SIERRA VISTA — The city’s various commissions — panels made up of citizens who advise the city on different topics — could soon get an overhaul that would create what officials hope will be a more efficient advisory process.
While the issue of which city commissions should be created, which should be combined and which should be eliminated or streamlined, is still very much in the talking stages, Mayor Rick Mueller agreed to take on the Herculean task of looking at the panels to determine which ones would serve the city best and which ones should go.
“Members of council have come to me and said we have to do something,” Mueller said. “The management (of the commissions) is kind of gangly. Probably against my better judgement, I said, ‘I’ll look at it, come up with a couple of proposals, come up with a straw man.”
A straw man is a brainstormed simple draft proposal intended to generate discussion.
So far, city council members have discussed the issue in a couple of work sessions. City staff also prepared a presentation that’s on the city’s website titled, “Board and Commission Restructuring — Concept Brief.” The latter presents a scenario of how the city’s boards and commissions could change.
“We’ve had a number of challenges over a number of months,” Mueller said Friday. “We have a commission that has no members right now — the Cultural Diversity Commission.”
Mueller said the members of that panel did not renew their memberships after serving a two-year term.
“Under the straw man proposal, it would be integrated with the Arts and Humanities Commission,” Mueller said.
One of the commissions that might be shored up and folded into another is the Airport Commission. Under the concept brief prepared by the city, that panel would be rolled into a newly-created commission called the Transportation Advisory Board.
That idea ruffled some members of the Airport Commission, who showed up at the city’s last work session on Dec. 10.
Tom Kennedy, the seven-member panel’s new chairman-elect, told the City Council that disbanding the group would be a mistake.
“The Airport Commission consists of seven pilots with varying levels of experience,” Kennedy, a retired pilot, told council members from a prepared statement. “If the Airport Commission is disbanded, this group will will no longer be meeting, and their contributions toward airport operations will be permanently lost.”
Last week though, Kennedy and other Airport Commission members met with Mueller and came away with a different outlook.
“I am quite confident that we can keep the Airport Commission intact and at the same time fully support the proposed Transportation Board the mayor favors,” Kennedy wrote in another statement.
Kennedy said the most significant contribution the panel performs is, “We pay attention to aviation safety. The only people who can identify safety issues, are pilots. Our biggest contribution is that safety is top on our priority list. We help identify safety issues and we help the city resolve them.”
But as the mayor said, nothing is written in stone.
A similar plan was attempted in 2016, when the city had 17 commissions, Mueller said. At the time, three council members interviewed each of the commissions to learn their missions and how those impact the city.
“The effect on policy was that one commission was very good; the others were who knows where,” he said. “Trying to get a consistency and productivity out of the commissions was a challenge.”
The 2016 sessions resulted in a general report and an opposition report, Mueller said. But the effort was all for naught.
“There was no consensus on council to change anything,” the mayor said. “We went through this long process and nothing.
For now, they will continue to study the issue.
“(Right now) it’s basically up for discussion,” Mueller added. “We’re going to discuss the ideas and go through the various recommendations. Nothing is in hard copy yet. Once that gets done we’ll figure out where the consensus of council is.”
“If there is consensus of council, we’ll have to go back formally again and look at each commission. It’s going to be a long process to make the changes,” Mueller said.
If that happens, then the next step, Mueller said, is for the City Council to formally go through each commission’s authorization document and consider any changes in the panels’ missions. The process will be a lengthy one, the mayor said.
“The goal is to have a more efficient system,” Mueller said.