The Budget and Finance Committee will get another chance after several members of the public volunteered to serve on it and the Lodi City Council voted to keep it on Wednesday night.
The committee is down to two members, and the council considered disbanding it because no one had submitted applications to serve, according to a staff report.
But in a letter, John Beckman, a former councilman, said he turned in an application several months ago, and he still would like to serve. Former council candidate Jay Patel and Planning Commission member Dave Kirsten also offered to be on the committee at the council meeting.
Beckman wrote that the council needs to give the committee a defined role because past members have felt they do not have a clear understanding of the committee’s mission or purpose.
“It appears the committee was never given a role to play in the budgeting process of the city. Should the council choose to eliminate this committee it will be a lost opportunity to improve the relationship between citizens and city government,” he wrote.
The council voted unanimously to try and fill the positions and re-examine the committee’s mission during a shirtsleeve meeting.
Resident Mike Carouba said the city has advisory committees on the Grape Bowl, arts and sister cities, but he cannot think of anything more important than a citizen committee on city finances.
“There’s a check and balance there. While (it) may be uncomfortable as a public official, it is extremely comforting to the public,” Carouba said.
Rad Bartlam, who was hired as city manager earlier in the meeting, said he is torn on whether to keep the committee.
“If there are members of the public who are desirous of serving and the council provides a framework of expectations, that is perfectly fine with us. But having a committee in name only or where we are constantly trying to recruit people is no use,” he said.
Several of the council members were apathetic about keeping the committee, but in the end agreed it should have another opportunity.
Councilman Larry Hansen said he would be fine with keeping it or disbanding it. If the council keeps it, he said the committee members need to be clear that they are acting as an advisory group.
“They’ve made a lot of suggestions to the council that we have not accepted, and therein lies some of the frustration. I’m not sure how we are going to change that,” Hansen said.
One of the main issues is the council has not been clear in its direction to the committee, Councilman Bob Johnson said. If people are not sending in applications, he said the council needs to go out and recruit members.
He also offered to sit on the committee as a council liaison to find out what some of the issues are and why members of the committee in the past have felt underappreciated or underutilized.
“We need to start meeting with people and see if we can resurrect this, because I think this can be a beneficial tool for the community,” he said.
Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce said she has no personal stake in whether the committee remains intact or is disbanded. She does not know if she will participate in recruiting, because when she was mayor one of her appointees, Jane Lea, was shot down by the council.
“I don’t know how enthusiastic I’m going to be about going out and recruiting people, even though I work in the CPA field,” she said.