Additional Thoughts (May 4, 2019) - Boards and Commissions Appointment Process

The following was originally published in my May 4, 2019 Newsletter in the "Additional Thoughts" section

Additional thoughts…

Until very recently, the process of appointments to boards and commissions was controlled pretty tightly by the mayor, in terms of knowing the pool of applicants and making choices. i.e. Until very recently, council members could vote to approve or reject a candidate but had no idea who was being chosen ahead of who. To his credit, when new members of council raised concerns about this process (asking for more transparency), Mayor Taylor opened up the database of applicants. Council can now see the pool of applicants to these boards and commissions, which certainly gives better context to the approve/reject vote for any individual person. Now that we can know who the applicants are and see resumes, Council can offer significantly more input than it once did. To the extent that the appointment process is now more transparent (i.e. no longer Mayor-eyes-only), it's not surprising that there would be more discussion around the choices. When these terms end, it offers an opportunity to expand the circle of volunteer participation. There are other members of our community who would like to serve. Council has discretion to approve or reject re-appointments that the Mayor brings forward. The Mayor, also, has the discretion to set aside applications for re-appointment and simply not present them to Council. I am aware of at least one well-respected commissioner whose re-appointment has been set aside by the Mayor. Several people have called me to express concerns about that, because this commissioner’s leadership is highly valued among members of our community who feel marginalized. I hope the Mayor will change his mind. To be perfectly honest, when I think about re-appointments, I consider how those positions are meant to be representative of our residents, an opportunity to hear more voices from our community. Appointees are not accountable to voters in the same way that elected officials are; appointments are subject to approval by the mayor and council. I do not “own” my seat any more than an appointee “owns” a seat on a board or commission. 

On that note, I urge everyone to visit the link for board and commission openings in this newsletter, which I’ve included in every newsletter since the beginning. I meant it when I campaigned on a platform of transparency and I also meant it when I said that I wanted residents more involved in city decision making. I do believe there is an opportunity for more thoughtful discussion when we include a wider range of viewpoints.

Elizabeth NELSON

DEMOCRAT for Ann Arbor City Council Ward 4

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PO Box 2243. Ann Arbor. MI 48106-2243