Sunday, January 24, 2010

Review of Advisory Committees

San Angelo has a remarkably open government. We have 20 advisory committees, from Airport Advisory Board to Zoning Board of Adjustment. In between the alphabetic listing, we have everything from Ft Concho to a Fairmount Cemetary Board to a Senior Citizens Advisory Board.

For comparison, I had a correspondent in Coleman a few years back who related to me that Coleman City meetings were held at a more convenient time of 7:00 PM. Meetings were open to the public, but no comments from mere citizens were allowed. Made for shorter meetings I'm sure, but brevity and transparency are not co-equal goals.

We will see a discussion on instituting a Council review of existing advisory committees, one such board called out at each Council meeting. The result of such a review might range from sunsetting some which have outlived their usefulness, to a pat on the back for useful advice, to "so what have you done for us lately".

I have served on one such, a City Charter Review Committee. Let me make clear, I commend anyone willing to serve as an unpaid volunteer on any committee the city creates. I promise you, every hour of attendance requires 3-4 hours minimum of homework and constituent phone calls. Maybe you think your single vote doesn't count much, but all these advisory committees are open to public comment, and any voter can expand on his/her voting issue by being heard.

The idea of having Council review a committees' work is not to second guess the work product so much as to assure that there has BEEN a product. Council is always free to accept or reject any committees' recommendations. The proposed review might abolish some committees which seldom meet for lack of business. It might insist that others become more efficient at doing the work assigned them. A review might even point up the need for a new committee not hitherto found to be useful.

I would not want to see the review process limit citizen input; quite the opposite, I want the doors of local gov't open. I would hope a review by Council would hand out deserved pats on the back, provide committees with advice on how better to serve their stated functions, and further the notion of opening gov't to input by encouraging input from individual voters.

One thing I intend to press for: City has a really good website, gobs of little known info available online at 3:00 AM online. Each advisory board has, or should have, its own website page. The individual members should be listed with contact info. I welcomed my neighbors' input. Some I argued against one on one; some I incorporated into my arguements before the committee I served on. I thought it part of the job I had volunteered for to listen to all.

Groundhogs Day people, February 2, that's the next Council meeting. See you there if you care.

Oh and almost forgot to mention; GO NAWLINS! Confess, I backed the "old man" and Minn, but still won that by a half point. Superbowl, I have to go with New Orleans.

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