By James Cullum
The City of Alexandria has 77 boards and commissions on which more than 800 people volunteer their time. What are they doing, and can it be done more efficiently?
In January, the Alexandria City Council established a work group to review the City’s requirements for board and commission appointments and term limits, and to determine whether their work could be done more efficiently by combining groups with similar mission statements and terminating those whose mission has been completed. To make sure some of the groups don’t outlive their usefulness, the Council work group proposed that annual reports outlining specific goals for the coming year be submitted to Council.
While some boards and commissions are legally mandated, others operate in an advisory capacity. One of those groups, the 34-year-old George Washington Birthday Celebration Committee, is made up of 19 people who plan the City’s birthday party for the nation’s first president. Some groups may be considered redundant, such as the City’s three different sister city committees that promote educational and cultural exchanges with several cities abroad. A total of 52 people serve on those three committees.
The report proposed the elimination of the Ad Hoc Task Force to Review New Police Facility Sites and the Ad Hoc Transportation Policy and Program Task Force, because they have completed their work. The work group recommended restructuring the Beautification Commission, the Commission on Information Technology, the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership Board, the Commission on HIV/AIDS, the Fair Housing Testing Program Advisory Committee and the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee.
The Council work group concluded no one is checking references for board member appointees prior to their selection. The group recommended an enhanced policy of only listing references that support the applicant’s nomination. The group proposed that all standing boards and commissions must be established by a City ordinance, not just a Council resolution. Those include the Gang Prevention Community Task Force, the Beautification Commission, the Park and Recreation Committee and the Local Emergency Planning Committee.
The Council work group considered the residency requirement for members of boards and commissions, and did not recommend changing the waiver policy. Council should docket any unopposed board or commission appointments on the consent calendar. The Council work group suggested a 10-year term limit on specific appointments. The City attorney is reviewing potential legal obstacles to such term limits on mandated boards and commission, such as the Planning Commission, the Board of Architectural Review, the Board of Real Estate Assessments, the Community Services Board, the Board of Zoning Appeals, the Sanitation Authority and the Building Code Board of Appeals. The group also recommended analyzing whether board and commission meetings should be monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly, to maximize their efficiency.
Council will vote on the group’s recommendations tonight.