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May 6, 2014

WHAT’S HAPPENING’S TRI-CITY VOICE

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Boards and Commissions

WILLIAM MARSHAK

participatory system that values outside comment and suggestion. In many cases, especially at the local level, citizens who participate in these bodies receive either minimal or no compensation for their time and effort. And, with the exception of highly visible and politically significant commissions such as the Planning Commission, many of these groups are guided solely by information from appointed Staff. Depending on the form of government and staff members involved, input and comment from such bodies may be functional and valid or have little direct impact on government operations. If impact is minimal, such groups add little to the governmental process, becoming a waste of time and energy by those who volunteer to serve.

“Art Review Board members are currently permitted to serve two four-year terms. It has become increasingly difficult to find new people willing to serve on the Art Review Board. At the same time, existing Art Review Board members who are termed out are willing to continue to serve. In order to allow those members to continue to provide meaningful service to the City, staff believes it would be appropriate to increase the term limit from two to three terms so that Board members would be allowed to serve for three full four-year terms.”

A variety of issues face governmental bodies and use of advisory groups to City Councils and government administration can be invaluable - if their purpose is honored. Cities that employ a strong mayor as chief executive, overseeing day-to-day operations, use the advice and opinions of appointed boards and commission members as a direct pipeline to constituents. Cities managed by a City Manager may not have a direct connection to voters. While commissions typically are directed toward specific tasks and goals, advisory boards may not receive such explicit directives. Instead, they may be a liaison between governmental organizations, a sounding board for staff or convene when a relevant issue arises. The precise role and function of advisory bodies can be modified over time depending on the dictates of the authority that forms them. Whether this is an adjustment to remain relevant and significant or simply decay and entropy is a question that should be asked and answered on a regular basis.

Public agencies, at all levels, use advisory boards and commissions to engage constituents and increase and expand input. These groups can be formed using community members, elected officials or a combination. The concept is to develop a

Quite a few boards and commissions function in relative obscurity. I have visited a few of these meetings and am often surprised by the lack of attendance by the public and, at times, board/commission members. The question that comes to mind at some meet-

Excerpt from the May 6 agenda for Fremont City Council: “The City Council has established uniform regulations for its boards, commissions and committees, including term limits for those bodies. With a few exceptions, members of boards, commissions and committees are limited to two terms (primarily two to four years).”

ings is what functions or direction is given and whether anyone in attendance really understands their significance or simply goes through the motions. Lack of public attendance is understandable since some meetings are held during work hours. However, just as most City Council meetings are subject to scrutiny through agendas prior, minutes following and audio/visual recordings on the internet, so should all advisory groups include with agendas and minutes, an upload of at least an audio recording of meeting attendance, participation and business transacted. As a valuable community resource, boards and commissions should advise elected representatives and their staff; a precious commodity that should hold a special place in our system of government. When left to decline in obscurity and anonymity, they can fade and lose their usefulness. Mayors and City Councils should take care that they encourage reports and input from these groups of concerned citizens. Functional bodies that bring helpful information and advice should be reasonable expectations by both elected and appointed officials. Instead of simply soliciting members for boards and commissions, city councilmembers should be asking what these groups do and actively solicit their opinions.

Alameda County has been selected as the Bay Area’s Most “EV Ready” Large Community as part of the 2014 Ready, Set, Charge! Bay Area Electric Vehicle Readiness Awards, sponsored by the Bay Area Climate Collaborative (BACC) and Silicon Valley Leadership Group. The Awards Committee selected Alameda County for incorporating electric vehicles (EVs) substantially into its Climate Action Plan and General Plans, its impressive EV infrastructure of 80 public and fee-free charging ports, and its expansion of EVs in its fleets - currently at 23 EVs and with 26 more to be deployed this year. Alameda County has also provided region-wide

leadership heading a collaborative procurement of 90 electric vehicles and charging stations for 10 municipal agencies. “We are thrilled to be recognized for the leadership Alameda County provides by adopting environmentally friendly policies that are transforming the way the County delivers services to residents,’’ said Susan S. Muranishi, Alameda County Administrator. Alameda County was one of four winners in the Bay Area competition announced April 25 at the 2014 Silicon Valley Driving Charged & Connected Symposium in Palo Alto. The “EV Ready” award is the latest in a string of accolades Alameda County has received for its environmental stewardship. In 2013, Alameda County’s vehicle fleet

DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS Sharon Marshak PRODUCTION/GRAPHIC DESIGN Ramya Raman ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT Sharon Marshak COPY EDITOR Miriam G. Mazliach ASSIGNMENT EDITOR Julie Grabowski TRAVEL & DINING Sharon Marshak PHOTOGRAPHERS Mike Heightchew Don Jedlovec OFFICE MANAGER Karin Diamond ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Margaret Fuentes BOOKKEEPING Vandana Dua

DELIVERY MANAGER Carlis Roberts

REPORTERS

William Marshak PUBLISHER

Alameda County judged as most ‘Electric Vehicle (EV)’ ready SUBMITTED BY GUY ASHLEY

PUBLISHER EDITOR IN CHIEF William Marshak

was named for the fifth time as one of the Greenest in America in an annual review done by Green Fleet Magazine. In 2012, the County also won a Green California Leadership Award, earning top honors in the category of “Pioneer” for its program of Comprehensive Climate Action for Government Operations and Services. Keith Carson, President of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, says honors such as the “EV Ready” award help to validate the board’s decision in 2008 to adopt a long-term Strategic Vision in which Environment and Sustainability are among the core principles for preserving and enhancing the County’s reputation as a leading place to live, work and do business.

Frank Addiego Jessica Noël Flohr Sara Giusti Janet Grant Philip Holmes M.J. Laird Gustavo Lomas Isabella Ohlmeyer Medha Raman Mauricio Segura Steve Taylor

WEB MASTER RAMAN CONSULTING Venkat Raman LEGAL COUNSEL Stephen F. Von Till, Esq.

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