Hey-Ho! To Committee We Go!05/28/14 -editorial by Renee Wilkins
The road to bureaucracy is paved with good intentions. The Governing Body’s vote to implement new rules and procedures to organize individuals into committees could stem from a sincere desire to manage members’ concerns and ideas. In theory, the idea that committees will make a more efficient city government sounds great. In practice, committees can become a crutch that adds another level of rules, regulations and red tape to get through to complete a task or make a decision. More concerning is the possibility that this effort might easily turn into a way to control or suppress the ideas and actions of the individual. It could effectively silence the voice of the individual with the words “The committee recommends…”
All Governing Body members have always had the ability to seek out information, share information with their fellow members and act on their findings. They can collaborate with one or two other members on an issue, and the City Manager, City Attorney and department heads are available to offer their opinions and bring forward their ideas. The desire and ambition of each Governing Body member to follow through is up to them individually. Lighting a fire under city staff to get things done may not always be easy, but adding another layer of bureaucracy through committees does not make it any better.
In conjunction with these committees, new regular monthly work sessions have been implemented. The work sessions are a much needed addition that will provide the entire Governing Body the opportunity to share information and ideas with one another in a public setting, albeit at 3:00 in the afternoon. For those of us who have day jobs, the work sessions will be recorded.
Still, that nagging thought of committees lingers. Assurances were made that no more than six committees would be active at one time. What a relief. Arguments have been made that the Albuquerque City Council has multiple committees. This may be true, but does that mean Rio Rancho should emulate them? Albuquerque also hired a private firm at a cost of $1.5 million to review and make recommendations for loosening restrictions on their sector (area) plans, with an estimated 3 year completion time. 3 years. Our Governing Body is on the cusp of reviewing our own area plans and rezoning ahead of development. Realistically, we should be able to accomplish this in six months to a year. If so, this would give Rio Rancho an edge over Albuquerque for much-needed commercial development. However, if it goes to committees or (Heaven forbid) a study, we will likely lose our edge.
Moving forward, the Governing Body should use restraint in utilizing committees. It could too neatly pigeonhole elected officials and their ideas, creating the illusion of activity while accomplishing nothing (except creating hurdles). Let’s hope for the city’s sake, this is much ado about nothing.