Rossmoor seeks outside advice on enhancing governmental powers

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Rossmoor again seeking more governmental control over their own affairs.

It seems now that Rossmoor Community Service District Directors see the wisdom in the community stepping in to slow down the process of legislation to enhance the overall powers of the district.

The board, at its April meeting, agreed to seek a latent powers consultant to help them figure out the process and to move forward to set up an inclusive process to discuss real change in governance.

The District backed off an attempt last month to work with Assembly representative Janet Nguyen to introduce legislation that purportedly would have granted the special service district additional powers of governance. Now the district doesn’t quite know who understands a very complicated law.

Rossmoor is not an incorporated city or town, yet they do have some powers, those granted to it under its status as a “special service district.” It provides some powers, but not nearly the powers afforded villages, towns and cities to govern the municipal affairs within their community.

The Rossmoor community includes about 3,500 homes and approximately 10,000 residents.

According to the California Service Districts Association (CSDA), there are approximately 2,300 independent special districts in California, meaning they are governed by an independent board of directors elected by the districts’ voters or appointed to a fixed term of office.

While the Rossmoor Board of Directors does enjoy some powers, even then they pay taxes to Orange County for various provisioned services such as trash collection, public safety and public works, yet OC keeps all the fees while the district has little, or no control.
Regarding an upcoming waste management agreement, General Manager Joe Mendoza explained to the directors what he’s been able to accomplish by way of changes in the agreement, but said it sometimes takes extraordinary effort just to get simple things added to agreements negotiated by the county.

Mendoza also introduced Chris Palmer via Zoom, Senior Public Affairs Director for CSDA, who said while cities and towns had been authorized to receive stimulus funds in the latest federal stimulus bill, the service district lobbyists were not able to get service districts included in the bill.

Even in the absence of authorizing language in the bill, Palmer said they’ve managed to build a coalition of special district allies and have fired off a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom seeking inclusion in the distribution of funds.

Palmer said special districts around the state collectively lost more than $2.4 billion because of the pandemic. “We need those funds,” he said.

While Cypress will get $9 million, Seal Beach $5 million and Los Al $2.3 million (estimates) in new COVID stimulus funds, service districts can attempt to make direct appeals to the state, simply based on community organization status. It was not exactly clear what the path for stimulus funds for service districts will be.

When discussing governance later in the meeting, directors began to discuss a process of change and how to keep citizens better informed.
Nevertheless, Director Tony Dimarco said somehow, some changes should be made in the status.

He complained that Rossmoor earns an annual franchise fee of $23,000, but it is paid to Orange County Sanitation or the agency responsible for the contract. “I guess it’s okay,” he said, but noted how easily Rossmoor CSD could administer the contract and keep the administrative fee.

He suggested Rossmoor residents contact Mendoza and his staff with any concerns or problems, who would then relay them to OC Sanitation, yet the administering agency would keep the entire fee. It adds up.

For example, on a five-year agreement, Rossmoor could receive approximately $1.5 million in fees, but under the current law that governs RCSD status, such contracting is not allowed so the franchise fees are kept by the agency that administers the contract (in this example, OC Sanitation).

In fact, said DeMarco, “we could manage several contracts.”

“Why can’t we get these franchise fees for ourselves,” he asked? “I know it’s complicated and, speaking with legislative staff, I’m not sure they understand it.”

“If we’re going to do that, we need to understand how it is done successfully” said Board President Jeffrey Barke.

“It’s not a question of whether we want to do this, it’s about the process,” argued Director Jeffrey Rips.

Many residents agree with the idea of seeking better control, he suggested, but they too want to know the process.

“This could be a great first step,” said Rips, adding to Barke’s suggestion the RCSD leadership readdress the community with a process of how this can happen, seeking their input. “We will share during that process why we think this is the right thing to do,” said Rips.

“So I agree, I think we do need a process,” said Barke, but he said the board may need outside expertise. While “the legislative person in our assembly, and our state senator, may have insights (on service districts) they’re both relatively new too, so we may even want to look for somebody else with the level of expertise to guide us.”
DeMarco suggested Chris Palmer, an official with the California Service District Association, who perhaps understands the legal instrastructure of latent powers, which are the type of power that would have to be changed to allow Rossmoor Community Service District governing authority.

“We need to move quickly and in an open manner,” said Director Mark Nitikman, suggesting that the board’s legislative committee move quickly on a process framework for the change and for the Rossmoor Advisory Committee.

He suggested expanding the Rossmoor Advisory committee but surely want to let them know that the RSCD is “there to listen as much as talk.”

Director Nathan Searles, an attorney, suggested the Board get going. “We’re going to have to be quick on this,” he said, because a year is going to pass quickly and if residents approve, directors want to have the legislation introduced as early as 2022. “We can’t be passing this down the road too much.”

Barke revealed the district met with new Second District Supervisor Katrina Foley and would keep her appraised as well so that if and when legislation does appear, the district would want her support as well.

The Directors voted unanimously to move forward with a plan to have Mendoza reach out to Palmer as the legislative committee begins to create a process and framework for expanding RCSD powers to discuss with the Rossmoor Advisory Committee and ultimately, the residents of Rossmoor. It seems now that Rossmoor Community Service District Directors see the wisdom in the community stepping in to slow down the process of legislation to enhance the overall powers of the district.

The board, at its April meeting, agreed to seek a latent powers consultant to help them figure out the process and to move forward to set up an inclusive process to discuss real change in governance.

The District backed off an attempt last month to work with Assembly representative Janet Nguyen to introduce legislation that purportedly would have granted the special service district additional powers of governance. Now the district doesn’t quite know who understands a very complicated law.

Rossmoor is not an incorporated city or town, yet they do have some powers, those granted to it under its status as a “special service district.” It provides some powers, but not nearly the powers afforded villages, towns and cities to govern the municipal affairs within their community.

The Rossmoor community includes about 3,500 homes and approximately 10,000 residents.

According to the California Service Districts Association (CSDA), there are approximately 2,300 independent special districts in California, meaning they are governed by an independent board of directors elected by the districts’ voters or appointed to a fixed term of office.

While the Rossmoor Board of Directors does enjoy some powers, even then they pay taxes to Orange County for various provisioned services such as trash collection, public safety and public works, yet OC keeps all the fees while the district has little, or no control.
Regarding an upcoming waste management agreement, General Manager Joe Mendoza explained to the directors what he’s been able to accomplish by way of changes in the agreement, but said it sometimes takes extraordinary effort just to get simple things added to agreements negotiated by the county.

Mendoza also introduced Chris Palmer via Zoom, Senior Public Affairs Director for CSDA, who said while cities and towns had been authorized to receive stimulus funds in the latest federal stimulus bill, the service district lobbyists were not able to get service districts included in the bill.

Even in the absence of authorizing language in the bill, Palmer said they’ve managed to build a coalition of special district allies and have fired off a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom seeking inclusion in the distribution of funds.

Palmer said special districts around the state collectively lost more than $2.4 billion because of the pandemic. “We need those funds,” he said.

While Cypress will get $9 million, Seal Beach $5 million and Los Al $2.3 million (estimates) in new COVID stimulus funds, service districts can attempt to make direct appeals to the state, simply based on community organization status. It was not exactly clear what the path for stimulus funds for service districts will be.

When discussing governance later in the meeting, directors began to discuss a process of change and how to keep citizens better informed.
Nevertheless, Director Tony Dimarco said somehow, some changes should be made in the status.

He complained that Rossmoor earns an annual franchise fee of $23,000, but it is paid to Orange County Sanitation or the agency responsible for the contract. “I guess it’s okay,” he said, but noted how easily Rossmoor CSD could administer the contract and keep the administrative fee.

He suggested Rossmoor residents contact Mendoza and his staff with any concerns or problems, who would then relay them to OC Sanitation, yet the administering agency would keep the entire fee. It adds up.

For example, on a five-year agreement, Rossmoor could receive approximately $1.5 million in fees, but under the current law that governs RCSD status, such contracting is not allowed so the franchise fees are kept by the agency that administers the contract (in this example, OC Sanitation).

In fact, said DeMarco, “we could manage several contracts.”
“Why can’t we get these franchise fees for ourselves,” he asked? “I know it’s complicated and, speaking with legislative staff, I’m not sure they understand it.”

“If we’re going to do that, we need to understand how it is done successfully” said Board President Jeffrey Barke.

“It’s not a question of whether we want to do this, it’s about the process,” argued Director Jeffrey Rips.

Many residents agree with the idea of seeking better control, he suggested, but they too want to know the process.

“This could be a great first step,” said Rips, adding to Barke’s suggestion the RCSD leadership readdress the community with a process of how this can happen, seeking their input. “We will share during that process why we think this is the right thing to do,” said Rips.

“So I agree, I think we do need a process,” said Barke, but he said the board may need outside expertise. While “the legislative person in our assembly, and our state senator, may have insights (on service districts) they’re both relatively new too, so we may even want to look for somebody else with the level of expertise to guide us.”

DeMarco suggested Chris Palmer, an official with the California Service District Association, who perhaps understands the legal instrastructure of latent powers, which are the type of power that would have to be changed to allow Rossmoor Community Service District governing authority.

“We need to move quickly and in an open manner,” said Director Mark Nitikman, suggesting that the board’s legislative committee move quickly on a process framework for the change and for the Rossmoor Advisory Committee.

He suggested expanding the Rossmoor Advisory committee but surely want to let them know that the RSCD is “there to listen as much as talk.”

Director Nathan Searles, an attorney, suggested the Board get going. “We’re going to have to be quick on this,” he said, because a year is going to pass quickly and if residents approve, directors want to have the legislation introduced as early as 2022. “We can’t be passing this down the road too much.”

Barke revealed the district met with new Second District Supervisor Katrina Foley and would keep her appraised as well so that if and when legislation does appear, the district would want her support as well.

The Directors voted unanimously to move forward with a plan to have Mendoza reach out to Palmer as the legislative committee begins to create a process and framework for expanding RCSD powers to discuss with the Rossmoor Advisory Committee and ultimately, the residents of Rossmoor.

Rossmoor seeks outside advice on enhancing governmental powers