Board Room, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Sandwiches Of The Dead’s photostream

Our local government has more than 100 boards or commissions with hundreds of representatives serving on them. Can you name 10? Why do we have so many and what do they actually do? While many of these boards and commissions do important work, there is also a great deal of duplication of efforts and inefficiency inherent in having so many of these entities, especially when their work is not public and never makes it into the hands of those in city government who could use it to inform policy or service delivery.

1. Maximize Efficiency on our Boards and Commissions

We have three boards or commissions that deal with youth policy, more than five that deal with water and sewer issues, and more than eight that deal with pensions and investments. Many boards and commissions on the books haven’t met for years. Many others do meet but their work is put on a shelf somewhere and never reviewed. We ask people to volunteer their time to serve the city on these entities, yet far too often their recommendations go unheard and their efforts are in vain.

We could vastly reduce the number of boards and commissions currently in place, combine those that are serving similar purposes, and bring the overall number down to a more reasonable level. This would allow a core group of boards and commissions to complete important work, would make it easier to keep track of term limits and fill vacancies, and would vastly improve the effectiveness of these advisory groups.

2.  Bring Transparency to our Boards and Commissions

Aside from a few high-profile boards and commissions, most of these groups’ work never makes it before the policymakers who could make use of the information – let alone to the general public who they serve. If a board or commission exists, it should have a public presence on the city’s website. Its agendas, meeting minutes, and meeting dates should be public and publicized. Its work should be given the platform it deserves.

3. Open Up Nominations to All City Residents

Most members of boards and commissions are nominated and appointed by the Mayor and City Council. We must open up the nomination process and allow citizens of the city to submit their own choices to fill open seats on these boards and commissions. We need fewer connected insiders doing this work and more community leaders, professionals, and concerned citizens.