By Andie King
Villa Park’s new city council’s focus on appearing amenable, even convivial, based on campaign promises to “end divisiveness” may already be wearing thin, as contentious topics crept in to the Jan. 22 meeting agenda.
Or, council members could have just been tired, as the “meat” of the agenda did not get to the council until well after 8 p.m., following the now-obligatory recognition of OUSD students and citizen of the month (Sherry Zackowicz, founder of Villa Park Women’s League), crime, sheriff and fire updates and reports from 15 committees. The audience had, by then, gone home.
Striving to appear united, the council voted unanimously to appoint John Bogart as city treasurer, despite the fact that the majority said they had not met him or talked to him, and he did not attend the meeting to fortify his appointment.
There was diplomatic disagreement about an on-going wall variance that had bounced between the Community Development Committee (CDC) and council for months. But patience was frayed when, finally, agenda item No. 19, committee assignments for the councilmembers, hit the dais.
Each year the seated mayor assigns council members to committees, based on their indicated interests and experiences. This year, Mayor Vince Rossini formed an ad hoc committee, of himself and Councilwoman Crystal Miles, to determine committees and assignments. Rossini proposed eliminating four of the committees – Budget and Finance, Public Safety, Public Works and Engineering, Human Resources – that, just last year, had been deemed critical. Rossini himself had voted to add three additional committees to the roster last year. But now he determined that many of these essential committees were a duplication, did not meet regularly, overloaded city staff and should be cut.
The council agreed to roll those committees into the existing bodies that they essentially overlapped.
Rossini’s proposed committee assignments, Chad Zimmerman for Public Library, himself for OC Fire Authority, Bob Collacott for OC Sanitation and Miles for OC Vector Control, hit a snag when it became apparent that former Councilman Bill Nelson’s assignment to Vector in 2018 was for two years. City Manager Steve Franks noted that the OC Vector assignment was binding, and that Nelson wanted to continue as city representative on that board, even though he was no longer on council. Miles willingly stepped aside for Nelson, but Councilmen Robbie Pitts and Zimmerman were not so willing.
Nelson’s “binding” position could be overridden if he simply resigned. Pitts spoke to his disappointment in the assignments, noting “other council members do not have the chance to learn new things by representing the city on a variety of county boards.” Zimmerman was also interested in the sanitation spot, and outright requested that Franks ask Nelson “to step aside” due to the change in the city council.
The dissatisfaction with committee assignments was further complicated by Collacott’s earlier announcement that he, as a representative on the OC Sanitation Board since 2016, is now poised to move into the chairman position on that board, and should continue with that assignment. It should be noted that assignments to county agencies come with remuneration. Vector and Sanitation pay over $200 per meeting; OC Fire Authority is approximately half that.
Pitts, assigned to the Community Development Committee along with Collacott, recommended that it be axed because it represented a duplication of efforts and consumed staff time. He politely asked to be removed from the CDC, saying it would be “a waste of my time.” Zimmerman agreed with Pitt’s assessment of that committee and thought it should be eliminated.
Residents, it was noted, have complained that their projects get shuffled between the CDC, city staff and the council, with no resolution in sight.
Collacott supported continuation of the CDC, which reviews the city’s general plan, zoning, and subdivision of land, citing the “critical view it provides of the big picture.” Rossini suggested that Zimmerman would appreciate the CDC “once you have been on here a while.”
Franks was pulled into the fray, laughingly saying that he felt like a “kid between two fighting parents.” The council, ever mindful of its focus on “ending divisiveness,” assured him that they were not fighting at all. Franks told them that removing the CDC would save an extra step for the applicant seeking a variance, noting that the full council had to approve or disapprove everything anyway, and only Planning Manager Ray Pascua could vet a project. In the end, Miles volunteered for the CDC committee, so that she could determine for herself if it “added value.”
Villa Park council determined to play
nice despite disagreements