Commissions, committees and boards, oh my!

Cities are chalk full of boards, committees and commissions. Transportation, park, trails, business, water, etc., etc., etc.

Most of the positions are filled by volunteers, community people interested in public service or the specific subject the commission relates too.

Other commissions, most notably Planning, are more involved. There are many applicants and a number of City Council members have used the position as a spring board and/or learning experience before running for council.

But in some places, the abundance of such committees may make it difficult to fill all the positions.

In Glendora, that is one of the issues they faced recently as numerous commissions and committees didn’t have new applicants or enough to fill all its vacancies, forcing the city to extend its application period.

The city had 17 vacancies across seven city advisory groups.

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The Beautification Committee, Historic Preservation Committee, Investment Advisiory Committee, Traffic and Transportation Commission, Trails Committee, and Water Commission all had at least two vacancies this cycle.

The Traffic and Transportation Commission had five vacancies. The Community Services Commission had one.

It may be that some of these committees call for expertise and commitment beyond what many volunteers can provide, such as the Traffic Commission that has had trouble garnering interest since its creation a couple years ago, officials said.

“People interested in that, you almost have to be a geek,” Glendora City Manager Chris Jeffers said. “It is the type of thing where someone has to understand traffic engineering studies and all that to know the answer isn’t just to put a stop light everywhere.”

Some might say it would be better to do away with some of the organizations. It is an example of growing bureaucracy and the city should try to simplify its organization.

Jeffers said the advisory boards serve to add perspective.

“Over time the legislative people have felt it is important to get more perspective to them and to staff on these matters so they can make the best possible final decision,” he said.

Some commissions are popular and garner more volunteers than they probably need — such as the Trails Committee — Jeffers said.

“We have people who have been on it and unofficially have never left,” he said. “They have more than enough people willing to give their thoughts on matters.”

But other cities, seeking to trim the fat, have cut certain boards.

In La Puente, in a story previously reported by James Wagner, the city disbanded its Parks and Recreation Commission due to low attendance by its commissioners. Attendance was so bad that one commissioner appointed in January never got the chance to attend a meeting in nearly 5 months because not enough commissions showed up.

Local residents often rely, depend, and/or appreciate the commissions that give specific attention to community issues or subjects they care about, Jeffers said.

The tough question for cities may be deciding when to let go.

“They are hard to sunset,” he said. “People become very involved in them.”

What do you think? Are these advisory boards helpful to City Council’s by making recommendations and helping to review city issues? Or are they unnecessary government bureaucracy that slow the process and don’t provide much help?

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