David Mendez

Redondo Beach commission appointments remain Mayor’s job

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Motion to create ‘council selected’ appointments dies on the floor

The Redondo Beach City Council discusses changes to the city commission selection process. “If you’re not involved [in the community] you don’t win elections, and you don’t get chosen for anything,” said Mayor Steve Aspel. Photo by David Mendez

The Redondo Beach City Council discusses changes to the city commission selection process. “If you’re not involved [in the community] you don’t win elections, and you don’t get chosen for anything,” said Mayor Steve Aspel. Photo by David Mendez

by David Mendez

The Redondo Beach City Council was focused Tuesday night on the process and filling of open spots on its governing bodies this week — though the body’s biggest vacancy won’t be addressed again until next Tuesday.

The council this week addressed the process of appointments and interviews for those interested in joining the city’s commissions. They also discussed the current process, which requires council approval of a list submitted by Mayor Steve Aspel, versus one in which appointments would be directed by council members.

“The way I was taught, and the way Mayor [Mike] Gin was taught, is to spread it around,” Aspel said regarding commissioner appointments. “When I submit my list, the council can vote it yes or no.”

Extra scrutiny has been applied to the commissions as of late due to their roles in politically fraught policy decisions. The city’s Harbor and Planning Commissions, in particular, have overseen and determined certification for controversial issues such as CenterCal’s Waterfront revitalization project and mixed-use developments in South Redondo.

In recent council and commission meetings, members of the public, as well as District 2 Councilman Bill Brand, have taken issue with the appointments of commissioners they accuse of bias. That led to a motion setting a discussion on appointments to commissions.

“The perception in the community is that there seems to be some sort of a predilection to a narrow group to be approved [to commissions] — that they’re patronage positions,” said resident Eugene Solomon, who later in the evening interviewed for appointment to Planning Commission. He believes that there is an inordinate representation of people “affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce” across the city’s commissions. “In our current system, we’re not getting a diversity in community of voices; rather, a very narrow spectrum from one political organization,” he said.

District 3 Councilman Christian Horvath addressed Solomon’s complaints directly.

“I noticed he used the word ‘affiliation’…what I found out of all commissions, there were nine who were chamber members, and 14 who were Leadership Redondo graduates,” with some overlap between the two, Horvath said. “The affiliation he refers to is that some members of Harbor are members of the yacht club, which is a Chamber member. It’s hard to say someone, because they’re affiliated with one organization…makes them a chamber backee, if that’s what you’re going for.”

The ratio of chamber members to commissioners, Horvath continued, “is pretty darn small.”

“It’s an issue of fairness…of giving council members the ability to further their seat and agendas on each commission,” said resident Nils Nehrenheim. “We don’t want to get into a situation where it looks like commission members are for sale.”

District 4 Councilman Steve Sammarco made a motion to do away with the current system, opting for a “council-based decision on commissioners.”

“It still comes to Council to make the decision at the end of the day, to approve appointments or not,” Horvath replied. “We still have the legislative vote there.”

Sammarco’s motion died on the floor without a second — which he may have gotten from District 2 Councilman Bill Brand, who agendized the discussion, but was absent with an illness.

“If you’re a volunteer in this city, you’re more well-known and liable to be appointed or run for office and win,” Aspel said at the meeting’s conclusion. “Some people think it’s a bad thing if you’re too well-connected, but that’s how the world works. If you’re not involved [in the community] you don’t win elections, and you don’t get chosen for anything.” 

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