By James Cullum
After nearly a year of scrutiny, the Alexandria City Council voted last night to reorganize boards and commissions, cutting away those bodies that have outlived their usefulness and sharpening the missions of others. The City has 77 boards and commissions on which more than 800 people volunteer their time.
Vice Mayor Redella S. “Del” Pepper and Councilman Tim Lovain co-chaired the committee.
“We appreciate all of the work and time that these volunteers dedicate to the City,” Pepper said. “Our work here is meant to make that time and effort mean even more.”
With their tasks completed, the following groups were abolished: the Ad Hoc Task Force to Review New Police Facility Sites, the Ad Hoc Transportation Policy and Program Task Force, the Potomac Yard Fire Station, the Affordable Housing Task Force and the Transportation Safety Commission.
Council passed a measure 5-2 that will limit board appointments to 10 years. Critics of enacting term limits said that Council already has power to limit appointments to one term and that the longevity of a member contributes to the effectiveness of the group overall.
“In those cases where no one applies for a position being vacated because of term limitation, the incumbent and a ten-year institutional memory will have been lost for no reason,” wrote Human Rights Commission Chair JoAnn Maldonado in a letter submitted to Council last night.
Pepper and Councilman Ludwig Gaines cast the dissenting votes. “It is our job to decide whether we want to appoint someone or not,” Gaines said. “If an incumbent reapplies for a position on a board of commission and we do not to appoint that individual, we should have the courage to make that decision.”
While Council discussed limiting the terms of boards and commission chairs, they deferred that decision until each board or commission makes the recommendation to the committee.
“It is important to find ways to encourage new leadership on these boards and commissions, but let’s leave it to them to make a recommendation for now,” said mayor Bill Euille.
Those appointments not affected by term limits are members of 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. Limiting terms on those bodies requires a City charter change, which Council will request of the Virginia General Assembly during the 2009 session.
The missions and duties of a number of Council-assigned groups were combined or reassigned. The duties of the Fair Housing Testing Program Advisory Committee will be absorbed by the Human Rights Commission. Additionally, Council ordered the IT Commission to update its mission and took away its responsibility for reviewing telecommunication subscriber complaints. The Office of Citizen Assistance, without additional review of a board or commission, will receive those complaints.
To be sure some groups don’t outlive their usefulness, all boards and commissions will be required to submit to the City annual reports outlining specific goals for the coming year. Council also concluded that while no one is checking references for board member appointees prior to their selection, a policy will be enacted to ensure that applicants only list references that support their nomination.