Eugene city boards and commissions membership is lopsided toward “yellow zone” appointees. By Pat Farr

On January 6, I reported about the ideological differences between two voting blocks on the Eugene City Council.  I picked a couple of the many split votes that have occurred on the Council or in the wards represented by the two Council groups.

“It has been common for the split on the Council to be 4-4 with a mayoral decision on the outcome.  A glaring result of that Council split/mayoral decision was the demise of the West Eugene Parkway.

(ODOT in July 2006 suspended work on the West Eugene Parkway after determining the project lacked the sustained local political support to succeed.)

Councilors from wards four, five, six and eight (green zone) wanted to keep the Parkway while those from wards one, two, three and seven (yellow zone) voted to kill it.  Mayor Piercy made the deciding vote to kill it.  It’s more than mere  speculation to suggest that had the mayor been Jim Torrey the decision would have been to keep the Parkway.”

The Council recently met regarding the makeup of the critical boards and commissions that provide recommendations to the Council on a regular basis.  The boards and commissions are largely appointed by the Council or by the Mayor.

There are 13 standing boards or commissions that give input to the Council.  The boards range from the Budget Committee, which analyses and recommends the spending budget for City services through the Planning Commission which provides quasi-judicial recommendations on land use and include:

  • Civilian review Board;
  • Historic Review Board;
  • Human Rights Commission;
  • Lane Regional Air Pollution Agency Board of Directors;
  • Lane Workforce Partnership;
  • Library Board;
  • Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission;
  • Police Commission; Sustainability Commission; Toxics Board; and the
  • Whilamut Natural Area Citizen Planning Committee

Obviously some give recommendations on weightier and farther reaching issues than others.

The boards have a total of 102 appointed members, seven of which reside outside of the city limits.  Now for the interesting part:

  • the green zone (wards 4, 5, 6, 8 ) has a total of 29 appointees
  • the yellow zone (wards 1, 2, 3, 7 ) has a total of 57 appointees

That’s nearly a two-thirds majority of appointees coming from the wards represented by councilors who voted against, for instance, the West Eugene Parkway.  A legislative super majority is 60%.  The boards are operating on a majority nearly ten points beyond that.  If that seems like a good balance to anybody they should look a little deeper.

The Budget Committee has a super majority of yellow zone appointees of 6-2, or 75%.

The City Council, by charter, is required to provide even geographic distribution of membership.  In fact, every ten years the boundaries are adjusted to achieve parity in population.  Should not, then, boards and commissions be more evenly distributed throughout the city?  One would think so.

If so, how do we achieve a more equitable geographic division?  The answer is simple:  when appointments are made, Council should ensure that geographic distribution is considered along with qualifications to serve on the boards.  Not so easy if the vast preponderance of qualified applicants are from wards 1,2,3 and 7.  Word of mouth is cited as the most significant factor in citizens considering applying for appointment.  So Councilors must ascertain that the word is out in their wards that board and commission memberships are open.

For more information go to City of Eugene Boards and Commissions.

Please note that members of boards who are appointed by Council do not always have deep background in the business of the board they will serve on.  In fact, some Councilors have stated opinions that it can be better to appoint people who are more along the lines of being concerned citizens than having deep knowledge of the affairs of government.

Pat Farr, Councilor Ward 6

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