The mayors of the Stanislaus County City Selection Committee will convene today to determine if Hughson Mayor Matt Beekman will continue to represent them on the Stanislaus County Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO.
LAFCO is composed of various city and county representatives and though often regarded as nebulous by the general public, one central goal of the commission is to preserve agricultural land while also promoting orderly growth. Beekman's role on the commission came under speculation after a deciding vote he cast on land mitigation efforts at the March 25 LAFCO meeting left some of the mayors feeling misrepresented.
LAFCO convened in March to discuss refining the language of its in-lieu fee methodology, one tactic aimed at achieving 1:1 land mitigation. This ratio ensures that if land is developed, an equal amount is also preserved for agricultural use, thus retaining the region's resources.
In a 3-2 vote Beekman voted with Stanislaus County Supervisors Jim DiMartini and Terry Withrow to amend the LAFCO agricultural preservation policy to set an in-lieu fee methodology of 35 percent plus a five percent endowment. The item was opposed by Turlock City Council member Amy Bublak and LAFCO public representative Brad Hawn.
At the May 13 meeting, which lasted nearly four hours, several mayors vocalized concerns that Beekman wasn’t representing their collective views appropriately.
"The City Selection Committee is supposed to select a member that fairly represents the diversity of the cities," said Riverbank Mayor Richard O'Brien in May. "We selected you thinking you would fairly represent us. When you have seven cities saying 'don't go forward with this' and you did, that shows us that you have a disregard for our opinion when you've already made up your mind."
While Beekman acknowledged his responsibility to the City Selection Committee that appointed him, he also noted that he is also charged with representing another entity: the public.
“One critical piece of information is that when I am appointed to LAFCO through the City Selection Committee I’m obligated to not represent solely the body that appointed me, but I’m also supposed to represent the public,” said Beekman. “When mayors say I’m not representing them, that is contrary to LAFCO law and I’m going to follow LAFCO law as a board member.”
Beekman said he would have preferred a decision to have been reached at the May meeting and in the past 60 days he has availed himself, namely through email, to answer unresolved questions amongst the mayors. The response has been “pretty limited” said Beekman who hopes to return to focusing on City Selection Committee matters in the near future.
“There are a lot of time critical things we’re not discussing because we are distracted and to me that is the biggest concern I have. I would much rather be spending time talking about water and roads and working with the mayors on economic development issues,” said Beekman. “We need to get together and demonstrate leadership.”
The mayors will convene for the City Selection Committee to vote on whether or not Beekman will continue to represent the mayors on LAFCO. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. tonight at Newman City Hall, located at 1162 Main Street.