Using Short-term Advisory Committees to Help Resolve Local Problems
City councils often are confronted with problems or projects where it is worthwhile to seek advice from local citizens having special knowledge and expertise. Issues involving new technology immediately come to mind — a council might seek advice from people in the community known to have experience in the operation of computers, software or other technical gadgetry.
But a city council also may seek citizen assistance for a wide variety of routine problems as well.
- A city council may want input from concerned citizens on how best to clean up areas of town where weeds, trash and other litter exist.
- A city may want advice from senior citizens to help guide city policy on providing services to the elderly.
- A city may want citizen input on hiring a new city manager, a group that can help the council focus on the skills and abilities needed in the new manager.
- The park board may want advice from park patrons on developing walking trails and exercise stations in a city park.
In every community there are residents who have credentials qualifying them to advise their elected and appointed officials on these sorts of questions. It sometimes is wise to ask these people for help when formulating city policies, especially when the governing board and the staff may lack the expertise needed to make informed decisions.
We are not talking about the various standing committees that may exist in the city government -- the park board, the planning commission, etc. Instead, we are considering citizen panels that are appointed to investigate or review a single issue and that are disbanded once recommendations on that issue have been delivered to the governing body.