable to the conversation.
“It’s not that I don’t like the top nine,” Councilmember Bryan Wahl said. “I do. I just think we should be careful about just going with the numbers and make sure we identify some expertise that needs to be represented.”
He went on to say that he may have judged the first several candidates a bit better than he should have, because he wasn’t expecting to interview 15 solid candidates. That sentiment was echoed by several councilmembers.
“They all had features that we needed,” Councilmember Kyoko Matsumoto-Wright said.
“I don’t want anyone to think this decision is easy, because it’s not,” Councilmember Laura Sonmore said.
After about an hour of going through the list several times and switching out several candidates and discussing how the group as a whole represented the city, the group finally reached a consensus. The list was made up of a handful of community members in their late 20s to early 30s, two women and two people who likely voted “no” on previous City Hall ballot measures, among other descriptors, each with a unique skill or area of expertise.
“We have to do this right, and to do this right, we have to make sure we have consensus,” Wahl said. “We need to get everyone to a “yes” at the end of the day when it’s on the ballot.”
Everyone who was interviewed last week was contacted Friday. Those who were selected will be confirmed during Monday night’s City Council meeting. City Manager Scott Hugill said those who were not selected were asked to fill open positions on other advisory committees or commissions.
“I would encourage the ‘bottom six’ to come to the meetings and still throw in your input because we need all the ideas we can get,” Councilmember Seaun Richards said.
The advisory committee will be confirmed Monday and will begin meeting sometime in mid-January. The city’s goal is to have something ready for voters sometime in 2017, likely the November ballot.
–By Natalie Covate