By Caoilinn Goss
With a new $845 million bond measure on the March 3 Ballot, The Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC) faces new scrutiny at City College.
The committee is responsible for reviewing how the City College administration allocates the facilities bond funding, including the funding from the March 3 bond measure (if it passes) and two earlier bond measures, passed in 2001 and 2005. The committee publishes an annual report to inform the public of their findings.
The two previous bond measures have successfully funded the construction of the Mission and Chinatown campuses (both with some additional donations) as well as the Multi Use Building and Wellness Center at Ocean Campus. The new bond promises sweeping improvements, including much-needed seismic retrofitting and safety improvements.
“If you have really good oversight you can pass with 55% of the vote, there’s that big if,” Music Department Chair Madeline Mueller said. “So when it passes, I think they’ll be ready to go and just insist that we are going to be back into really good oversight. Mind you, in the law, there’s no real teeth in the oversight.”
Mueller has been a vocal advocate for the as yet unconstructed Performing Arts Education Center, the funds for which were initially outlined in the 2001 and 2005 bond measures.
“There is still too much intrusion,” Mueller said of the administration’s role in the CBOC. “It’s supposed to be an independent body.”
In the minutes from the Dec. 13, 2019 CBOC meeting, committee member Linda Fedeke Richardson said that contract selection for the facilities bonds is left up to the discretion of the chancellor’s office and the Board of Trustees, not the CBOC.
The administration’s powers also include the selection of the independent audit firm, Eide Bailly. The independent audit, conducted annually, serves as a lynchpin of accountability and examines whether funds are spent as directed by the bond measure.
Board policies give the role of nominating committee members to the chancellor, according to Hanson. Furthermore, there are no consequences under the current legislation for allowing seats to remain empty.
The most recent annual CBOC report available is from 2018, and addresses spending from July 2016 until June 2017. The reports are now two years behind, according to long-time CBOC member Christine Hanson.
BergDavis Public Affairs, the administration’s public relations firm did not respond to the Guardsman’s request for comment by press time.
Both Hanson and Mueller reported that the administration had cancelled CBOC meetings more than once.
“They shouldn’t have that ability,” Mueller said.
Another major reason meetings have been cancelled has been the inability to meet quorum. A quorum describes the minimum number of meeting attendees in order to call a vote. The empty seats on the committee have made this a frequent occurrence.
“They are getting more members, members are good, because they can’t say there’s not a quorum,” Mueller said. “Well how can there be if there is not even the proper number of people?”
“For a period after the counsel for the school changed the CBOC bylaws, we were not allowed to meet more than four times a year,” Hanson said.
The legislative mandate does not allow the administration’s attorneys to make such changes, but without a quorum, it took the committee multiple meetings to finally petition the Board to amend the bylaws so that the committee could meet more frequently according to Hanson.
Hanson and other CBOC members have also successfully petitioned former City College Vice President of Finance David Martin to create an audit reconciliation to include in the committee’s annual report. The audit reconciliation examines only a portion of spending but it provides more details than previous reports.
Hanson is hopeful that changes in the bylaws like these are possible with a quorum, and that updates to the legislative mandate will allow more seats to be filled.
“There were several seats that were supposed to be student seats that were supposed to be appointed. The mayor was supposed to appoint one, I think the trustees were supposed to appoint one,” student organizer Vick Chung said.
The empty seats required by these bond measures also include a member of a bona fide taxpayer’s association and a member of the City College Foundation.
“So you needed all these seats to be filled in order for the committee to function. Or at least you need half plus one in order to take votes. They could meet but they wouldn’t be able to take any actions.”
Obstacles to Student Membership
“Online it wasn’t clear who we were supposed to contact in order to be appointed,” Chung said. “Usually, if you want to be appointed to any of the city committees, they have an application and you send it to a specific location but then it wasn’t clear if you’re supposed to be appointed by a trustee or the chancellor.”
Chung blames this lack of organization and clarity for the absence of student representation on the CBOC and other committees like it.
“If they were a chair, all their legs were broken,” Chung said of students interested in joining the committee. “The mentorship and the leadership program that was supposed to be there for them, it’s not there.”
Serving on the CBOC is a volunteer position that requires members to attend quarterly meetings as well as stay current with campus facilities projects. Hanson also mentioned a need for better outreach in order to expand membership.
“People who are in student government and people who are appointed to committees get priority registration,” Chung said. They hope that priority registration will incentivize more students to join committees like the CBOC.
“I’m guardedly optimistic that they are getting a critical mass of good people,” Mueller said.
The next CBOC meeting is scheduled for March 27.