A proposal to hold meetings of the Board of Supervisors in different parts of Riverside County on a quarterly basis got a lukewarm reception today, with one member saying that a "traveling roadshow" would drive up county costs and could leave residents with the impression that supervisors are peddling for votes ahead of the 2014 general election.
Supervisor Jeff Stone proposed the "Riverside County Offers Accessible Meetings" or ROAM policy, under which the board would hold meetings away from the County Administrative Center in downtown Riverside four times a year, in the Coachella Valley, Palo Verde Valley, San Gorgonio Pass and southwest county area.
"This county is the size of New Jersey. It's very enlightening to learn about everything going on in various places," Stone told his colleagues. "I think it would be good policy to take our meetings on the road. It would be great to get out there and meet some of the 2.3 million people who reside here and want to take an interest in what we do."
The supervisor, whose Third District includes Murrieta and Temecula, said many residents find attempting to travel from the county's far corners to Riverside "prohibitive," and ROAM would make a difference to them.
The concept comes on the heels of an arrangement by board Chairman John Benoit to hold a board meeting in Indio in October.
Supervisor John Tavaglione took issue with Stone's policy idea over costs and the potential for misperception about the underlying motivation behind ROAM.
Tavaglione noted that four of the five board members, including himself, are up for re-election in 2014, and residents may come away feeling "we're on a traveling roadshow to get our faces out there."
He also pointed out that moving staff, audio-visual gear for Internet broadcasting and other logistics required to hold meetings away from Riverside would add to the county's costs at a time when the budget remains lean.
"Our meetings are longer than they've ever been in the past," Tavaglione said. "We are using more staff time. To have these meetings go remote may be too much."
Stone responded that the board had flirted with the idea of outlying meetings for the past nine years, and he was simply trying to bring the idea closer to reality.
He denied any interest in politicking, noting he had "no constituents" in most of the areas proposed on his list. However, the supervisor recently declared his candidacy for a state Senate seat that encompasses several of the locations.
Supervisor Kevin Jeffries -- the only board member not up for re- election next year -- found merit in Stone's proposal but suggested a more effective way to interact with residents would be through teleconferencing.
"We could set up a facility so that people could testify from a remote location," Jeffries said.
Supervisor Marion Ashley liked Jeffries' suggestion, as well as a recommendation from Tavaglione that the board temporarily table action on Stone's plan until after the October meeting in the Coachella Valley.
"Let's see how that goes," Ashley said. "Afterward, we can approach this with more knowledge."
The board is expected to revisit the ROAM policy and also scrutinize the
possibility of teleconferencing opportunities for residents in November.
—City News Service