Lawrence committee can’t reach consensus on restructure of city boards; will revisit

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Members of the Lawrence Board and Commissions Structure Committee could not decide Monday on whether to advance a recommendation to nix the Sustainability Advisory Board and consolidate or eliminate several other boards.

Over the last several months, the BCSC has been tasked with limiting the number of city advisory boards, committees, commissions and task forces to 10, not counting those that are required by state statutes. The Lawrence City Commission will ultimately consider and weigh in on their suggestions before any changes are implemented.

Under the committee’s latest draft recommendation, the Affordable Housing Advisory Board, Historic Resources Commission, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission would all remain standalone boards.

The recommendation called for the duties of the Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB) to be transferred to city staff and/or other boards, and recommended the same for the Transient Guest Tax Grant Program Advisory Board, Public Incentives Review Committee, Special Alcohol Fund Advisory Board, and Sales Tax Audit Committee. Several other boards would also be consolidated.

Numerous members of the public spoke during the meeting, pushing for the BCSC to keep the SAB as a standalone board. Others objected to the committee’s recommendation to combine the Aviation Advisory Board with the Public Transit Advisory Committee and Multi-Modal Transportation Commission, noting that aviation is very different from most other transportation.

BCSC member Stan Rasmussen, who is also chair of the SAB, said he previously didn’t feel like people needed to speak up to keep the SAB as a separate board because in the months prior, the board hadn’t been recommended for dissolution. He was not able to attend the board’s July meeting, and he was later surprised that the committee’s draft recommendation had changed to suggest dissolving the SAB.

BCSC member Travis Harrod said he appreciated all the comments about the SAB, but that he would take city staff members at their word that “they want to bake this into every part of city.” He said he thought the Aviation Advisory Board should remain a standalone board because of the highly technical nature of the work.

Rasmussen also said he was concerned that the letter the BCSC was considering sending on to the Lawrence City Commission didn’t provide enough rationale for some of the recommendations.

“I think we owe it to the city commission to be able to explain why we’re making the recommendations that we are, and how we think they can be achieved. And if we can’t do that, I think we’re kind of failing as a board,” Rasmussen said.

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BCSC Chair Sharon Ashworth said she agreed that the letter could be fleshed out a little more, but it was her understanding that the members would be present when the recommendations go to the Lawrence City Commission for consideration so they could answer questions and hear the commissioners’ feedback to fine-tune the recommendations.

Three members of the eight-member board were absent from Monday’s meeting, and a fourth member had to leave at 6:30.

The committee was not able to reach a consensus on whether to advance the draft letter to the city commission before the meeting had to end because the committee lacked a quorum.

The BCSC will meet again to continue the discussion, but the next meeting date was not yet set as of Monday evening.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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Kaw Valley Almanac for April 22-28, 2024

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