A tremendous amount of the public’s work is done by boards comprised of volunteers. All too often appointments to those boards are made with little discussion or publicity.
Governing bodies could and should do a better job of engaging the public in this process.
To its credit, the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link makes an effort to educate its members about boards and upcoming appointments.
Too often, officials appoint political cronies or unqualified people to boards.
Part of the problem is that the public does not know about pending appointments until just before it happens, if then. For that, we accept some measure of blame.
Elected officials could and should do more to encourage public involvement. The community needs to have more voice in board appointments, and there needs to be early and easy access to agendas. The Columbus City Council is consistent with the publication of its agenda — usually the Friday before Tuesday’s meeting, but the Lowndes Board of Supervisors and the Convention and Visitors Bureau are not.
Tonight the City Council is expected to name replacements for Columbus school board member Alma Turner, Light and Water board member Jabari Edwards and election commissioner Leon Speck. We know because we get the council’s agenda, but how much public discussion has taken place about positions on these two vital boards?
How much better if the council would discuss the appointments and the candidates at one meeting and vote at the next. Such a policy would give the public ample time to comment. Currently, upcoming appointments are listed on the agenda as informational items with little to no discussion dedicated to the impending decision.
There are dozens of city- and county-appointed boards, and, for the most part, their members are volunteers.
They submit resumes or letters of interest, and without much conversation, they are appointed to serve on boards that can impact our daily lives and our wallets.
The Columbus school board, for instance, oversees a $43 million budget and policies that affect our most precious commodity.
As often is the case with such appointments, there has been little effort by the city to engage the community in a conversation about prospective school board members. It is listed as one of many line items on the council’s agenda for tonight’s meeting.
The more people who know about these board positions, the wider the pool of candidates we’ll have to draw from. And, presumably, the more discussion.
And that can only be a good thing — both for the boards who appoint them and for the public they serve.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.