Parks and Beaches grapples with bylaw revisions

Continuing its lengthy discussion (which technically started in late 2015), La Jolla Parks & Beaches advisory group debated revisions to its bylaws during its Feb. 25 meeting. At the forefront was how new members would be brought on and what board term limits might be.

Revised in 2011 and again in 2013, LJP&B chair Dan Allen explained of the bylaws, “We thought we ought to revise them based on our experiences in the first few years, adding clarifying items such as ‘excused absences’ and institutionalizing the waiting list for new members.”

A sub-committee came together to pour over the current bylaws and adjust the terms to more accurately reflect how meetings are run, and conform the bylaws to match a new set of standardized guidelines for recreation councils, issued by the city.

At the LJP&B February meeting, the board reviewed the proposed changes, preparing for a vote in March. However, planned revisions that address membership and term-limits generated more than an hour of discussion and debate.

Who can be a member?

The first major change, which would be implemented to get LJP&B bylaws in line with city standards, alters how members are brought onto the board. “Right now, in order to become a member, you have to come to three consecutive meetings in a 12-month period and then not miss three subsequent meetings. If any opening doesn’t come up, you have to keep coming,” Allen said. “Under these revised bylaws, you have to attend consecutive three meetings within 12 months, submit a letter of intent, statement of qualifications, residence and interest to the council.”

Further, member Ann Dynes noted because the city guidelines require boards like LJP&B be representative of a wide variety of groups that live, operate or run a business in the area, a member could only be seated if he or she meet a representative need. “Right now, we let whoever is next in line become a member, so how do we ensure that kind of representation? It’s a very different model,” she said. “The new bylaws suggest a new member would be voted in to guarantee equal representation. … So we would need to say ‘we need representation from this area not that area’ and ‘thanks but no thanks (to prospective members that represents an area we already have)’ ”

Member Phyllis Minick opined, “This is beginning to sound like a sorority.”

Term-limit terms

Preferring to craft the language to either impose a secret ballot or reject the voting element altogether, the board documented its concerns, and proceeded to the next contentious item: term-limits.

Carrying over from discussions at a special meeting held in early January and a regular meeting in late January, the board previously determined (reluctantly, for some members) to adopt term limits.

LJP&B member Patrick Ahern, who assisted with the bylaw revisions, said the sub-committee took a random sample of 10 recreation councils out of 32 in the city of San Diego and most, if not all, have term limits. “There are different ways to approach term limits, so we need to get a consensus and rewrite and refine the bylaws,” he said.

At the January meeting, the board informally approved term limits of four years with the option to succeed oneself for an additional four-year term. After two, four-year terms, one would have to take a year off. However, it was noted that if a member initiated or worked on a project, during the “year off,” he or she could still advise on projects as a general member.

Alternatives were put forward for consideration that formalizes how to implement the new term limits — including drawing lots for how long current members would remain on board (terming out in 2018, 2019 and 2020) and grandfathering in everyone who is still on the board, and starting everyone’s four-year term at the January 2017 meeting (the latter raising the concern of everyone terming out at the same time).

The option most favored (without a formal vote) was to have all members on the council at the January 2017 meeting not be subject to term limits. Any potential member who joins the council after the January 2017 meeting will begin a four-year term and will be eligible to serve a second four-year term.

Downside to limits

The notion of term limits previously raised concern for some members, who argue LJP&B members initiate projects on city land, unlike many other community advisory groups. “This is a blanket policy for a lot of different kinds of groups that don’t do what our group does — our group is involved with many, some multi-million-dollar, projects,” said member Ken Hunrichs. “Not just as an advisory to these projects, but initiating those projects and carrying them through. The people on this committee drive those projects forward, we’re not just advising.”

Agreeing, Minick — whose Children’s Pool Walk Project will cost more than $250,000 to complete — said she thought the imposition of term limits would “squelch” the efforts of those who want to launch public improvement projects.

Member Judy Adams Halter, who established a project to replace restrooms at La Jolla Cove, disagreed. “Because the parks are on city land, we need to be in good standing with the city to get anything done,” she said, and she supported adopting bylaws that align LJP&B with the city.

Added Ahern, “The city will listen to us as an advisory group (the status we maintain if we adopt city-approved bylaws), but if we are an independent group, the city can choose to listen to our recommendations or not. If we lose our position as an advisory group, we lose a lot of power.”

The board intends to vote on the bylaws at its next meeting, 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 28 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.