SH City Council selects nine to serve new commission terms

Council chooses four new commissioners, reappoints five incumbents.


Anita W. Harris | Signal Tribune

During its May 14 meeting, the Signal Hill City Council interviewed 17 city-commission candidates, including resident Albert Chang (left, at podium).

In addition to conducting regular business during its five-hour meeting that began May 14 and ended early May 15, the Signal Hill City Council conducted 17 interviews to fill nine commissioner seats across three city commissions.

Following the appointments, the council attended to other business, including resolutions for acquiring property for auto-dealership storage, displaying the LGBT flag during Pride Month and managing Proposition A funds.

Commission appointments
During three-and-a-half hours of the meeting, the council interviewed candidates and made three appointments to each of the three Signal Hill commissions. New terms begin on June 1.

For the Civil Service Commission, the council voted to reappoint two current commissioners– Ronald Griggs and Ayda Howard– for four-year terms. It also selected newcomer Daritza Gonzalez to serve a two-year term, filling the seat of David Hopper, who had vacated after his election as City Treasurer in March.

For the Parks and Recreation Commission, the council selected incumbents Caroline Kiss-Lee and Nancy Lauer to serve four-year terms and new commissioner Pam Dutch-Hughes to serve for two years, completing the term of former commissioner Debra Russell, who resigned her seat as of May 1.

Rose Richárd will continue serving on the Planning Commission for another four years, with Perica Bell and Tom Benson– a former planning commissioner– coming in as new commissioners. Benson will serve for four years and Bell for two years, completing the term of Carmen Brooks, who was elected as City Clerk in March.

The council encouraged nominees Albert Chang, Joseph Hughes and Charles Song– along with the other applicants not chosen– to consider serving the city in other capacities since the council had nominated them but not appointed them to a commission this round.

The next commission appointments happen in two years, when three seats on each of the five-seat commissions expire on May 31, 2021.

The current selection process began April 1, when residents could apply to any of the commissions, including multiple commissions, until April 25. The city opened a second recruitment from April 29 to May 10 for a two-year term following Russell’s resignation from the Parks and Recreation Commission.

The recruitments resulted in 20 candidates. Of those, three did not attend the meeting, leaving 17 candidates for the council to interview.

Before interviewing, councilmembers spoke about what they were looking for in commissioners, including diverse experience, community involvement and ability to commit the time necessary.

“I’m looking for people that are coming on without a preconceived idea of what they want to do or how they believe in a project or […] a certain issue,” Councilmember Tina Hansen said. “Having an open mind– that’s really important.”

Mayor Lori Woods called candidates up alphabetically by last name and their primary commission selection. She asked each to present about themselves for two minutes, strictly timed. The candidates then fielded questions by councilmembers.

Candidates spoke of their experience that would enable them to contribute to commission work. When asked about ideas for improving the city, candidates spoke of better connection of the trails system, more sports opportunities, more activities that bring together youth and seniors and cultural events that would invite more residents to get involved.

Following the interviews, councilmembers nominated and voted on candidates for each commission. Nominations started with Woods.

For the Civil Service Commission, Woods nominated Griggs and Howard for four-year terms and Hughes for the two-year term. Hansen and Councilmember Keir Jones both nominated Gonzalez for the two-year term.

The council then voted unanimously for Griggs and Howard and 3-2 in favor of Gonzalez.

For the Parks and Recreation Commission, Woods nominated Chang and Lauer for four-year terms and Song for the two-year term. Vice Mayor Robert Copeland nominated Kiss-Lee for a four-year term and Hansen nominated Dutch-Hughes for the two-year term.

Copeland suggested that the council vote for the top three of the five nominees and then decide who gets a four-year term and who gets the two-year term.

After voting for the first four candidates alphabetically, the council had already affirmed three and, therefore, didn’t cast votes for Song. Lauer received five votes, Kiss-Lee four and Dutch-Hughes three.

The council followed the same procedure for the Planning Commission. Woods nominated Bell, Benson and Richárd.

Councilmember Edward Wilson nominated Chang, who had applied to two commissions.

Richárd received five votes, Bell four and Benson three.

During Benson’s interview earlier, Wilson had asked him to clarify a comment he had made at the previous commission-selection meeting two years ago questioning the council’s choice of commissioners when Wilson was serving as mayor and running the selection process.

“Two years ago, you were not selected to be a commissioner,” Wilson said. “Your comment was, ‘Three African-Americans were appointed to the Planning Commission,’ and your comment was that [Wilson] as a mayor left the commission incompetent. That was an insult to the commission and the commissioners. Do you stand by those words?”

Benson first responded that he had not said those words and his comments were taken out of context.

“It had nothing to do with who was appointed,” he said. “You took away– on several commissions– quality and experience rather than transitioning. […] [Incompetence] is never what I meant.”

Wilson accepted Benson’s clarification but did not vote in favor of him.

Before the council voted on candidates, Wilson commented on the quality of applicants for this round of commissioners.

“This has been the most diverse group of candidates that we’ve ever seen,” he said. “From age, length of residency in Signal Hill, ethnicity, background, job– everything. And it is a pleasure to see that.”

Council business
Here is a summary of the council’s other actions during the meeting:

As both the council and successor to the former Signal Hill Redevelopment Agency (SHRA), members approved a resolution for the city to acquire three properties from the SHRA for auto-dealership storage use. The properties contain 14 abandoned wells, making their value negative and allowing the city to acquire them for one dollar.

The council approved another resolution authorizing an annual display of the LGBT Pride Flag at Signal Hill’s City Hall. The rainbow-colored flag will be displayed from May 22 to June 30, 2019– commemorating LGBT Pride Month and Harvey Milk Day– replacing the city’s flag this year.

“It seems like our theme for the whole night tonight has been recognizing our city’s diversity,” Woods said.

She added that she would like to see a separate pole dedicated to commemorative flags to allow recognition of other community groups, as well– which generated much council discussion.

The council also approved a $380,000 Proposition A fund-exchange with Long Beach Transit for future bus-stop and bus-shelter improvements in Signal Hill.

At the beginning of the meeting, Randy Kemner, owner of The Wine Country at 2301 Redondo Ave., presented about his business during the council’s “small-business spotlight.”

“The business has been here since 1995, so we’re going on 24 years,” Kemner said. “We sell […] gourmet foods and craft beer, but we are mainly a wine store.”

Woods presented proclamations to the Signal Hill Police Department recognizing National Police Week, from May 12 to May 18, and the Public Works Department to recognize National Public Works week from May 19 to May 25.

The next Signal Hill City Council meeting will take place Tuesday, May 28, at 7pm in the council chamber at 2175 Cherry Ave.