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Council nears verdict on reshuffling commissions

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Austin City Council members have begun circling around a final set of actions that could condense the city’s sprawling Boards and Commissions structure in advance of the new 10-1 Council. Though Council took no vote on the new structure at its Tuesday work session, it appeared headed toward some resolution on a handful of the more controversial suggestions offered by a commission charged with culling the current roster.

These include the task force’s recommendations to combine a set of minority-focused boards and commissions. If approved intact – a now increasingly unlikely scenario – the Commission’s recommendations could fold the Mexican-American Cultural Center advisory board into the Hispanic/Latino Quality of Life Commission.

However, two other potential minority commission mergers – of the African-American Resource Advisory Commission and the African-American Cultural Heritage Center, and of the Asian-American Quality of Life Commission and the Asian-American Resource Center oversight body – could stick in one form or another.

Council Member Bill Spelman summed up the situation as he saw it. “The (Emma S. Barrientos Mexican-American Cultural Center) has been in existence for several years,” he began. “There is a constant flow of activity at the MACC; the MACC board has a lot of work to do. The African-American Cultural Heritage Center committee does not have a lot of work to do because it’s new, and ditto the Asian-American Resource Center. It seems to me one way of thinking about this is that when you are dealing with a place like the MACC, where there has been a lot of activity for a long time, you’ve got a board which is used to regulating that activity (and is) engaged in the activities of the MACC, and they want to keep being engaged in that–and not being drawn into other activities.”

Indeed, Council Member Mike Martinez signaled his support for leaving the Mexican-American Cultural Center’s oversight board with separate from the Hispanic/Latino Quality of Life Commission.

As for the notion of realigning the duties of the three bodies that handle zoning decisions, Council Member Laura Morrison appeared willing to engage in the experiment. However, she remained concerned about a concentration of decision-making, one that might leave all zoning decisions with one body.

Morrison and Council Member Kathie Tovo each also spoke out against the idea of either ending the Commission for Women or merging it with another body.

The City of Austin has roughly 60 Council-appointed advisory bodies.

Use the Monitor‘s Boards and Commissions database if you would like to explore their various members and missions.

(This post has been updated to reflect the fact the Council Member Mike Martinez supports leaving the MACC board and Hispanic Quality of Life Commission as separate entities.)

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