The possibility of the Oro Valley Town Council doing away with the current volunteer selection system and replacing it with a “buddy” system is alarming, though not surprising.
I served on the Planning and Zoning Commission for five years. As such, I have been on both sides of the table when it comes to the current appointment process. Therefore I believe that I am well qualified to opine on the topic. In fact, I authored some of the questions still asked during the P&Z interviews.
The boards and commissions (except the Board of Adjustment) are in place to provide two extremely valuable services to the community:
The Planning and Zoning Commission and the Development Review Board filter requests from the public to insure that the plans / changes proposed comply with the Oro Valley General Plan, meet the Oro Valley Revised Zoning Code, building codes, meet the standards for good traffic management and are compatible with their surroundings. The P&Z and DRB conduct hearings to accomplish this review, and invite and encourage public participation. In many instances these two review boards make recommendations for conditions to mitigate potential adverse impacts. Other boards review plans, policies, rates and other matters that are specific to their title, i.e. Historical Commission, Parks Board, Water Utility, etc.
The boards and commissions provide independent citizen input to the town council on the matters that have come before them.
In my opinion, there are two keys to the boards and commissions being successful. You must have volunteers who listen, are committed to their assignment and willing to do the necessary homework to arrive at a fair and equitable recommendation or decision. The second key is that they must make their recommendation / decision void of any political, social or peer pressure.
I agree that the selection process needs to be changed. I believe the town council should be eliminated from the volunteer appointment process altogether. A representative of the town manager’s office, the applicable department / division head and the board / commission chair or vice-chair should be responsible for the interviews and selection of candidates. Some council members are not familiar with the purpose, goals and rules of the various boards and commissions, and yet they are responsible for appointing the members.
To allow the town council to assign members to boards and commissions will result in the complete loss of independent review. Do you truly believe that a board or commission comprised of seven ‘mini-me’s’ will provide a better product? I believe the obvious answer is no. Will the assigned member consult with their ‘sponsor’ before voting? I think the answer is yes.
So one must question the motives of those wishing to make this proposed change. Is it to create a better product, or simply avoid the embarrassment of having to ignore the unanimous recommendation of a board or commission? I think I know the answer and I believe most of you do also.
Don Cox resides in Oro Valley.