Monday, May 25, 2009

Boards and Commissions

As a first term Councillor, one of the things that has impressed me is the expertise and commitment of the many volunteers who serve the City. There have been a few things that have depressed me but I'll leave that to another post. The work of volunteer Boards and Commissions is extremely important to the success of Newburyport.

Here's a list of City of Newburyport Boards and Commissions which can also be found at
http://www.cityofnewburyport.com/pdf/Board%20Commission%20Committee%20.PDF

ATKINSON COMMON COMMISSION

BOARD OF HEALTH

BOARD OF REGISTRARS

BOARD OF SEWER COMMISSIONERS

BOARD OF WATER COMMISSIONERS

CABLE ADVISORY COMMITTEE

CIVIC COMMISSION

COMMISSION FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

COMMUNITY PRESERVATION COMMITTEE

CONSERVATION COMMISSION

COUNCIL ON AGING BOARD

CULTURAL COUNCIL

EIGHT TOWNS AND THE BAY

HARBOR COMMISSION

HISTORICAL COMMISSION

LIBRARY BOARD OF DIRECTORS

LICENSING COMMISSION

MOSELEY WOODS COMMISSION

MUNICIPAL RETIREMENT BOARD

NEWBURYPORT HOUSING AUTHORITY

NEWBURYPORT REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

OPEN SPACE COMMITTEE

PARKS COMMISSION

PLANNING BOARD

POLICE-CITIZENS ADVISORY COUNCIL

SCHOLARSHIP COMMITTEE AND EDUCATION FUND COMMITTEE

STREET TREE COMMITTEE

TRUST FUND COMMISSION

WATERFRONT TRUST

YOUTH COMMISSION

ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS (ZBA)

The work is often quietly done behind the scenes, usually not covered by the press and usually with no audience.

In terms of recruitment, sometimes you'll see a notice in the Daily News or Current about an opening (the Harbor Commission recently posted an opening in the Daily News daily briefs), but most times the appointment process is behind the scenes. I'm not suggesting any malfeasance but I am suggesting that it's not a very efficient way to find the 'talent' that undoubtedly is out in the community.

Because these Boards and Commission often are dealing with the likes of developers with deep pockets filled with legal expertise and landfill operators with profit in their hearts, I think it best that we go into this in a very deliberate way.

I am suggesting two incremental changes to the way Newburyport does business which I think will foster improved civic involvement.

1) Open Recruitment
At the local level, Methuen has an application form http://www.cityofmethuen.net/legacy/Mayor/Assets/talent%20bank%20application%202006.pdf where the resident checks off their interests and attaches a resume.
We should do the same. This would be easy to track. As each application and attached resume is received, it could be logged in an Access database or Excel spreadsheet checking off the Boards and Commissions the person is interested in. Keep the application on file. Every time there's an opening, the Mayor could start with a pool of applicants already on hand.

2) More Transparency
The City of Salem doesn't have its recruitment process on-line but they do have the Boards and Commissions listed with meeting dates and a link to each entity here. Click on a link and you get that Board's member list, minutes and agendas.
We should establish a Boards and Commissions link on the homepage of the City's website (http://cityofnewburyport.com/). The Boards and Commissions page would include a general application form, the list of Boards and Commissions, and members and dates of term --- as well as links to minutes. Right now you can find information on the City's Boards and Commissions but it's a hunt. The website has been much improved in the last year and centralizing this information would be a great next step.

Here's how the State is opening up the appointment process.

http://appointments.state.ma.us/

Here's some commentary on Blue Mass Group at http://bluemassgroup.com/diary/15714/governor-patrick-launches-boards-and-commissions-website:

This new website may seem like a little thing. It's not -- actually, I think it's potentially huge. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of boards and commissions set up under state law. Most of them are unpaid, but many of them have direct influence over important areas of state policy. You can have real impact by serving on these things -- in fact, short of running for office, it might be your best way of doing that.
The State is tracking the openings in a fairly sophisticated way-- hey, they've got more money and more positions to track.

I think we should take the cue from the State and other communities and improve this very important volunteer element of our local government.

Councillor Ed Cameron







3 comments:

Ari Herzog said...

I have my own thoughts on the first suggestion, but I agree on the second. But there's a kicker: Is the City Council prepared to inject resources (money and/or staff) into the Information Technology department? Or is director Mark Kavanagh prepared to do all the work himself?

Reason I ask is at the last Waterfront Trust meeting, which I attended (as did your colleague Councilors McCavitt, Earls, and Ives), chairman Cliff Goudey asked me for suggestions of how to make their minutes more transparent to the public, at which point I raised the city website, a concept they apparently hadn't considered. Nor did the three councilors, prompting Ives to raise Mark's name.

Great ideas, Ed, but IT is key here.

Oh, and that list of boards and committees is old. It's not including the Bartlet Mall Commission, the Diversity and Tolerance Committee, and likely others.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what is involved in posting board/committee minutes to the city website, but the planning board has been doing it for years, so it would seem the wherewithal already exists.

Mark said...

I am finding it next to impossible to get the list of members of the Bosrd of the Housing Authority. they have a huge budget increase yet no member names. meeting minutes etc are available to public..unless you can find them. Let me know tx