Friday, December 17, 2010

Restructure The Commission Meetings

I have not commented much on the fact that Corina Esquijarosa in her first three meetings as mayor has put forth a series of items designed to make the commission meetings more resident friendly. In broad strokes, these proposals are:

  • Change the governing rules from an ordinance to a resolution. This would allow the commission to try different approaches to see what suits the citizenry best.

  • Move Good and Welfare to the end of the meeting, rather than the beginning. This would allow residents who attend the meetings to comment on various pieces of legislation or commission business, not to be delayed as people simply to get up to talk. Good and Welfare matters and is intended to be a forum for residents to bring issues up to the commission and city staff that are not covered in the agenda but it should not take priority over the other business before the commission.

  • Require speakers to sign in with a name and address. This practice, nearly universally followed in other cities, would allow the city to do proper follow up and make the speakers data public. It might also help cut down on slanderous speech and absurd behavior.

  • Change the meeting time to start at 7PM rather than 7:30PM to give more time to the subjects at hand and prevent these post midnight sessions.

  • Referred to but not discussed in detail is an idea to change the meeting to the first Tuesday of the month with a second meeting scheduled the third Tuesday if needed. We have suffered from a rash of unscheduled commission meetings for almost a year now and it's clear our current model of one meeting per month is not working. This would give the flexibility to the commission to table business at the first meeting and the expectation that the second meeting is not a full month away. During the financial crisis, the commission also needs to be tightly watching the finances and setting the direction closely. The board meetings could then happen throughout the second week and report back the third week.

Pretending that our commission meetings are working as structured is a denial of the obvious. Resident participation is low. It's the same core group that shows up month after month. (I'm in that group.) Most residents attending for the first time are shocked at the disorderliness of the meetings and the lack of clarity and few have the patience to sort it out.

My view is that there should be some data, something tangible, to guide the commission. I'd recommend that we start using direct mail to the residents, email those who have shared their emails, solicit residents' viewpoints, see what it would take to improve performance and outreach and be willing to respond. Two of the commissioners were elected to bring these changes - Eddie Lim and Corina Esquijarosa, and they should lead this charge. The sitting commissioners, Frank Rodriguez and Paul Vogel know that the structure doesn't work. Let's fix it.

Kevin Vericker
December 17, 2010

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