SECTION II: POTENTIAL STRATEGIES
Group D: STRATEGIES THAT SUPPORT AN AGRICULTURAL ECONOMY
Strategy D5: Assist farmers and landowners in working with governmental agencies
Strategy D5.1: Public adviser for government projects
Public participation can improve project development and implementation. Likewise, landowners can benefit from direct interaction with agencies performing projects on or near the landowners' properties. A public adviser could improve communication between landowners and agencies by informing landowners of the agencies' activities, and providing landowners with easily accessible means of giving input. Landowners would be able to access information about a project from a designated source, without the need to navigate through a maze of government offices. Similarly, agencies could maintain a central information repository about who has contacted the adviser about the project and what type of information the public is interested in.
There are several ways that a public adviser position could be established and structured, including those listed below:
- Create a public adviser position assigned to cover a specific project and to communicate with interested people and entities on behalf of all agencies involved in undertaking the project.
- Designate a public adviser within a specific agency that covers all projects the agency is undertaking, either within a specific region or Statewide.
- Create a public adviser position assigned to cover all projects that are taking place in a certain region.
A public adviser could be housed within an agency that is undertaking a project, in an agency that already works with landowners in a specific region, or as a separate office within a county government. Regardless of where the public adviser is housed, the public adviser could advise agencies involved in a project on how best to communicate with the public.
RELATED PROGRAMS AND POLICIES
The California Energy Commission employs a Public Adviser. The CEC's Public Adviser, who must be an attorney licensed to practice law in California, is nominated by the CEC and appointed by the Governor for a term of three years. The Public Adviser assists the public in understanding the process and complexities of the CEC's meetings, workshops, and hearings, and makes recommendations to the public on the best way to be involved so that public involvement in CEC proceedings can be effective and meaningful. The Public Adviser performs public outreach efforts, such as the preparation and release of a CEC practice guide in December 2006 on the process of licensing the construction, operation and closure of thermal power plants 50 megawatts or greater, "Public Participation in the Siting Process: Practice and Procedure Guide," which is available online. The Public Advisor also maintains a roster of interested parties in various proceedings, organizes appearances of members of the public at CEC proceedings and makes formal introductions to the Commission, and suggests consolidation and coordination among various members of the public who have similar interests or views. The Public Adviser does not represent any member of the public or NGO, and does not advocate any position on substantive issues before the CEC.
In addition to communicating with members of the public, the Public Adviser communicates with the CEC regarding its proceedings. For example, the Public Adviser makes recommendations to the CEC regarding the measures it should employ to assure open consideration and public participation in its proceedings. By facilitating public participation in CEC proceedings, the Public Adviser assists the CEC in compiling a comprehensive public record upon which the Commission can base its decisions. The Public Advisor also disseminates notice of CEC meetings and public hearings to interested groups and to the public at large, and makes recommendations to the CEC on how to improve the accuracy and timeliness of its notices.
Possible issues which could affect the development of a public adviser position include the following:
- Funding. Creation of a new position would require funding. Funding could be included in the budget for projects when approved. If the public adviser is assigned to cover more than one project or multiple agencies' projects, arrangements would need to be made to allocate funding responsibilities among the various agencies and/or projects.
- Non-political boundaries. Projects are not necessarily limited to existing political boundaries, which could make it difficult to identify the appropriate location to house a public adviser position. For example, projects that would be carried out in the Delta, such as the BDCP, cross multiple county lines.
OPPORTUNITIES AND POTENTIAL PARTNERS
- County Governments
- Delta Conservancy
- Delta Protection Commission
- SACOG and other Councils of Government
ALS Workgroup: ALS Framework and Strategies: Section II: Strategy D5.1 Public Advisor for Government Projects: 061014