Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB) Chair Bill Ahern had an unusual message for the Venice City Council Tuesday: Fire me.
Now, that’s not exactly what Ahern said. The longer version of his report to the Council was that his board has had very little to do recently, with the economy going well; that some of its functions are also performed by other groups; and that the city has no economic development staff to follow through on any ideas the board might come up with.
The board had already cut its meeting schedule back to every other month, so even if the Council referred a matter for its consideration a special meeting would likely need to be called to deal with it in a timely manner, he said.
Market forces, not advisory boards, drive the economy anyway, he said.
Put all those things together, he said, and the conclusion is there’s probably no need for this board, at least not right now.
We agree with Ahern’s analysis and laud his candor. It also impressed the Council members.
“I do have to commend you for recommending that your job be eliminated,” Vice Mayor Rich Cautero said.
Whether the Council members should accept his recommendation is another matter, however. That decision should only be made after some reflection by them about what they want from their advisory boards.
The boards don’t have decision-making authority, a budget or staff. What they have is a group of volunteers interested in helping the city.
They are a resource that the Council hasn’t been taking enough advantage of.
It’s a rare occasion that the Council makes an assignment to an advisory board. But the Council has made clear on several occasions that the boards need an assignment before looking into a matter.
If board members are sitting around twiddling their thumbs, it’s not their idea. They’re just trying to stay within the boundaries set for them.
The Council should try to get these boards more involved in city matters before deciding about any changes.
Regarding the EDAB, as Ahern pointed out it’s always during tough times that the focus turns to economic development. Maybe more attention when times aren’t tough would smooth out some of the bumps.
Or maybe the board should go back to being a task force, convening when needed but otherwise standing by on call.
The same could be said of the other advisory boards.
For example, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board has been conducting an audit of the city’s parks. Recent agendas, however, have consisted mostly of reports from city and county personnel with park responsibilities. Surely there’s more for this board to do in a growing city with dozens of parks.
It’s on the Council to decide if better use can be made of the talent these people are offering. If not, disbanding the boards out of respect for the members’ time is the right thing to do.
One of the things Venice is known for is the high level of volunteerism among its residents. It’s something the City Council should be nourishing.