Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica to Withdraw from “Obsolete” Joint Powers Agreement
By Jason Islas
March 18, 2013 -- The Santa Monica City Council will vote Tuesday on whether to withdraw from a 14-year natural disaster preparedness agreement with neighboring cities.
City officials recommend that Santa Monica withdraw from the Disaster Management Area A Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) because they believe it has become obsolete and that it restricts the City's ability to work with regional partners.
“The JPA is no longer needed,” said Ken Semko, Santa Monica's emergency manager. “When the Joint Powers Agreement was created in 1999, there was no formal disaster preparedness” network.
However, a lot has changed since 1999, Semko said.
“Training opportunities and partnerships are more readily available than they were 14 years ago,” he said. “By withdrawing from (the Joint Powers Agreement), it makes it much more efficient to work together.”
The JPA establishes a framework for the partners within the Disaster Management Area A, which includes Beverly Hills, Culver City and West Hollywood, to coordinate emergency preparation and funding.
But that framework has become “obsolete” in recent years, Semko said, and it restricts the partners' ability to coordinate.
“In the past several years, new and more efficient models for inter-agency cooperation in the event of a natural or man-made disaster within Disaster Management Area A have been created,” staff said.
One aspect of the JPA that Semko pointed to was that, because of State requirements, there are limited opportunities for the partners to meet and that all formal business has to be discussed at those meetings.
Without the restrictions of the JPA, he said, the partners could agree to have meetings outside of the regular meeting schedules, should the need arise.
“When we meet, it has to be through the JPA structure,” Semko said. “That limits training opportunities and information-sharing.”
Officials also pointed to improvements in Santa Monica's own disaster-readiness plans.
Most recently Santa Monica established the Office of Emergency Management, dedicate to preparing “residents, businesses, visitors, city employees, local organizations and others to respond to and recover from incidents and emergencies.”
But Semko said that, even if Santa Monica withdraws from the agreement, it won't affect the City's coordination with its partners.
“Our biggest concern is that our cooperation is left intact,” he said adding that the JPA is no longer needed to make sure that that cooperation happens.
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