Guest post from Crystal Alexander, long time Culver City resident and public servant — full bio at the end
FISCAL POLICY REFORMS FOR CULVER CITY
Residents of Culver City live in a time of great challenges. Our very lives have been upended due to a global pandemic. Under such extraordinary circumstances, we entrusted local elected officials to manage in ways to inspire trust, confidence, and a clear path forward.
Regrettably, the trust has been trashed. We must be assured the financial affairs of Culver City government are in order, and not subject to outside influences, corruption and mismanagement. Most crucially, we need to expand opportunities for citizens’ voices to be heard.
Below are a few common sense fiscal reforms that every City Councilmember and candidate for City Council should publicly adopt, in order to enhance vital fiscal accountability.
Require revenue proposals needing voter approval to be reviewed by the Finance Advisory Committee three months prior to City Council adoption.
This would allow time for the Finance Advisory Committee (FAC) and citizens to review and comment. The proposal package should include a list of all existing, local voter approved revenue ballot measures. A subcommittee of the FAC should also review any proposed public survey on a revenue proposal, to ensure the survey is impartial.
Create an ad hoc citizen committee to work with the City Attorney to develop a legislative advocate (lobbyist) ordinance.
Incredibly, in this day and age, and unlike most cities on the Westside, Culver City does not have such a law. The committee should be encouraged to explore setting boundaries for both paid and non-paid influencers, including reporting requirements.
Require the Chief Financial Officer to maintain a running total of all budget amendments made throughout the fiscal year.
This running total should be posted on the City’s website, and with each City Council agenda for which a budget amendment is being requested. This will allow citizens easy access to real-time changes to the budget.
Require all City Council agenda items, which may require a future budget amendment to complete, to appear as an action item on said agenda.
This reform is highlighted in recognition that staff resources (their time) are often as limited, if not more so, than financial resources. Burying such agenda items in the consent calendar gives the general public a misconception that the items are less important.
Require a member of the Finance Advisory Committee be appointed to any City committee reviewing contract proposals for financial and management audit services.
This is another sunshine reform to re-instill public confidence. It may also strengthen the relationship between the FAC, the Chief Financial Officer and the Finance Department.
Crystal Alexander has been a Culver City resident since 1986, and a champion for fiscal accountability. She was the last elected City Treasurer in Culver City, as well as serving as Planning Commissioner and Civil Service Commissioner. She completed two terms on the Finance Advisory Committee, ending in 2020. She also served in senior financial management posts with the States of New York and Washington, as well as the Cities of Seattle, Beverly Hills and Redondo Beach. She holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Washington, as well as numerous financial certifications.