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City seeking 567 volunteers for commissions

Friday, March 13, 2015 by Jo Clifton

In order to keep the city’s many boards and commissions running on time, City Council must make 500 appointments by June 30. Other groups need to appoint an additional 67 individuals to participate in the process of advising Council on everything from animal welfare to energy and water.

As one of its final actions, the previous Council revised the board and commission system to fit better with the 10-1 system. In so doing, it revised the membership of almost every commission.

Deena Estrada, the city’s boards and commissions coordinator, explained that larger commissions at the end of June would replace all of the current boards and commissions. The current boards will stop operating, but each new commission will not be able to meet until Council has appointed a quorum.

The Zoning and Platting Commission, Environmental Board and the Board of Adjustment are among those that will each now have 11 members instead of the seven members they currently have. Overall, Estrada said the city is increasing board membership by 200 people.

The new Planning Commission will have 13 members, three of whom will be appointed by the mayor and 10 by Council. It is one of the commissions considered a priority for appointment, partly because the Planning Commission and the Zoning and Platting Commission make decisions mandated by state law, and those decisions must be timely.

Estrada is hoping that Council will start making those appointments sooner rather than later. Each Council member needs to make 42 appointments, she said, and the mayor must appoint 80.

A number of boards and commissions are being abolished or merged into existing panels. Those include the Urban Forestry Board, which will be consolidated with the Environmental Board June 30. After that date, the panel will be called the Environmental Commission.

Estrada offered this merger as an example of why it is important for Council to decide on appointments soon. Members of the upcoming Environmental Commission should attend meetings of the Urban Forestry Board to get a good idea of what the board does. The new commission can meet only when at least six of its members have been appointed, because that is new number for a quorum.

The bond oversight committee is being consolidated with a new permanent committee composed of members of the Planning Commission and the ZAP called the Economic and Capital Budget Joint Committee. The Waterfront Planning Advisory Board is another panel that will become part of a permanent committee of the Planning Commission and ZAP, called the Small Area Planning Joint Committee. Both committees will report directly to Council in the same way that commissions do.

There will also be a new Joint Sustainability Committee. Its seven members will represent the Community Development Commission, Economic Prosperity Commission, Electric Utility Commission, Environmental Commission, Planning Commission, Water & Wastewater Commission and the Zero Waste Advisory Commission.

The Board of Adjustment will absorb the Sign Review Board.

The African American Resource Advisory Commission currently has seven members, but its new incarnation will have 17. The mayor and Council will make 11 appointments, with the remainder appointed by stakeholder groups, including the NAACP and the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce. Similarly, the Asian American Quality of Life Advisory Commission will have 15 members, including some nominated by stakeholders.

The Downtown Commission, which advises Council and staff about projects and policies affecting downtown, will remain at 15 members. The mayor will appoint seven members, and various commissions will appoint the other eight.

Several commissions are dropping “Austin” as part of their title. For example, the Austin Music Commission will simply become the Music Commission, and the Austin Airport Advisory Commission will be known as the Airport Advisory Commission.

As of Thursday, 391 citizens have submitted applications to serve on a commission. Estrada noted that many applicants asked to be considered for multiple boards. Of those 391 applications, 319 are from current board members.

So there are numerous openings for people wanting to serve their community. In addition, the mayor and Council have a lot of work to do in making the appointments. Once they make those appointments, citizens will receive introductory material on how the commissions work and what their duties might be, including an introduction to Robert’s Rules of Order.



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