Friday, September 16, 2022

Get On Board...A Streetcar Conductor Replies

This week, I had a few things to say about the City of Richardson's process of appointing people to boards and commissions. City Council member Joe Corcoran graciously took the time to reply.


I both agree and take exception to your boards and commissions comments in one of your recent blog posts. We have made great efforts during this term to appoint diverse candidates with professional experience. Please look back at our recent appointments. I can list them out for you if you would like.

Unfortunately, we have had very few candidates apply for open boards and commissions positions this cycle. The challenge is especially acute because we try to balance the appointments by council district, which reduces the crop of applicants further. I wouldn't be surprised if it's because many people have historically been unable to be appointed without first being active in Rotary, the Chamber, arts boards, etc etc. I think we have sent a strong message with our appointments that this current council is open to new ideas and fresh faces.

Thank you for listening.

Joe Corcoran
Richardson City Council, Place 4

Source: Council Member Joe Corcoran.

And I thank Joe Corcoran for his informative and thoughtful response.

I plead guilty to not knowing who all has been appointed and how the appointments differ from past appointments. That's partly on me. But I contend that it's also partly on the City. If I am not aware of this, and I think of myself as someone who pays more than average attention to what's going on at City Hall, then the City is failing to communicate.

I think diversity of applications would follow a better communication of the City's recent change in behavior (better meaning both wider and more targeted simultaneously). By the way, because it's the City Council that appoints, it's the City Council that ultimately bears responsibility in soliciting applications. So, in my opinion, "unfortunately, we have had very few candidates apply," is a failure that's on the City Council, individually and collectively.

Some suggestions, off the top of my head.

Find more and better ways to advertise not just the appointment process but the appointments themselves. Mention them in Week in Review, and in Richardson Today. Have Council Members attend HOA and NA meetings and introduce board and commission members from those neighborhoods and thank them for their service. Press HOA and NA leaders to recruit other people to apply, or at least to name persons they think would be qualified so that those persons could be approached by City Council members to encourage them to apply. Ask individuals face to face, without promising that selection necessarily follows application. There's nothing more encouraging, in my opinion, than to be personally approached to consider such service. By the way, in my 38 years in Richardson, I have never been approached by anyone sounding me out to apply for this board or that commission. Not once. I'm not soliciting such an approach now; I'm just using it as an example of how closed the system can appear to outsiders.

Take that Leadership Richardson line off the application. Just like you would never ask specifically about, say, Rotary Club involvement, or Network of Community Ministries involvement, the City shouldn't be asking about involvement in a Chamber of Commerce program that asks participants for a $1,500 participation fee. Limit it to asking for examples of civic involvement, but leave the specific groups off the application, lest those groups be (mis?) understood as being favored.

Again, I thank Joe Corcoran for listening.


glbeach said...

Hi Mark,

An interesting column. For what it is worth, I am on the city planning commission and have not been a member of Rotary or Leadership Richardson - though I would like to be. I waited about 6 years to be appointed to a role as an alternate to the CPC. I can understand why the city wants to appoint people that are or have been active in civic organizations and I'm sure you can to. I would think the city wants thinkers and 'cheerleaders' of Richardson to be involved in thinking about Richardson's future. I would be interested if you have any thoughts on what the city 'should' do to attract candidates. For what it is worth, I see this same lack of viable candidates in nearly every situation requiring civic support, i.e., HOA's, school board, and so on. I'm not sure why that is happening - when I was growing up there were seemingly lots of citizens willing to participate to insure tomorrow was better than today but somehow that seems to have been lost. And that is a loss for all of us.

Mark Steger said...

Gary Beach, thanks for the feedback. I respect all who serve on these often thankless volunteer boards and commissions. I offered some ideas on how to increase the number of volunteers. I wonder if your own experience (six years on a wait list) might suggest one of the reasons for this.