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Council eyes possible trimming, merging of some boards and commissions

Tuesday, May 31, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

City Council appears ready to take a comprehensive look at the makeup and purpose of the many boards and commissions currently advising Council on city policy, with the possibility of dissolving or merging some of the groups.

At last week’s meeting of Council’s Audit and Finance Committee, a recommendation passed unanimously to have Council vote to keep the Economic Prosperity Commission organized as an active board even though it had failed to make quorum for more than six months prior to holding a successful meeting in May. That vote came with the push from Council Member Kathie Tovo to conduct the first hard look in roughly 10 years at the roster of boards and commissions, and the staff and telecommunications resources needed to support them.

The city website currently lists more than four dozen boards, commissions and committees that have been active in recent years – and many more task forces, advisory boards and other less formal groups – though there is no readily available information on their present state of activity.

Earlier this year Council voted to keep the Tourism Commission active after it also had a long string of meetings canceled because of inability to make quorum.

“I would suggest we as a Council have a conversation about the different commissions, because ultimately all of our commissioners are providing recommendations to Council … and 10 years is a long time and some of the commissions have been here that long,” Tovo said. “If some of those commissions are no longer relevant to the work that Council is doing, then we should really consider whether we should continue them.”

The committee discussed whether to form a work group to look at the matter, but Tovo and others wanted to have all of Council involved in the discussion instead of a sub-quorum number assigned to a working group.

Because the June 7 work session and June 9 Council meeting already have large agendas with significant items for discussion and possible action, City Clerk Myrna Rios said the following week’s work session and Council meeting would be the most feasible time to bring up the overview of boards and commissions. She said the last task force related to that matter was convened in 2013.

Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter said the near-decade that has passed since Council last took a long look at the makeup of its boards and commissions makes it an opportune time to possibly narrow the field.

“We have some boards and commissions where we have a lot of members who will be coming up on their time limit, and we’ll have many new Council members potentially coming in in January,” she said. “So, it may be time for us to initiate some sort of task force to look at boards and commissions and see what’s functioning and not functioning.”

Council Member Vanessa Fuentes noted that the availability of meeting spaces that can accommodate streaming video on the city’s ATXN online video channel is one consideration that Council members need to examine when deciding whether to merge or disband some of the groups.

“I would like to look at this from an operational standpoint of staff support … understanding what are the commissions that currently don’t have a staff liaison and what additional resources are needed for our boards and commissions to operate effectively,” she said. “Looking at the ones that are selected to be broadcast on ATXN, our airport commission meetings are only available via audio that is uploaded a day or two afterwards. Our airport commission should be broadcast live and be publicly accessible, and I know that’s not easy because there is a shortage of rooms available that can connect with ATXN.”

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