Disbanding the City Commissions –
Bad Idea or “Bold Change”?
Sedona AZ (July 8, 2013) – Originally, I had no intention of writing a guest perspective regarding the recent Council decision to disband our City Commissions by a vote of 4 to 3. As one of the three members of Council that opposed the motion to disband the commissions, I felt that I should honor the majority decision. That being said, I feel a need to respond to the Vice Mayor DiNunzio’s guest perspective entitled “Commission Vote Was To Improve Involvement” in order to provide a little more information and thought about the background of this issue.
I agree with the Vice Mayor on a number of points. All of the Council members concur that the current structure of the City Commissions needed to be reviewed. In fact most, if not all of City Commissioners agree that the efficiency, productivity and staff time that is spent on recording, monitoring and carrying out commission work programs is problematic. For that reason, the City Council directed staff to study the Commission structure and to make recommendations to Council on possible strategies to improve that structure.
The solution that staff proposed was to disband the commissions and create a “civic engagement process,” based on a model that the City of Marana created in 2011 called the Marana Citizen’s Forum. This forum is made up of 20 community members including representatives of various community organizations. This group of people held two year terms and are tasked with “addressing multidisciplinary issues facing the town”. You may view more information by looking up the Town of Marana’s web site at wwwmarana.com
When I considered this model, a number of questions came to my mind. Why are we following a model that was created by a city that is very different from Sedona…..Different demographics, different visions and core principles? Why did Marana disband their commissions? Was there a lack of citizen participation? Why is Marana the only city in the State that has disbanded their commissions?
Vice Mayor DiNunzio stated in his article that “there is confusion and concern among some in our community about the City Council decision to eliminate some standing commissions”. Let’s examine why there is confusion and concern in our community. A majority of the Council voted to disband the Commissions on August 1st. Additionally, they voted to oppose the formation of “standing committees”. This action brings up additional questions. Isn’t the Marana model based on the formation of a standing committee? The Sedona City Council voted to disallow the formation of standing committees. What kind of message are we sending to our community by disbanding commissions that have existed since the incorporation of our city? What alternatives for citizen engagement are available if we are disbanding the commissions and are opposed to the formation of standing committees? Why isn’t our goal to improve the structure of our commissions instead of disbanding them?
The City Council has directed staff to create an “action plan” that is designed to create a new model for resident involvement. Members of current commissions are supposed to be included in this discussion. Presently, no one knows what this model will look like. Will it “improve and increase” citizen involvement? Will it embrace “forward thinking” ideas about the arts, sustainability, historic preservation and housing from our citizenry? Will it provide a means by which the budget practices of the city will be transparent and accountable? I truly hope so.
There will be a Council/Public meeting on July 18th at the Sedona Public Library, beginning at 6:00 p.m. The public will have an opportunity to express their thoughts regarding this topic at that meeting.
The comments, questions and opinions that I have made in this article are mine alone and may not reflect the values, beliefs or opinions of the City Council or the City staff.
Rob Adams, Mayor
City of Sedona