ALBANY -- Peggy Thomsen was elected mayor on Monday night and Joanne Wile was elected vice mayor as the new City Council got down to business at its first meeting.

Thomsen and Wile were elected by a 5-0 vote. The council then voted to adopt most of a staff recommendation to streamline the city's advisory bodies. However, after extensive debate, the council gave the Social and Economic Justice Committee a reprieve after staff had recommended sunsetting the committee.

The council voted 4-1 to adopt the recommendations with Michael Barnes dissenting. The Social and Economic Justice Committee will be re-examined in a year.

Other changes adopted included modifying the meeting schedules of the Charter Review and Waterfront committees to every other month unless a situation dictates more meetings; increasing the Arts Committee from five to seven members; decreasing the Library Committee from seven to five; and allowing the Board of Education to appoint either a student or an adult to the Sustainability Committee. The board currently appoints a student.

The resolution also requires the city to establish policies and procedures for creating task forces and guidelines for recommendations from advisory bodies to the City Council.

The resolution came out of the city's biannual review of city advisory boards. City Manager Beth Pollard told the council that for a city of its size, Albany has a high number of advisory boards.


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However, the focus of most of the testimony was on the Social and Economic Justice Committee, created in 2005. Its meetings have been sparsely attended, according to testimony at the meeting, and one committee member -- Ruth Ganong -- has not attended a meeting in over a year. Further, city staff has been cut and the committee has suffered from not having staff members available at meetings.

Four of the committee's five members spoke to the council on Monday, asking that it be allowed to continue its work. "We think the committee in its current formation is extremely important," Chairwoman Ruth Cashmere said. "We have some membership issues, we will ask the council to appoint another member."

Added committee member Judy Kerr, "I fully support the work of the city manager to streamline and economize city commissions. Face to face communications on social and economic justice issues are possible only when a commission exists or a committee exists. In order for people to have a say we need to have a place where people can come and talk. Without that there is no mechanism for people to talk about social and economic justice issues."

The council agreed that social and economic justice issues are important, but expressed concern about such issues as attendance, staff availability and compliance with the Brown Act. Wile suggested extending the committee for six months and Marge Atkinson then suggested one year with review. Barnes said that the committee should have staff support, otherwise, it shouldn't continue.

"My opinion is we shouldn't staff it and if we don't staff it, we shouldn't do it," he said. "If we extend it, we should do it right."