West Hollywood City Hall at night

Writing in WeHoVille about how to engage more residents in West Hollywood’s public processes, Council member Lindsey Horvath makes a radical proposal to get rid of direct appointments to the City’s Boards and Commissions.

Frankly, the whole process has become too politicized and not enough about public service, which is why I propose making all appointments at-large by the entire City Council. While it might be easy and safe to simply protect the status quo, I believe it is our council’s responsibility to ensure that a diversity of perspectives is included in our community dialogue and to try to give more people an opportunity to be involved. In addition to being passionate, our community members are wildly talented with a range of experience and expertise.

Engaging and involving residents is an important goal for the City, and bringing in new voices to the City’s Boards and Commissions is a good idea to groom future leaders in our City.  I agree with Council member Horvath’s goals here.

However, making all Commission and Board appointments “at-large” will not make the process less political, nor will it bring in new voices–in fact, it may do quite the opposite.

In order to get an at-large appointment, someone must get the votes of three Council members.  What can be more political than having to please the Council majority in order to gain and retain a seat on a commission?  If a Commissioner dare speak up against policies supported by the Council Majority or staff, they could lose their seat (as I learned in 2013!), and those voices are silenced.

At least in the current system, there can be one or two minority voices on each commission, and having those voices is important to raise questions others may not, to propose amendments or alternatives, and at least make their colleagues think about their decisions.

So let’s try and think of other ways to get our citizens more involved in West Hollywood…  What are your thoughts?