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Council wades into commission appointment plan

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

During Tuesday’s work session, City Council members started to tackle the looming task of appointing more than 500 board and commission members before June.

Currently, the city’s boards and commissions are operating in a sort-of limbo in order to give the new Council time to familiarize itself with the system before making appointments to the city’s 60-odd volunteer commissions. Through June, commission members who were appointed by former Council members will continue to serve.

City clerk Jannette Goodall explained that the commission transition period would end June 30. By that time, she said, new members should have been able to complete training, fulfill administrative requirements like getting email addresses and, potentially, attend a few commission meetings to get up to speed.

To accomplish that, Goodall said her office would like Council members to submit all of the nominations by the end of May.

Council Member Ellen Troxclair suggested it was time to review the boards and commissions structure. She said that, in reading last year’s Boards and Commission report, she noticed that Council did not adopt many of its recommendations.

“The changes that were made were made at the very last City Council meeting, when they had 200-plus things on the agenda,” said Troxclair. “Some of the decisions that were made were made just right on the spot. If we are going to revise the boards and commissions, this is the time to do it.”

Troxclair said her preference would be to hold off a little longer on filling any current vacancies.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, who is the only returning member of Council, said she would be open to ongoing conversations about consolidating some of the city’s commissions as a future project. However, she also pointed out that the date of the final decision was not the first and only time the previous Council addressed the changes, but was the conclusion of a “long-term project.”

Council Member Delia Garza noted that, while the makeup of Council may have changed, the community of Austin has not. Like Tovo, she pointed out that the changes the last Council chose not to implement were largely a result of public feedback.

“Although we are new faces, the community is not a new face. If we tackle that issue again, it’s going to be the same community coming and saying, ‘Don’t do that,’” said Garza.

Council members also had the chance to talk to three members of the Boards and Commissions Transition task force and hear more about their recommendations.

Former task force member Dave Anderson said that he and other members would be happy to help Council in the future, and had worked hard to come to an agreement on their recommendations. He pointed out that some of their suggestions were not implemented because of public resistance. Others, like consolidating the Land Use Commissions into one group, just presented too much logistical trouble at the time.

Goodall explained that during the transition period, quorums would be tied to the actual number of members, not their theoretical makeup. That period will end July 1.

At the close of the work session, it remained unclear how Council members will proceed with the appointments procedurally, but they are proceeding. Those interested in serving on one of the city’s boards and commissions can apply for a position on the city clerk’s website.


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