Sounds like the natural thing to do, doesn't it? No new taxes, big picture coordination, local control. Why then did the bill carried by Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) to create this council of governments fail during the last session of the Legislature?
A major flap developed over who would be on the board of directors of this new agency. The original concept of five city representatives (one from each supervisorial district selected by the full League of Cities) and two or three county supervisors failed when the Board of Supervisors refused to go along with any plan that did not include all five county supervisors. The formula was then changed to include all five supervisors and expanded to have 10 city representatives; two from each supervisorial district.
Sadly, the compromise died in the last hours of the Legislature's session when the supervisors decided to oppose the compromise because it left them with less than a majority control of the new board. Hopefully, this petty debate can be put aside.
Since land-use control is the principal tool for implementing these environmental policies, and the county is over 90% incorporated into cities, the board needs to encourage the new role of cities in solving the regional issues and allow 10 of the 175 elected city officials to be represented on this new board.
A second flap that appeared to be resolved was the inclusion of the Orange County Transit District (bus company) into the new agency. Some argued that mass-transit planning must be part of the regional plan while others agreed but argued that we must avoid the Los Angeles quagmire by keeping bus company operations separate from the planners. The compromise that appeared to work for all was to leave the transit district as a distinct legal entity but draw its directors from the 15-member council of governments board to assure consistency of leadership of planning questions. Hopefully, that compromise will stick.
Within the League of Cities there has been discussion as to how to assure the involvement of all 29 cities in the powerful issues that would be discussed by the council of governments. The best idea to date is to create a congress-of-cities format so that all 175 city representatives could meet, perhaps quarterly, to discuss current issues and legislative resolutions embodying the sense of all the cities. This would then provide the 10 city board members with a consensus view of how all the cities feel about the key issues.
If we move with the council of governments legislation, the county and its cities can demonstrate the leadership necessary to prove that the big issues can be solved by local governments working cooperatively. Otherwise, the warning that local government faces today will become a cry for extinction tomorrow.