From Darkness To Light

13 Feb 2023

Boards and commissions of City of Durango to be dissolved to save staff time and expense

Posted by Adam Howell


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Boards and commissions appointed by City of Durango Councilors will soon be dissolved in order to free up staff time and tax dollars that was previously spent working with them.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board was obviously disappointed about it.

The dissolution was proposed by city staff and councilors for the following reasons, according to the agenda packet:

  • Remove redundancy and increase efficiency.
  • Retain and enhance a high level of customer service, ensure transparency, and allow for adequate public
    input.
  • Lessen unnecessary administrative burden and costs while also ensuring sufficient public involvement in
    decision-making.
  • Establish more clarity for the public regarding the sequence of events involved in project reviews, policy
    evaluation, and decision-making.
  • Ensure that volunteer time provided by Board and Commission members is optimized.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and its Natural Lands Preservation Advisory Board were intended to evaluate program expenditures. That’s what was written into the ballot language of the 2005 Parks, Open Space and Trails Fund (POST) that was approved by voters.

Under Use of Funds Restricted, as well as in the language of Ballot Question 2A, it states:

“with all program expenditures being first submitted to a citizen advisory board for recommendation to the city council”

2005 Ballot Language

City Staff have indicated that a Financial Advisory Board will replace most of the boards, even though financial matters historically only accounted for a smaller fraction of board business.

R-2018-0009_

boards and commissions of the city of Durango will soon be dissolved or reorganized.City Councilor Kim Baxter said that she always supported the idea of combining the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, the Natural Lands Board and the Multimodal Advisory Board since they often talk about issues that overlap with eachother.

Moreover, City Councilor Olivier Bosmans was the only city councilor who disagreed with dissolving the boards. As such, the rest of the councilors approved the dissolution and reorganizing.




Boards role in consulting, involvement and monitoring mentioned in Management Plans

I’m writing out of concern with the City of Durango’s impending plan for dissolution and/or reorganization of many of its volunteer boards.
 
At first glance, the plan appears to be written as one to limit community involvement in order to preserve staff time for managing our community assets with less oversight.
 
The transition process of the city boards out of their current role is unclear.
 
How will the new City board(s) provide the service that the existing boards were intended to serve as written out in the numerous city Management Plans?

How will the dissolution and reorganization of the boards affect the implementation of the various Management Plans of the City of Durango?

For instance, the city has a River Management Plan that promotes community involvement and the assistance of the board on page 60:

“In order to promote community involvement and stewardship of the river,
appropriate groups, such as the Animas River Task Force, Parks and Recreation Advisory
Board and the Natural Lands Preservation Advisory Board, will be given responsibility to
assist the City with monitoring the plan to prevent degradation of water quality, aquatic
resources, recreational experiences and neighborhoods in the planning area. Both the
Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Natural Lands Preservation Advisory
Board participate in the review of City projects affecting the river corridor. In addition to
the review of individual projects, the Boards will annually participate in an overall review
of the Animas River corridor in relation to goals of the Management Plan.

In addition, the Overend Mountain Park Management Plan called for consulting with the Natural Lands Preservation Advisory Board on page 6:

“Parks and Recreation Department staff will review the Management Plan annually in
conjunction with the La Plata Open Space Conservancy monitoring requirements
for the Conservation Easement. The City will consult with the Natural Lands
Preservation Advisory Board in the amendment and/or update process.”

While the City only appears to be planning to create a Financial Advisory Board to replace many of the existing boards, the traditional functions of the existing city boards appears to go beyond providing financial advice to city staff.

The Management Plans appear to have laid out a system of promoting community involvement, assistance with monitoring the plan(s) and consulting with them in the amendment and/or update process.

It is unclear how the new board structure will promote community involvement, assistance with monitoring the Management Plans and consulting with the boards in the amendment and/or update process.

Boards and commissions useful to collect public input and records at meetings

Parks and Recreation Vice Chair Anthony Savastano:

“I would worry about how does the public weigh in on what projects get done. When and what things move up, what becomes greater importance. That’s about half of what we do on any given year is listen to the interests of the community–the dynamic interests of the community that change all the time. This needs to be fixed because of these things.”

“I realize that we only meet once a month, and we are up here for two to three hours on those times, but I can definitely count more than a handful of times the public input that we’ve received has exceeded an hour on a given topic. Tonight we didn’t receive one comment. Thank you Mr. Cobb. Particularly when topics are hot we will get a room full of people. I think about our joint board meetings were I’ve seen lines literally out the door before people are giving comments. Those sorts of things give me grave concern.”

“What are going to be doing till May that’s going to be making a difference? We’ve got to apply to be on a new board. I’m not sure what the point of being here this month, the next month or the month after for us if we’re eventually going to be consolidated and thrown away.”

Also, Board Member Megan Scully ripped on the impending dissolution of the boards and commissions:

“I think this is a sad move for our entire community. I think we’re limiting the scope of involvement and input, and I only see that as a negative. I very much respect the Councilors and staffs time, and that you guys put in a lot for that. I don’t think we can cut out pieces that are important to the process.”

Then, Board Member Seth Furtney said that he was offended by the idea of dissolving the boards:

Right now, it’s our boards, based on staff is taking too much time. If the public is complaining and saying that these boards are a waste of time I would be fully–time to disband.. But I haven’t heard the community complaining–our customer ultimately. That the boards aren’t serving their function, they aren’t improving the governance of this community. Does it take time on part of staff? Absolutely. Does it take time on part of council? Yes. And can you reduce the time spent on that effort? Sure. But are you reducing the quality of government and the community in doing so? I do question that.

I’m hearing council and staff saying, god you take a lot of time to manage this.

Since most staff meetings are not open to the general public, with agendas and meeting minutes not created at them, there’s also the concern that this new consolidated configuration will dodge the transparency created by Colorado’s Open Records Act.

Parks and Recreation Director Ture Nycum said that the words “misuse” and “excessive” were not used to describe the relationship of city staff with the boards:

“We were asked to take a look at all staff time. Staff took a look at staff time for all board positions. Documented how many hours were spent at meetings, preparing for meetings.

“We came up with that 5500 hours total for all staff. And then we looked at, if we go to this new model, this is what we project for the reduction in staff time. We didn’t use any terms like misuse or excessive. We were asked to look at what are we doing now, and ways to be a little more effective.”

Finally, a motion by David Mosley to end the meeting early due to the proposed dissolution was rejected by the board.

Board Chairman Tom Burney chided the board for pouting over the impending dissolution.

Adam Howell is a writer who believes in free press and the importance of the constitution. He can be reached by clicking on this link to the contact page.


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