A vote on dissolving the Millbrae Business Advisory Committee was pulled from City Council’s agenda Tuesday night, but committee members still came to speak about why they believe the group is necessary.
Vice Mayor Wayne Lee, liaison to the committee, asked for the item to be taken off, while Councilwoman Marge Colapietro was frustrated with the removal since she said many members of the committee attended and wanted to speak. The council first discussed the possibility of nixing the committee in early October because of lack of productivity from the group, a number of councilmembers said.
Members were allowed to speak during the meetings’ public comment section.
Committee member Matt Fitzgibbons said the members care about the community in general and six of the members came to the meeting with the intention to speak. Until two years ago, city staff would advise the committee on new projects and directions, Fitzgibbons said. Now, this is rare or nonexistent, he added.
“The issues and topics we cover were expanded by Lee,” he said. “The council should readvise the committee with an updated purview. We can’t be effective if we’re not privy to city plans. We’ve been managed through the process of change, rather than choosing our own future.”
Why change the committee only to dissolve it, Fitzgibbons asked.
Lee later said that he took the item off the agenda to reconstitute it, perhaps making the committee smaller to keep it focused. The committee has problems getting together and staying on the agenda, he said.
“I don’t know what they want now,” he said. “The focus was on the economy of the city and I was hoping to take off to discuss with them personally. It sounds like they just want a downtown committee. I will meet with the committee and discuss how we can create a sustainable economy.”
The committee is intended to consist of 10 members who serve a term of four years and may either reside or work in Millbrae. The committee was established to guide the implementation of the America Downtown Action Agenda and advise the council on downtown issues. Members may be reappointed to additional terms and serve without compensation. The committee has struggled to reach a quorum because only eight of these seats are filled and the rest should be filled, Fitzgibbons said. Councilwoman Anne Oliva was on the committee, but can no longer serve in her capacity as a councilmember.
“We are volunteers,” he said. “Maybe there does need to be stricter enforcement of attendance.”
There was a particularly tense moment when committee member Dan Rogers addressed Lee as a councilman.
“Vice Mayor Lee, thank you,” Lee replied.
Lee later said he was surprised he was singled out on the issue.
“They obviously don’t want me as a liaison anymore,” he later said.
Rogers said he was irked by Lee’s comments about staff spending too much time on the committee, noting that it’s only an hour and a half of staff time a month versus eight volunteers’ time. Ed Banayat, president and CEO of the Millbrae Chamber of Commerce, and Community Development Director Farhad Mortazavi provide assistance to the committee. Mortazavi advocated for changes or dissolution of the committee at a past meeting.
A formal presentation would have been better than personal attacks on a councilmember, said Mayor Gina Papan in response to the members’ comments.
Other committee members came to talk at the meeting. Members Desmond Yuen, Karen Steffey and Vernon Bruce said that the group is positive overall.
“In the past we’ve gotten great information from council liaisons,” Bruce said. “It’s been lacking this last year. In the past, we had funding from the Redevelopment Agency. I wouldn’t vote to dissolve this committee.”
Additionally, Chair Harry Aubright asked for the group not to be abolished. He has been part of the committee since 2001.
“We may not be perfect, but we’re here to protect what we think is needed for the community,” he said. “We need to be able to work with city consultants. Millbrae certainly has some needs.”
The committee meets at 8:30 a.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month at the Millbrae Chamber of Commerce.
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