By Edi Birsan
Concord's Measure Q Oversight Committee met for the first time Tuesday night.
Members unanimously chose former mayor Guy Bjerke, a strong supporter of Measure Q, as chairman. Bjerke is a strong leader, as demonstrated during numerous times of stress in the last year. Measure Q set a local half-cent sales tax for five years.
He is also the most experienced in dealing with staff and the City Council and can readily translate various things that might otherwise cause a stumble in procedures and understanding.
The group elected Richard Eber as vice chair. He was a major opponent of the measure and participated in writing the "No on Q" position on the ballot.
Eber noted that the role of the committee is to go forward with the law of the land and not to revisit old battles.
The meeting laid out a broad purview for the committee in that it will look at the entire general fund rather than only the amount coming from Measure Q.
This is important because the committee will function more along the lines of a budget overview panel than merely a distributor of Measure Q money.
The question of the depth of the committee's reach is a work in progress. It was said at the meeting that members should not get involved in issues such as negotiating clauses of a contract, but instead dwell on broader priorities.
Dr. Harmish Kumar, the former chairman of the Human Relations Committee, threw out a "philosophical concern" over the emphasis in the budget on the Police Department, which had gone from 52 percent to 59 percent of the last budget.
Assistant City Manager Valerie Barone responded that the rest of the city budget has shrunk at a greater rate, thus causing the percentage to increase.
Eber said that quality of life issues are important and that he shared some of the general concern expressed by Kumar. Subsequent comments indicated that this sort of discussion is going to be a major part of the committee's work.
Bjerke reminded the group that it needs to keep in mind that the Measure Q money is supposed to "go away" and that the goal is to make sure the city eventually does not need it.
Eber said that he wants the committee to remember that this is the "people’s money." Or, as was said in one of the debates on the issue, "We do not want the city to get addicted to the money."
The next meeting of the Measure Q Oversight Committee is May 9 and is open to the public. Look for more information on Concord Patch.