2011 City Boards and Commissions Scorecard

Along with the City Council, the City of Rockville has 23 official boards and commissions to study, advise, and decide on a wide range of issues, from city planning to cultural arts, from human services to animal matters.  In addition, there are at least ten other unofficial task forces or committees.  All of these boards and commissions are composed of volunteers, usually residents (some include property or business owners who live elsewhere) and most members are nominated by the Mayor and appointed by City Council (a few have members elected in other ways, such as RSI).

Rockville has always encouraged and supported citizen involvement in its government, and used these board and commissions to keep the residents informed and part of the decision-making process.  But how well informed are its citizens?  All commission meetings are open to the public (I’m going to call them all “commissions” to keep things simple), but only three commissions–Planning Commission, Historic District Commission, and the Board of Appeals–have meetings that are regularly broadcast on Channel 11 and the City website (most likely because the City Council has granted them exclusive decision-making powers).  For the other commissions, to find out what’s happening you have to attend the meeting, talk to one of the commissioners, or review the minutes.  Obviously, the most convenient way is reviewing the minutes or notes of the meeting, so let’s see how we’ve done.

On January 20, 2012, I tallied the number of meetings and minutes posted on the City website for 2011 (cancelled meetings don’t count). By dividing the number of minutes by the number of meetings, I calculated a “public information score.” So if a commission had posted 9 minutes for 12 meetings, that would earn them a Minutes Score of 9/12 or 75%. The higher the score the better, and here’s how they fared:

  1. Animal Matters Board: 1 meeting | 100% Agenda Score | 100% Minutes Score
  2. Board of Appeals: 5 meetings | 100% Agenda Score | 0% Minutes Score
  3. Board of Supervisors of Elections: 13 meetings | 100% Agenda Score | 54% Minutes Score
  4. Charter Review Commission: n/a (0 meetings)
  5. Compensation Commission: 1 meeting | 100% Agenda Score | 100% Minutes Score
  6. Cultural Arts Commission: 10 meetings | 30% Agenda Score | 100% Minutes Score
  7. Environment Commission: 11 meetings | 90% Agenda Score | 100% Minutes Score
  8. Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (REDI): unknown (separate non-profit organization but entire board appointed by Council)
  9. Historic District Commission: 12 meetings | 100% Agenda Score | 58% Minutes Score
  10. Human Rights Commission: 8 meetings | 100% Agenda Score | 75% Minutes Score
  11. Human Services Advisory Commission: 10 meetings | 10% Agenda Score | 90% Minutes Score
  12. Landlord/Tenant Affairs Commission:  unknown
  13. Personnel Appeals Board: unknown
  14. Planning Commission: 23 meetings | 100% Agenda Score | 52% Minutes Score NOTE:  Provides Actions for 96% of the meetings
  15. Recreation and Park Advisory Board: 9 meetings | 0% Agenda Score | 89% Minutes Score
  16. Retirement Board:  4 meetings | 75% Agenda Score | 50% Minutes Score
  17. Rockville Housing Enterprises: unknown (independent organization but entire board appointed by Council)
  18. Rockville Scholarship Foundation, Inc.: unknown (separate non-profit organization)
  19. Rockville Seniors, Inc. (RSI): 11 meetings | 100% Agenda Score | 90% Minutes Score
  20. Rockville Sister City, Inc.: unknown (separate non-profit organization)
  21. Senior Citizens Commission: 11 meetings | 82% Agenda Score | 82% Minutes Score
  22. Sign Review Board: 8 meetings | 100% Agenda Score | 100% Minutes Score
  23. Traffic and Transportation Commission: 11 meetings | 100% Agenda Score | 91% Minutes Score

The results are surprisingly mixed.  Some are doing great in getting information out to the public (Agenda Scores should be 100%; anything above 85% or so is great for Minutes Scores because some commissions haven’t met yet to approve the minutes of their last meeting in 2011).  But more than half of the city commissions have me worried (highlighted in red).  No agendas?  No minutes?  What’s going on?  That’s no way to run a commission. The only way to really know what’s going on is to attend the meetings, but with 23 boards and commissions, that’s impossible.  That’s no way to run a city government.

5 responses

  1. Max,
    Thanks for the article. I agree with your basic position that the minutes of the various B & C should be published. I don’t know what if anything could be done about broadcasting more B & C meetings. At a minimum, maybe a better highlighting of the various meeting schedules and agendas could be done without creating too large a burden on City Staff. I would also think that an interview with B & C Chairs and members on Channel 11 might be a good approach to highlight the work.

    1. Broadcasting more meetings probably isn’t feasible financially or politically–I hear rumors that some councilmembers are considering cutting or eliminating Channel 11 in the upcoming budget. But interviewing the chairs of different boards and commissions is a great idea–they could explain their roles and responsibilities, highlight recent accomplishments, and identify current issues. Also, we might take a clue from the Environment Commission, which prepares an annual report and shares it on the city website.

  2. The Council does not appoint members on REDI or RHE boards.

    Scheduled meetings for Boards and Commissions are usually posted on the City calendar.

    1. According to the City website, it does for both. Perhaps something has changed and the website needs to be updated.

      On REDI: “The Board of Directors, which is appointed by the Mayor and Council, oversees the Rockville Economic Development, Inc. activities.”
      On RHE: “This is a five-member body whose members are appointed by the Mayor with the confirmation of the Council for three-year terms.”

      Meeting dates are usually posted in advance, but getting agendas posted is inconsistent–and agendas list what’s going to be discussed. If it’s not on the agenda, it shouldn’t be discussed substantially and no decisions should be made–otherwise people who are interested in a specific issue or topic won’t know if they should attend or not.

  3. Sorry, RHE website does say its’ board members are appointed by M&C and they elect their own chair. I thought REDI always appointed its’ own board members and the City assigns ex officio members.

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