The city of Lawrence is right to eliminate and consolidate some of the advisory boards and committees serving the City Commission.
At present, 44 such boards and committees are providing input to city commissioners. That’s a large number requiring an overwhelming number of meetings and significant staff time. City staff is right to look for a more efficient approach.
Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard said staff members are “trying to streamline the overall number and trying to gain efficiencies, both in terms of the way the boards are functioning but also the staff involved in the boards.”
Staff recommend that commissioners consider consolidating several boards that have overlapping or duplicate missions.
For example, staff recommend that the six construction code appeals boards — building, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, fire and contractor licensing — be combined into a single board. Staff also recommend that the commission consolidate the Joint Economic Development Council and Public Incentive Review Committee; the Lawrence Alliance and Human Relations Commission; the Social Service Funding Advisory Board and Transient Guest Tax Program Advisory Board; and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission.
And staff is recommending that the following committees and advisory boards be eliminated: Sales Tax Audit Committee, Homeless Issues Advisory Committee, Sister Cities Advisory Board and Community Development Advisory Committee, Lawrence Advisory Board on University Student Issues, Downtown Parking Advisory Board and the ECO2 Commission.
Advisory committees and volunteer boards provide opportunities for residents to become active and engaged in city government. Often, such roles are the first step in seeking office.
But such boards and committees are only beneficial so long as the group’s mission is clearly defined and its members are meeting on a regular basis and producing results on behalf of the city. In some cases, boards were designed only to address a specific issue, with no need to continue meeting once the issue has been resolved.
Condensing city advisory boards and committees makes sense. City commissioners should follow through on staff’s recommendations and make reviewing such boards for elimination and consolidation an ongoing function in the future.