Opinion: Bring Boards and Commissions Out of the Dark Ages and Make Them Accountable

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It’s just my opinion…

On Tuesday night, the City Council is going to discuss issuing business cards to Board and Commission members. While this may become a slippery slope, the intentions are good, and hopefully, the Board and Commission members will be responsible for how they use them.

Since they’re talking about the boards and commissions, this would be a good time to completely revamp some of the expectations along with some modernization to make the boards and commissions more responsive and accountable to the public.

There was a time when I thought many boards and commissions did not pull their weight, and the more I have watched some of these boards and commissions, they are actually very useful and take their responsibilities very seriously.

As an example, let’s take the Sustainable Burbank Commission. This Commission has dealt with the synthetic turf that Parks and Recreation want to install at the Brace Park ballfields, and Monday, they were going to vote on sending a letter to the Council in favor of banning single-use plastics. How did that vote go? We will find out next month, which we will get into in a minute.

In many ways, the public does not know what some of these Boards and Commissions are responsible for and decide. My suggestion to the council is to have each Board and Commission do a year-end report each year with all the items that they made decisions on and sent to the council as recommendations for action.

Not the reports that are made to the Boards and Commissions but the actual actions that they have taken. Since they are all advisory to the council, a yearly report should be made which shows their activity. If it turns out that after a year went by and they made very little in recommendations to the Council, then do they need to exist?

But there is also something else sticking in my craw.

This past week I called (Zoomed) the charter review committee during all communications. When my Zoom call was over, my interaction with the meeting was also over. There was no way for me to watch the meeting or know what was discussed. The only way I can find out what happened is to wait a month or two until the next time they meet, wait for the agenda, and then read the minutes.

This has been my same frustration with the Sustainable Burbank Commission. There is no way to find out what was discussed or voted on.

Some of these meetings are very topical and relevant to today’s discussions.

Burbank calls itself the media capital of the world, and yet when it comes to the Boards and Commissions, some are still living in the days of the pony express. Having to wait a month to find out what happened at a meeting is not acceptable in this day and age. All meetings should be recorded, even if that just means putting a camera in the back of the room with a microphone on the table.

By at least putting that up the day after the meeting, people can at least find out what actually happened. Minutes are fine, but they are not exact, and they do not reflect the tone of what is discussed.

If we are going to ask citizens to get involved and take their time to help in city decisions, then their meetings add results need to be made available to the public on a much quicker basis. The system they used in the last century does not work in this century.

Making the meetings more accessible and making the boards and commissions more accountable with a yearly report of their activity can’t do anything but enhance their work.

So yes, let them have their business cards, but also give the public transparency when it comes to what is actually being accomplished. Some of these boards and commissions should not operate in obscurity.

We are doing them and ourselves a great disservice.

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    1 COMMENT

    1. Boards and commissions have become an anachronism in the age of computers and the internet. Free and low-cost surveys to residents, conducted by way of email through the Burbank Water and Power would dramatically reduce the cost to Burbank residents. While members of Burbank boards and commissions serve as volunteers, the City Attorney sends highly-paid attorneys and other staff members to monitor the meetings at a tremendous expense to the taxpayers. Surveys to the residents would offer clearer insights at virtually no cost. I would be in favor of eliminating Burbank boards and commissions and replacing the process with direct feedback from residents.

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