Vanguard Weekly Council Question: Week 4 – Commissions

Davis City Hall with an old style bicycle statue out front

Davis City Hall with an old style bicycle statue out front

In May, there will be a special election to fill the vacancy in the 3rd District left by the departure of Lucas Frerichs to the County Board of Supervisors.

Filing to compete for that seat are two candidates: Donna Neville and Francesca Wright.  Each week between now and the election, the Vanguard will pose the candidates weekly questions in which they have between 250 and 350 to respond.

Question 4: What do you see as the role of the commissions and how would you best attempt to achieve that goal if elected to council?

Francesca Wright

No council member has expertise in all areas, yet within the population of Davis, we have many thoughtful experts.  Since 2003 the City of Davis has created fourteen commissions to tap into our local talent.

Where there is synergy between staff and commissioners, we have seen impressive accomplishments. Some commissions like the Open Space Commission and Tree Commission have worked with staff to develop a vision for acquisition and management of our shared natural resources.  The Joint Committee of the Social Services, Human Relations and Police Accountability Commission developed substantive recommendations to recraft how our city sees and supports public safety.

I will invite commissions to reflect on their effectiveness and to provide the council with suggestions as needed.  When there are gnarly barriers to good governance, I will invite suggestions.  This past week I watched our Planning Commissioners struggle to make a decision they did not want because we did not have in place the updated land use policies to reflect our climate emergency and housing affordability crisis.  I want our commissioners to shine the light on barriers to good governance so we can be the best city we can.

As a council member I commit to listen to our Commissioners and other community thought leaders and to do my best to integrate their insights and suggestions into our council decision making.

Donna Neville

The role of advisory commissions is to increase community involvement in the City’s decision-making process. I believe our commissions are a great asset and will work hard to be sure they have the support and recognition they deserve. We are lucky to have experts in many key fields who volunteer their time and expertise, and we need to continue to capture that talent.

I served on Finance and Budget for four years and am now on the Planning Commission. I’ve also talked with many current and former commissioners and listened to their suggestions for improving the role of commissions.

I would do the following:

  1. Ensure that commission recommendations are considered by the city council. If a recommendation is not going to be submitted to council, the council or staff liaison should inform the commission. The current process of including commission recommendations in some staff reports to council is an improvement, but ideally when a commission recommendation is presented to council, a representative of that commission should be permitted to report to council without being constrained by the two-minute public comment limit. Commissions often devote considerable time and effort working on proposals and this would provide greater recognition for their efforts and provide council with more complete information.
  2. Ensure that commission membership is more reflective of the community by continuing current recruitment efforts and encouraging people of all backgrounds to apply.
  3. If we have the technology, make commissions more accessible by holding meetings throughout the community so that more people participate and feel welcome.
  4. Clarify the working relationships between city staff, council liaisons, and commissions.  We have tremendous subject matter expertise among our commissioners but we should clarify these relationships so that everyone understands that we are all working together to make things better for the community. We also need to clarify the relationship between the commissions and the council liaisons.
  5. Increase commissioner training. Commissioners receive a handbook and some additional training, but commission work sometimes calls for more intensive subject matter training. These trainings could also serve as an informational resource for the community.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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