- Terelle Jerricks
By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor
Rita Boggs is probably one of the smartest people in the room when it comes to policy. Ask her the definition of hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as “fracking,” not only would she be able to tell you that its an oil excavation technique by which oil hidden in deeper strata of rock is released, she could discuss at length all the various studies on the impacts the process has on the environment. A trained scientist with a doctorate in chemistry, Boggs thrives on solving problems. And that probably big reason why she has stayed as involved in Carson’s civic affairs as she has.Boggs has been active in the city’s politics for almost as long she’s been living there, at times serving on the planning commission and mobile home park review board, while watching various figures on the City Council come and eventually leave. But this time around, she’s the one running for a seat on the council, believing that her knowledge and experience could do well in lessening the toxicity of the divided city government while solving some problems to boot.
One of the attributes she points to as qualification to be on the city council is her experience as the founder and head of American Research. She describes the company’s work as problem solving in the field of chemistry for businesses. Right now they do a lot of solvent determination in a lot of products such as paint and hairspray. Given that the state has some of the most stringent rules in the United States regulating such chemicals, she noted even in a bad economy, her company still does well.
“We have never been sued, nor have we ever been threatened to be sued,” she said, dinging the fact the city is currently defending itself in several lawsuits.
“We deal with everyone carefully and we put everything in writing. They get a written report. We don’t discuss the report with anyone except the clients so that competitors don’t get hold of information.
Boggs recounted the previous evening (Jan. 3, 2013), where one of the council persons (Either Lula Davis Holmes or Julie Ruiz Raber) running for re-election in Carson was in attendance at a County Democratic Party meeting. Boggs noted that a resident was allowed to make noises about the candidate as she tried to speak.
“These things should not be happening,” Boggs said. “We ought to be doing business fairly and out in the open and not beat up on people. If you’ve been watching the council meetings, right now we have two groups, so to speak, you’ll know that there’s this continuous fight between people and it can be very insulting to listen to. And sometimes, I’m amazed by what people would say. I think we need to get back to doing business properly and fairly.
Boggs recalled a vote where Mayor Jim Dear tried and failed to get a street named after himself. Boggs said he came pretty close.
“So the question became, should we name a street after someone while they are still alive?”
Boggs believes that something could have been passed that stipulated that a street or a building could only be named after person who has been employed by the city for 35 years or more.
“That would have take care of it. She could have gotten a street named after her. And there would have been no possibility, at least at this point, of Jim trying to get something named after him. He’s only been working for the city for about, 14 years?”
Commissions and Committees
Boggs still remember the days when there were very few commissions.
“We used to have very few commissions,” Boggs explained. “There were several that we must have. The planning commission being one of them. And what happened at the time was that each councilperson would name a person to the commission.”
Boggs was describing the early 1990s was when the city last had a rotating mayorship.
“Then we went to a directly elected mayor,” she said. “People thought that sounded good. But what people didn’t realize was that it gave more power to the mayor than he previously had. So now, the mayor is now naming all of the commissioners and what it does is it gives him added support.”
Boggs described the situation as such where the mayor was dispensing awards and special favors to loyal supporters to strengthen his base.
“If so and so gets named to this commission, and the mayor extracts this that and the other that they would support him,” she said. She noted that there were more than 140 commissioners. “I think there was an outcome that was not intended when the chose to change to a directly elected mayor,” she said.
There’s been some improvement in that area. During the last budget process in October 2012, the city council consolidated a number of commissions and cut others in an effort to reduce the budget deficit by alleviating staff time.
On March 5, Carson residents will be asked whether they want to return to a rotating mayorship in Measure M. If passed, the changes won’t go into effect until 2017.
Utility Users Tax
Boggs was one of those that fought against the Utility Users Tax that was passed in 2009 in the form of Measure C.
“Cut the spending, increase the tax was the gist of things. But they didn’t do that. And there was sort of hidden in the paper work,” she said. “At the time it was supposed expire at a certain time but they allowed it be extended if necessary. And so it continued.
“Some of the companies like the refineries where they have a lot of tax, they put a cap on it where it didn’t go over a certain amount. Then they took away the cap. So, they’re paying big money. This is where you see the fire coming out of me. We just keeping increasing costs without cutting back.”
There is no expiration date on the Utility Users Tax. However, the city was capped at $1 million per year. There was a backdoor clause in the law that passed that allowed the city council to remove the cap and collect more than the $1 million, which they were allowed to collect, but only if they made certain requisite amount of cuts.
Essentially, the City Council owes its ability to balance its budget these past two years to their power of lifting the cap.
Boggs pointed to another unintended consequence of the Utility Users Tax: the city council found that the commission that was charged to oversee the spending of the Utility Users Tax money had more power than they initially realized. Because that money goes directly into the general fund, the Utility Users Tax Commission had the power oversee the entire budget and have a significant say.
Initially, the commission had 24 commissioners, including three ex-officios on board. Ex-officios are elected officials who are non-voting members on the board. Initially, those ex-officios included Mayor Dear, City Clerk Helen Kawagoe, and City Treasurer Karen Avilla. By October 2012, the practice of appointing ex-officios was banned and the commission’s size was cut down to 11.
In any case, Boggs doesn’t believe it used its power as efficiently as it could have. Boggs said she could recall a number of times where she questioned the commission’s proposals to tax an already taxed item.
Meetings Too Darn Long
Boggs views the city council’s notoriously long meetings as a violation of the Brown Act and a threat to Democracy, at worse, in Carson.
“There ought to be a rule that meeting not go past 10 o’clock in the evening,” she said.
“Here and there if an item is vitally important they can take vote and the meeting can be extended. Now it’s over whenever we go home. Meetings are lasting until one in the morning, two in the morning. It stops being televised I think at 11 o clock (video of meetings are archived in their entirety online on the city’s website). So all this stuff is happening when no one is there.”
“Who can stay at these things at that hour if they’re working? They can’t. By the time these issues come up, there’s nobody there to say please don’t do this. Or it might affect our community or our business.”
Boggs believes that some items are pushed through at times when no one is there to argue about it.
“If there’s an issue that has to be taken care of this meeting, put it up first. If there’s still stuff left over, finish the rest the next meeting. Essentially, for all intents and purposes, we’re leaving the public out of the whole thing,” she said.