Originally created 08/17/99

Clarify panel code

Commissioner Ulmer Bridges is doing a real service by urging his colleagues to clarify the Augusta code regarding appointees to the city's 31 or so boards, agencies and authorities.

The first order of business is simple. Follow City Attorney Jim Wall's recommendation to either heed the code, which bars persons from serving on more than one panel at a time, or amend the ordinance to allow membership on multiple boards.

As commissioners take the issue up today, we strongly urge they opt to preserve and observe the existing code, except for one change: term-limit the members.

This is no knock on the people who serve on more than one panel or who, time and again, accept reappointment to the same panel.

To the contrary, the experience and expertise these persons -- often successful in their private sector careers -- bring to the government testify to their good citizenship.

But when busy careerists -- or retirees, too, for that matter -- serve on more than one panel, it may stretch their effectiveness too thin. There is also the possibility that the panels they are on serve competing interests, resulting in divided loyalties.

Finally, there's a certain stench to always having the same people appointed and reappointed, even to one board. When it happens with multiple panels, it's even worse. Are the panel members willing volunteers or political cronies? And doesn't their advice get a little stale over time?

There are now 13 Augustans doing double duty on panels. They should resign from at least one of the posts, and if they have served several years or more they should not be renamed to any post until after a lapse of a year or two. Term-limits for non-elected positions, as Mayor Bob Young notes, is a good idea.

The Commission doesn't always have to be drawing from the same old well; the city has a rich talent bank of hundreds of people to draw from. They are a diverse group comprised of varied races, professions, social strata, religions, and political persuasions.

Some are already serving on non-government boards and agencies. It's time they are brought into government. New blood will energize the panels, several of which are fatigued anyway.

Also, are all 31 local agencies really necessary? Surely some can be terminated and others consolidated. Let's pare back the size of government.

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