Members of the Lodi Animal Advisory Commission said they are unclear about their role and frustrated by the lack of communication with members of the Lodi City Council at their monthly meeting Monday night.
President Linda Castelanelli said commission members are concerned because the council has not responded to any of the recommendations they included in their annual report submitted on Aug. 9.
"No feedback was provided by the city council at the shirtsleeve session, which leaves the commission without direction," committee members wrote in a letter.
Castelanelli and commission member John Primasing met with Mayor Bob Johnson, who asked them to write the letter so he could take it to council to discuss their concerns.
"They have some concerns as to the direction they should be going in, and are not too sure what the council expects of them," Johnson said.
The commission submits an annual report, but Castelanelli said it can be frustrating when they do not see any results.
"We make our report, we work all year and nothing happens. It just sits there. ... We need some at least acknowledgment that they understand what we are saying and that they were going to do something about it," Castelanelli said.
This is not the first time members of city commissions have questioned their role or effectiveness. Several members of the Budget and Finance Committee quit in 2010 because they felt that the council was not listening to their recommendations.
At a recent Lodi Improvement Committee meeting, chairman Bob Takeuchi told members of the public he is not sure what the improvement commission's purpose is.
Johnson said commissions are supposed to be advisory, and sometimes the council does not always do what they recommend. He remembers at times feeling frustrated during his 16 years on the Parks and Recreation Committee.
"We came up with what we thought were pretty good recommendations, and (they weren't) followed by the council, and we would be frustrated," he said.
After approving a letter, the commission discussed ways to improve communication with the council, and what its role could be in helping the Lodi Animal Shelter.
Staff liaison Lt. Steve Carillo suggested the commission see if it can give the council quarterly updates because then issues could be fixed throughout the year, instead of waiting until the end when there is a long list.
He also suggested the commission members get more involved in contacting city staff or council members when there is something that needs to be done.
Member Hy Cohen has served in other cities where they have had a city staff member and a council member on every committee. Then, when committees come to speak to council members, he said at least one member is well-versed in what the group has been working on.
"With the city council member there, things got done a little bit better. ... The city council has the authority to make these changes and the city liaison has to stick to their policies," Cohen said.
Primasing asked Carillo what the committee could do, aside from regular reports to the council, to help the shelter.
The main thing that the shelter needs is money for improvements or programs, Carillo said.
He suggested the committee look into researching, writing and then managing grants that are available to nonprofit or community groups. With the city budget continuously shrinking, Carillo said it is not feasible for a city staff member to put in the time to write and manage a grant, which can include hours of paperwork every week.
Castelanelli said she hopes the council will start a dialogue with the commission. Her term ends in December, and after about seven years on the commission she is wondering whether to volunteer again.
"I need to decide whether to keep trying or not. And a lot of it depends on whether or not I am wasting my time," she said.
Johnson said the council occasionally reviews the role of a committee, and used the example of the council recently getting rid of the Grape Bowl Ad Hoc Committee because it was founded to find ways to improve the aging stadium, and improvements were already underway.
While some people might feel frustrated on a committee, Johnson said there are many who find serving on a city commission a rewarding experience.
"Do some people feel that their participation on a commission is less than fulfilling? I guess maybe some do. But other people have the willingness to work toward whatever the purpose of the commission is. People still apply for these things, so that might attest to the validity of the committees," Johnson said.