It's complicated enough when our hierarchical government structure (city, county, state, federal) is overlaid with school boards, water and sewer districts, transportation authorities and the like. Local politicians enhance their resumes and often benefit from stipends and covered expenses when serving on these various boards and commissions (an ex-Fountain Valley councilwoman was pretty good at this), and rarely are their activities and votes communicated back to the community. Further impeding the free flow of information is the mainstream media, which can't afford staff to attend and report from these rarely publicized meetings.
These legally formed (by yet another entity) government bodies are hard enough to follow, but what's more troubling are the unelected, unrepresentative "pseudo" government-LIKE groups that Fountain Valley joins and supports from our limited city budget. For $13,135, per City Manager Ray Kromer, the city recently joined the just hatched Association of California Cities -- Orange County. A spin-off of the League of California Cities, the ACC-OC was formed when about two dozen OC municipalities got into a snit with the too-liberal League (which endorsed Propositions 1A-1F) and decided to spin off their own clique of hangers-on, HOA scolds, council wannabees and control freaks. Friends for Fullerton's Future, a local blog, once described them as "a sad collection of small town political hacks, bag men (and women), and poseurs".
Our City Council members may attend ACC-OC meetings (for an additional member's fee on top of membership) and apparently learn from whatever this unelected, unappointed body is cooking up and possibly apply it as policy in the city. Non-government members of the ACC-OC include the mega-engineering firm Parsons, Care Ambulance Service, the consulting firm Synoptek, lobbyists California Policy Advisors, Irvine pollster Probolsky Research and the tax- and toll-supported OCTA and TCA. Also with their fat fingers in the ACC-OC is the Orange County Business Council, a haughty, members-only group of large county businesses that portrays itself as a county Chamber of Commerce and would like us to think it actually has some authority to make things happen. A skeptic might point at all this and call it an "old boys (and girls) club." Certainly, it's a network of politicians and paid lobbyists interested in taking and spending tax money and advantaging their insider status.
While we locals can freely attend our publicized and agendized council meetings (which are also televised in many cities, but not FV), and any of our city commission meetings (e.g. planning), we don't seem very welcome at the ACC-OC. Attending an ACC-OC meeting isn't free -- in fact, it isn't even cheap. While our councilmembers may attend their numerous events (an upcoming Infrastructure Conference costs $135 and a presentation on the State's business emigration problem is $85, both involve meals) and have their expenses covered, the ACC-OC needs to also charge we pedestrians to support themselves and, like the OCBC model (and the Borg), continue to gather power, feign influence and assimilate more cities.
The ACC-OC appears to want to set policy, guide city leaders and engage at the county level, but most troubling about the cabal is its exclusivity. As we plebes can't freely attend its meetings, we have no knowledge of their workings and no input to whatever they're concocting and feeding our city leaders. These groups are politically advantageous for a couple of reasons -- they keep away the unwashed who, afterall, get their five minutes (or less) at local council meetings, they couple the established, wealthier vendors with the folks who can spend tax money and they appear to be able to operate outside the constraints of the Brown Act (I'm told it doesn't apply to these meetings, but let's see the exception). Especially, we locals have NO input as to who makes up the Boards and management of these organizations, unlike our ability to elect and unelect our City Council and county supervisor.
That Fountain Valley is still a member of the League of Cities (per Kromer, a $14.8k membership is renewable by Council vote later this year) is also problematic. That membership now seems redundant and wasteful (per the Register, the League's "O.C. Division effectively ceases to exist" on 02.01.11,) so we might be entitled a refund of our dues if we're no longer involved with it.
To the city's credit, we are not a member of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). SCAG is the oldest and most heinous of these under-the-radar pseudo governments, and damned scary as they DO have some power -- ask Irvine about affordable housing and the pressure they've received from this unelected, unrepresentative gang that's run by a former Moscow city bureaucrat and acts in public like it's got the clout of a government employe's union. SCAG also has a significant say in how our county resources are used as seen by their meddling last year in the Pacific Electric Right-of-Way, an enormously valuable 30-mile strip of the old Red Car line (now sans rails) which runs from Watts Towers to the Santa Ana Civic Center that could be reused as an elevated OC<>LA transportation corridor.
We don't need any more government; we've got more than enough right now. These clubby, exclusive institutions like the ACC-OC might serve less capable cities and inexperienced pols, but now that Fountain Valley has finally rid the City Council of its liberals, our five adult councilmen need to run the city without the outside help, interference and expense of these ruling class cabals that are unwelcoming to the non-elite and have no lawful political power. These self-important organizations do not exemplify open, transparent and accessible government. Let's leave the ACC-OC and the League of Cities behind, keep our money and run our own city.