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Boards and Commissions: A Primer

by Guardian staff

A Monday (Dec. 16) email from city clerk Carol Barwick announced Mayor Allen Thomas’ choices as city council liaisons to Greenville’s various boards and commissions.

Each council member liaises with two or three of 19 panels, which are essentially citizen-populated subcommittees of city council. The liaisons, according to the city’s Board and Commission Policy, serve as a “communication link between the City Council and the appointed board or commission. The liaison role is not to regularly and actively discuss subjects on the agenda with the board or commission members, but to offer insight into overall City goals and policies that have been adopted by the City Council as it may relate to an issue being considered by the board or commission. The liaison, from time to time as appropriate, shall inform City Council of major activities of the board or commission.”

analysis

City boards and commissions hold hearings and consider issues specific to their areas of expertise, then make recommendations to city council based on those deliberations. Residents serve on these panels without pay, and usually possess a special interest in, knowledge of, or professional credentials related to the issues which typically come before the panel to which they seek appointment. (Some boards have stricter requirements than others. Visit the City Clerk’s Office for details.)

In his recent exit interview with the Guardian, former District 5 councilor Max Joyner talked about “powerful” boards and commissions.

“They all have budgets, their vote is final, at least with the Airport Authority and GUC [Greenville Utilities Commission],” Joyner said, adding, “You can look at the [commissions] people are on and see where they’re going.”

It used to be that the council liaison to each board or commission was the only one to make recommendations for filling vacancies on each panel. That changed Oct. 11, 2010 (see the first item of “old business,” beginning on p. 3), largely at Joyner’s urging. Now, recommendations of new appointees for six boards–GUC, Planning & Zoning, Recreation & Parks, Airport Authority, Board of Adjustment and Housing Authority–rotate among all council members and mayor as vacancies arise.

What hasn’t changed is that the mayor still has the final say as to which councilor liaises with which panel. Councilors can request particular boards, but there’s no guarantee the mayor will oblige. Here’s a listing of the requests made by councilors for the current term…

Marion Blackburn: Recreation & Parks, Environmental Advisory, Redevelopment, Historic Preservation, Convention & Visitors
Richard Croskery: Recreation & Parks, Greenville Utilities, Library, Redevelopment, Police Community Relations, Historic Preservation, Planning & Zoning, Appearance
Calvin Mercer: Redevelopment, Greenville Utilities, Parking & Transportation, Planning & Zoning, Investment Advisory
Rick Smiley: Greenville Utilities, Convention & Visitors, Historic Preservation, Planning & Zoning, Library
(There is no public record of requests from Rose Glover or Kandie Smith, and neither responded to a request from the Guardian for their requests. The mayor also assigns to himself oversight of the panels he chooses.)

…and here are the panels to which the mayor assigned them:

Blackburn: Environmental Advisory, Housing Authority, Affordable Housing Loan Committee.
Croskery: Greenville Utilities Commission, Planning & Zoning, Public Transportation & Parking
Mercer: Board of Adjustment, Youth Council.
Smiley: Library Board, Community Appearance, Bike & Pedestrian Commission
Glover: Convention & Visitors Authority, Human Relations Council, Police Community Relations.
Smith: Recreation & Parks, Redevelopment, Historic Preservation.
Allen Thomas: Airport Authority, Investment Advisory

The mayor on Tuesday okayed a switch requested by Smiley and Croskery, in which Smiley will take P&Z and Croskery the Library Board. We emailed the mayor Thursday asking whether such switches are generally acceptable to him assuming both councilors request them, but he has not yet replied.

“Land use was what first got me involved in municipal issues,” Smiley told the Guardian in a Dec. 8 email, “so [the switch with Croskery is] partly a matter of long-standing interest. [Land use] also lies at the heart of the long-term success of our community. If we think ahead and prepare, we are much more likely to become the city we want to become. If we do not, we create challenges that may have been avoided. The most important role of city council is to think long-term; Planning & Zoning is where a good bit of that thinking happens.”

For the curious, 2011-2013 council appointments to boards are listed below.

Blackburn: Environmental Advisory, Historic Preservation, Youth Council
Glover: Human Relations, Convention & Visitors, Police Community Relations
Joyner: Greenville Utilities, Airport, Planning & Zoning
Mercer: Community Appearance, Bike & Pedestrian, Public Transportation & Parking
Dennis Mitchell: Board of Adjustment, Redevelopment, Library
Smith: Affordable Housing Loan, Housing Authority, Recreation & Parks
Thomas: Investment Advisory

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