David Mendez

Brand to ‘balance’ Redondo Beach commissions, plan to curb ‘favor trading’ on hold

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Candace Nafissi, Bill Brand and Jim Light, alongside Wayne Craig, Martin Holmes and Rob Gaddis, at the Measure C victory party on March 7. Photo by David Mendez

by David Mendez

In years past, Bill Brand has argued that Redondo Beach’s system of City Commission appointments is set up to stack commissions with members in line with the mayor’s political interests.

However, a move by Brand to fill existing vacancies on City commissions at Tuesday’s City Council meeting signaled that the appointment of favored commissioners is here to stay, at least for the time being.

There are currently six vacant seats on Redondo Beach’s commissions. Brand’s list of nominees for these vacancies includes a number of long-time allies, including Jim Light, Candace Nafissi, Dawn Esser and Eugene Solomon, all of whom have shared similar views to Brand on growth and development in Redondo Beach.

While City Commissions are often advisory bodies, passing along recommendations to the City Council, a few, such as the Planning or Harbor commissions, are decision-making bodies in their own right that have considerable power within the City structure. Commissioners are appointed to four year terms, and their appointments are staggered so as to maintain continuity and experience.

Redondo Beach’s municipal code states that the mayor has the power to appoint members to the City’s Commissions, and those appointments must then be approved by a vote of the City Council. While a councilman, Brand argued that commission appointments should be taken from a list of nominees by council members to limit a mayor’s favorable appointments. However, his attempts to democratize appointments through resolution continually died for a lack of support from fellow council members.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman John Gran noted Brand’s existing stance on commission appointments, then asking Brand how appointments may differ going forward.

“Redondo has a tradition of currying political favor…people were promised positions on important commissions because they agreed to endorse someone else,” Brand said, accusing former Mayor Steve Aspel for “political horse-trading” in particular. “It’s time for the people who have been locked out of these [positions] to be allowed to sit on these commissions and have a more balanced representation of the city as a whole.”

Gran further pressed to ask when Brand might want those changes to take effect.

“Not this round [of appointments], but the next round,” Brand said. “It’s somewhat up to you guys…you can direct [staff] to bring back amendments to the municipal code.”

However, he said, that would likely result in a 3-2 vote, which he would then likely veto. “I’d give myself a few years to balance out the commissions,” Brand said, stating that he believes that commissions are currently stacked with pro-development commissioners.

Light’s appointment to Harbor Commission, in particular, drew attention from Councilwoman Laura Emdee. She preferred instead to substitute another resident, Ian Bardin, in his place. She was joined by Councilman Christian Horvath, who was concerned by Light’s resignation from the Public Works Commission in the mid 2000s.

“Did you do this to Steve Aspel?” Brand asked, implying that Horvath and Emdee opposed Light’s appointment on political grounds.

“I gave him a big list of recommendations and my reasons why,” Horvath said, noting that he’s nominated Solomon for appointment in the past.

Brand brushed that off, saying, “We all see what’s going on here.”

A motion to appoint Brand’s nominees passed in a 4-1 vote, with Emdee dissenting.

As a result, Esser and Solomon were appointed to the Budget and Finance Commission; Nafissi was named to the Library Commission; and Light was named to the Harbor Commission. John Simpson was named to the Public Works Commission, and Jacob Andersen Varvarigos was appointed to the Recreation and Parks Commission.

Clarification, May 26, 2017: The names of appointed commissioners and their seats have been added.

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