Brooklyn Park’s City Council met with the city’s six commissions June 5 to discuss potential ways to improve commission activities across a broad spectrum.
Based on recommendations brought forward in the meeting, staff members will develop a list of potential changes for the council to consider at a later date, according to City Manager Jay Stroebel. Commissioners and council members worked in groups to provide feedback on a working list of recommendations brought forward by city staff members.
Broadly, changes regarding alignment to city policy and consistent policies between commissions, recruitment, appointments and retention, training, and work plan development were suggested.
For instance, timing for commission selections and appointments are not consistent across commissions, with Budget Advisory Commission applications and appointments occurring separate from other commission appointments. Staff and several participants in the meeting said this should be changed, so all appointments are made at the same time.
A majority of participants said that more training for new commissioners and council members is needed. The group discussed the creation of a mentoring system, which would provide support and provide context for new members. Some suggested a two-tiered training system, with the first session covering commissions as a whole, and a second that specifically addresses a commission’s day to day activities.
Councilmember Susan Pha said she often calls on long-standing council members to help provide information on issues that come before the council, and a mentor system would be a good addition.
Revising commission opening descriptions for clarity was also a topic of discussion at the meeting. Councilmember Lisa Jacobson said the descriptions need to give applicants a clear idea of what the seat requires and what any particular commission does in its regular operations. This could help increase retention, she said.
Multi-language commission descriptions were also suggested by one group.
Staff members suggested that if a commissioner leaves their post within the first 90 days after appointment, a new appointment from the previous pool of interviewed applicants should be allowed.
The possibility of eliminating district requirements for commissions was discussed, but there was no consensus on how participants felt about such a change. Some said this could be part of a larger effort to recruit more commissioners and remove barriers to participation. Others spoke in opposition to removing district barriers, saying that if these barriers were removed, the city would need to rely on other methods to ensure commissioners represent a diverse group from different areas of the city.
The Charter Commission will be examining population growth in the city to see if district boundary lines need to be adjusted, said Gordy Aune Jr., vice chair of the commission. While the commission has considered increasing the number of districts to ensure that all citizens in the city have representation, there are no plans for adjusting the number of council voting districts at this time.
One group suggested that applicants be required to attend a commission meeting prior to appointment.
Contact Kevin Miller at [email protected]