Friday, January 20, 2012

On the Boards

Advisory Boards are a formalized key to community involvement. Generally speaking, the Boards are there to advise on and be the voice of the community on specific issues. Planning and Zoning is an exception in that it has specific administrative powers in the event that P&Z unanimously rejects a plan. All the others review the current status, make recommendations, and sometimes act on them with the approval of the commission and/or the city manager.

These boards can and do work as the voice of an involved citizenry, but only when the city takes their own role seriously. And under our last two interim city managers, the boards have been left to their own devices.

A big example is last night. There was a training for board members from the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics. In the three years I have been on North Bay Village boards, this is the first time, truly the first time, that there has been such a training. And as luck would have it, I am out of town.

I asked if the city would be recording the session for those board members who could not make the training and for new board members. The answer I got was a curt and slightly irrelevant “the training will not be televised.” Not my request – my request was specifically to have this recorded. So I guess the next training will be in three years.

I've seen this issue on both boards in which I have been involved.

On the Youth Services Board, it was a full year before we had city commitment to do baseline background checks on volunteers working with city youth. This should have been one meeting, maybe two tops. It did not get full city commitment until the last meeting. Kind of a no brainer, isn't it?

On the Citizens Budget and Oversight Board, the personal politics have long overruled the board's mission. The board has a voting member who owes well over $1 million in back taxes, deliberately meets during the work day so as to prevent residents from attending (and I might add specifically chose the one day in the week when I cannot be there during the work day.) Certainly this is both a violation of the spirit and the policies regarding boards.

The commission has started questioning how the boards are run. And they should. The steps are obvious -

  • Each Board should have a clearly stated mission and focus.
  • The Boards need to be evaluated by specified performance measures.
  • All Board meetings should be on weeknights, not during the weekday.
  • Board members should have training on ethics, legal issues and board proceedings. This training should be in person when possible but also available on the web and on DVD forms.
  • The City should assign an empowered, designated liaison with each board.

It's my hope that our new, professional city manager, Dennis Kelly puts these measures in and the commission supports them.

Boards matter. The issues are not hard to fix but they take political will and administration support.

Kevin Vericker
January 20, 2012

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