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City Council makes big changes to some boards

Charlottesville City Council officially has dissolved several defunct committees, transitioned others to new roles and has plans to revisit more.

The council agreed to dissolve the Belmont Bridge Steering Committee, Hydraulic Road Planning Advisory Panel and Streets that Work/Code Audit Steering Committee.

The need that caused those committees to exist in the first place has passed, councilors said.

The council made the moves during a virtual work session Tuesday held to discuss its 34 appointed bodies.

The council has discussed a need to revisit all of its committees throughout the years, but the coronavirus pandemic has brought the issue to the forefront. Throughout the summer, the city has addressed whether it would allow some committees to meet virtually on an ad-hoc basis as issues arose.

Councilors and staff had issues with several boards because, they said, their purpose and goals were unclear.

“You need a deliverable for your charge here,” Interim City Manager John Blair said.

Three committees — Charlottesville Community Scholarship Program, Community Policy and Management Team and Piedmont Housing Alliance‐Friendship Court Committee — no longer were considered council-appointed, although the city has representation on them.

Four committees are transitioning from council-appointed advisory bodies to staff advisory panels: the Parking Advisory Panel, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, PLACE Design Task Force and the Water Resources Protection Program Advisory Committee.

Those committees still will have public meetings and take input, councilors said.

The council wants to reexamine four boards at a later date after receiving more information: Charlottesville Area Transit Advisory Board, Police Civilian Review Board, Housing Advisory Committee and Human Rights Commission.

The CRB’s future is in limbo until the final outcome of the General Assembly special session on policing.

At its first meeting, the board voted to request that the City Council revert its bylaws and ordinance to the structure presented by an initial panel.

The council has indicated that it will take no such action before the General Assembly special session ends.

The council is considering a more robust future for the CAT Advisory Board to address regional transit concerns.

CAT Director Garland Williams said the board could “galvanize” the community to craft a plan for regional transit cooperation and seek dedicated funding from the state.

The council wants to wait for a decision until receiving a report from Williams, who was hired last year, about the future and direction of CAT.

The future of the Housing Advisory Committee is on hold while the city waits to hire a housing coordinator.

Prior to the pandemic, the council had discussed eliminating the 22-member committee and replacing it with a 10-member panel.

The new panel was to focus on administering the affordable housing program and establish regulations, such as rental and sales prices for projects that received city funding.

The council directed the Planning Commission in February to review how an advisory panel could work on administering the program and providing policy direction, but the discussion has been delayed because of the pandemic.

“They need a clear charge and direction from council, and the composition of the board needs to be clarified and reduced,” Councilor Michael Payne said.

The size of the Human Rights Commission was also in play, although the council again wanted to wait to decide the panel’s future until key staff members are hired.

“The reality of too big of a board or commission can really get in the way of the productivity of that group,” Councilor Heather Hill said.

The commission was established, along with the Office of Human Rights, in 2013. The commission is an advisory and community outreach panel and investigates discrimination complaints.

The commission and office have been scrutinized since their inception, with some saying they don’t do enough to investigate complaints and others faulting the council for limiting their powers.

Todd Niemeier, outreach specialist for the Office of Human Rights, said the commission has backed setting its membership at no fewer than nine and no more than 15. Other structural changes also have been supported to address criticisms.

Clerk of Council Kyna Thomas said that the discussions being paused until staff are hired is part of a problem with the direction of committees.

“I think if the boards had a clear directive,” she said, “they could operate regardless of turnover with staff.”

The council also supported a staff recommendation to allow virtual meetings for all remaining boards during the pandemic. Other than those that are legally required to exist, the boards would be limited to one meeting of three hours per month. Six boards would be allowed a subcommittee meeting on a first come, first served basis.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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