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COG’s Role Needs to Be Clarified

We are writing in response to the article by Laurann Cook (“Council of Governments: An Idea Whose Time Is Now,” Voices, June 16) in support of the soon-to-be-formed Orange County Council of Governments (COG).

According to Cook, this new entity will perform a valuable function by providing a unified voice for Orange County cities in reacting to state and federal mandates.

We at the Orange County chapter of the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California have been following this process carefully. Although we recently were presented with information on COG, we remain concerned regarding COG’s scope and authority.

Cook describes COG’s functions as conducting studies, making recommendations and serving as a forum for the identification of savings and efficiencies in government.

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Yet council members have been quoted in the press as going beyond these functions. Some members view direct authority over land use as an appropriate role. The League of Cities itself prepared a report urging that cities assume land use functions in unincorporated areas. The League of Cities is also participating in another new study through the Orange County Restructuring Working Group. There has been limited input from the private sector in all of these efforts.

Does the private sector have cause to be concerned? We think so. We know of an example of a COG gone awry in a neighboring county. A COG with essentially the same structure as the Orange County model was recently formed in western Riverside County. This COG quickly ran amok.

Funded by federal dollars, just as the Orange County COG is proposed to be, the Riverside COG soon became beholden to no one, not even the cities that originally advocated its formation.

Again, this is not what the Orange County League of Cities says it has in mind. And we do not object to COG as described by Laurann Cook in her article. To avoid possible confusion, perhaps the first order of business by the Orange County COG is the formal adoption of policies to limit its role to that described by Ms. Cook.

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We have requested that COG adopt such formal policies to ensure that the Orange County COG will not become a new layer of government, will not seek to assume land use planning functions or gain control over city spheres of influence and will not interfere with local autonomy and decision making.

If these points aren’t clarified at the outset, then we can only conclude that our concerns are well-founded.

CHRISTINE DIEMER

Building Industry Assn.

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