Build with boards

Careful stewardship of city's committees can invigorate their missions

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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