Tag Archives: Steven VanGrack

“Boards and Commission Task Force” Should be Taken to Task

Jack Kelly and Steven Van Grack, members of Rockville’s Boards and Commissions Task Force.

I’ve just returned from the Boards and Commissions Task Force meeting in Rockville City Hall tonight and was surprised by two things:

  1.  Although they lacked a quorum, they met for two hours to discuss a set of draft recommendations to reform the city’s boards and commissions.
  2. Two members of the task force openly endorsed Bridget Newton in the mayoral election (“I’ll be voting for her in the upcoming election”).

It seems ironic that a task force charged with reviewing and improving the city’s boards and commissions fails to follow some of the city’s and state’s existing policies and practices.  Can you imagine other city boards discussing business without a quorum? If members of the planning commission or environment commission expressed their support for their candidates during one of their business meetings?

They also distributed a “dashboard” with their assessment of the city’s boards and found that significant improvement is needed in:

  • diverse citizen input
  • consistent internal communication
  • a transparent and efficient process for identifying and appointing board and commission members
  • Mayor and Council and city staff providing productive advice and direction to boards and commissions

The dashboard also revealed that NO areas were acceptable; all fell short in achieving the city’s goals. Rockville’s boards and commissions are entirely composed of community volunteers so this poor rating across the board is especially frustrating.  How much worse does it need to become?

Despite these challenges, tonight’s discussion showed that the Task Force is reluctant to make any meaningful changes, especially in the process for identifying and appointing board and commission members. They admit there’s been a long-standing problem in filling vacancies, especially on Planning Commission and Historic District Commission, but are pleased to confine their tinkering to the edges, not at core—the exclusive power of the Mayor to nominate board and commission members. And yet, Mayor Newton is unwilling or unable to do her job—there are currently twenty-six (26!) vacancies (that’s more than five basketball teams). It seems we’ll be facing a civic version of insanity when their recommendations are released this fall: “keep trying the same thing expecting a different result.”

Here’s another kicker: the packet distributed at the meeting is not the same as what is available on the city website.  I’ve attached the packet so you can have a better sense of what was discussed. Their next meeting is Tuesday, July 30 at 6:30 pm in the Black-Eyed Susan Room at Rockville City Hall.

Rockville’s website shows 26 vacancies on its boards and commissions in July 2019 (this is just an excerpt).