Later this year or early next year, the California Public Utilities Commission is expected to approve an agreement that would have Southern California Edison’s electricity customers to pay 9 cents a month each for 12 months to off set the cost of capital improvements that the utility company made to Santa Catalina Island’s drinking water services. Islanders will also see their water rates increase. Originally, Edison had asked for island residents to pay 85 percent of those capital improvement costs.

The public will have until Nov. 14 to tell the California Public Utilities Commission how they feel about the proposal.

And, yes, that means Sun Region residents such as you and I will be helping to pay for Catalina’s fresh water.

As everyone who reads the Sun should know by now—and shame on you if you don’t read the Sun—the Seal Beach Recreation and Parks Commission will discuss the future of benches on the beach pm Wednesday, Sept. 25. Will you be there? Do you care?

There’s a chance that if you don’t live on the beach, you don’t care. But remember that the decision to ban benches from the beach came with no prior public discussion based on the complaint of a single anonymous individual. The decision itself is important to beach house residents and frequent beach visitors. The process by which the decision was made is an important part of the political life of this community and people who care about things ought to pay attention.

Mind you, the whole process was perfectly legal. The city code reportedly bans the benches already, so no public hearing was necessary. In fact, the Parks Commission discussion won’t be a public hearing. Residents will likely be allowed to speak—if only during the public comment segment of the meeting.

Commissions are an important part of every city’s government. That’s why we have parks, planning and environmental commissions. Other cities have traffic commissions, though Seal Beach seems to do nicely without one. Some cities have a public safety commission and others a seniors commission.

Yet Seal Beach does have a Tree Advisory Board. Call them boards, committees or commissions, these are political bodies—city agencies made up of politically appointed members. In Seal Beach, members of these bodies are part timers who contribute service to their community by preserving and/or influencing public policy through their commission work.

Do we really need a city agency just for trees?

While some commissions are necessary—in some cases, required—others are not. Some years ago the Seal Beach civil service commission was disbanded. It seems to me reasonable to ask if the time hasn’t come to ponder the continued existence of the tree board.

I agree trees are an important part of the city landscape. But so is the beach—and Seal Beach has managed to muddle through without a beach commission or a sand advisory board. The economy is important, but we don’t have an economic commission. Public safety and traffic are important issues—but we don’t have or seem to need public safety or traffic commissions.

Perhaps a Tree Advisory Board was necessary when Seal Beach was creating a Master Tree Plan. Well, we have one now. The Public Works Department has the authority to remove a tree if it becomes a threat to public safety—we could hardly wait for a board meeting to address a safety issue—leaving us with a city agency that decides if a tree may be planted here or may be removed from there (subject to the vote of the majority of the Tree Advisory Board’s members.)

It seems to me that the work of the tree advisory board could be easily folded into the work of the Planning Commission. The Recreation and Parks Commission could address those tree-related issues that come up in parks. For public rights-of-way, business properties and homes, the Planning Commission would seem to be the more appropriate agency.

Abolishing the board, by the way, could help off set the cost of creating a seniors committee, which I suggested in last week’s blog. When public agencies meet, city officials must also attend including legal counsel and appropriate city staff. For example, the Community Development Department director attends Planning Commission meetings as well as the assistant city attorney. The City Clerk’s Office must also attend the meetings of Seal Beach commissions. That costs the city money. Disbanding a commission or board would, therefore, save money.

I think the answer is yes. Roughly one third our city’s population lives in Leisure World, a retirement community. That’s also roughly one third of our registered voters, if I’m not greatly mistaken. Given that so many of our citizens are, ahem, mature—as a 52-year-old, I’m rapidly approaching age of admission to the group—it seems to me reasonable that the city have a commission to look at their concerns and advise the council on policies that could impact seniors.

I’m not proposing a Leisure World commission, mind you. The sheer size of the place gives them two representatives on the City Council, which strikes me as pretty solid representation for that particular retirement community. But not all of our city’s seniors live in Leisure World and their needs shouldn’t be forgotten simply because they don’t live inside a large gated community.

Now you could argue we have enough city committees and commissions. It’s a valid argument. Still, it seems to me that a seniors commission or committee is an idea worth discussing. The first question is: do we need one? The second is: are there enough volunteers available to do the job?

Your thoughts and opinions are welcome