Build with boards

Careful stewardship of city's committees can invigorate their missions

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There are a number of boards and authorities in Richmond County whose job it is to make sure laws and rules are enforced. And, in many cases, those boards and authorities are, themselves, running afoul of the city code.

They have vacant seats, or members serving beyond their expired terms, or some who are wrongly serving on more than one at once. Some are violating rules on absenteeism.

This isn’t an earthshaking matter, of course. Most people probably couldn’t even name the 30-plus boards and governing authorities sprinkled throughout the local government.

But we would argue that rampant, chronic and open violation of rules and laws is important enough to warrant corrective action.

Willful violation of rules and laws has a corrosive effect on the body politic. Most experts in just about any field will tell you that little things matter. The famous “Broken Window” theory of criminal justice says if you let little things go – such as broken windows – then big things start to slide, and things degenerate.

A board or authority’s failure to restock itself with legally serving members also diminishes the group’s product – by failing to infuse it with new blood, fresh faces, different sets of eyes. New members can be a breath of fresh air to any group.

Neglecting the need to recruit new members also negates a community’s need to develop new talent.

There are good reasons for terms and for term limits. They force us to avoid stagnating, to keep things flowing.

We realize there are benefits to longevity, particularly on obscure boards or ones that cry out for special expertise and interests. Perhaps the rules can be changed for such entities, to allow some or all members to serve as long as they’re willing.

But in the main, it’s not just OK to rotate people in and out, it’s essential.

We urge city leaders not to neglect the little things, and to pay heed to the rules for local boards and authorities. Deal with the expired terms and vacant seats. Develop pools of available talent, and fish from them. It will not only animate your boards, but will also broaden the number of civically engaged citizens in the area.

We’d also encourage city leaders to perform a top-down review of each board and authority, to determine 1) if they’re even needed at all and 2) how they can be more functional.

“So much of it revolves around political patronage,” Mayor Deke Copenhaver tells us, “and I believe many of our boards have outlived their need to be in place.”

If they’re limping along with vacant seats or not paying attention to the lengths of members’ terms, that right there is a red flag.

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Riverman1 05/04/13 - 07:32 am
Boards Necessary Experts

I agree with the editorial and thank the Chronicle, in its watchman role, of pointing out the problem with the boards. But, I disagree with Deke. Boards are often comprised of experts in a field and represent power and some, including Deke, don't want political power to be diluted from a few.

Brad Owens
Brad Owens 05/04/13 - 08:23 am

I know a couple that need to be de-funded.

@RM1, you just hit the nail on the head, folks like power concentrated in few hands in Augusta. Power and money are never far apart.

Riverman1 05/04/13 - 09:14 am
Keep Quiet and Rubber Stamp is the Theme

Brad, yes, we both understand what’s at play here. I remember Austin's frustration on the Coliseum Authority. I don’t want to get into the specifics of which one because of career implications, but I would probably be the most knowledgeable person on one particular board because of my career and because I know how this thing works on the government level from my cousin who is a county councilman (same as commissioner in GA) in a large SC county. They use an entirely different model with this same facet.

I could save the county tens of millions in all seriousness, but I know I would be stonewalled on the board because it’s going against misguided and manipulated lay opinion. In addition, a hundred or so powerful people would be cut out of the food chain as the money was rightfully diverted to the county. They have hired professional media types to influence opinion and keep things running as they are.

Riverman1 05/04/13 - 09:19 am
Brad Had a Board Experience, Too

Come to think of it, Brad also had an experience on a board where he was almost run out of the meeting for telling the truth.

deestafford 05/04/13 - 09:19 am
I guess it is a form of patronage for the commissioners;

laziness in not keeping up with their responsibilities, some of which are mundane; concern that no one will serve other than those who are already serving; and lack of desire to get rid of something no longer needed.

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