The Facts:
If you want to serve on a board or commission (click on bullet points)

But after that, the process gets murky and the website does not have accurate or complete information.

<No citizen committee member or any citizen committee or commission, whether established by city council resolution or ordinance, shall serve more than three (3) consecutive terms or six (6) years, whichever is longer.>

<Except for committees comprised wholly of city employees, at least every other meeting shall be in the evening.>

What We're Doing About It:

SPS compiled a list of suggested changes, met with City Council President Russ Stark, and with representatives of the Mayor's Office, about making changes.  They agreed that most all of our ideas were good ones - and the City has already started making improvements.  SPS was promised ongoing updates from the City as to progress on implementing our ideas.  Stay tuned.

Updates (July 22, 2016)

SPS met with the Mayor's staff to present the following requests:

1. Accurately list all Boards/Commissions and keep updated.

Note: Google City of St. Paul. Click Government then click Committees, Boards and Commissions. From there either click “online committee application,” or go to the roster of Boards and Commissions in the green column on the right and click on one of them. You can also get the roster after clicking on application link.

2. Include description of duties, term limits yes or no, length of term, # of members, % diversity members, # of expired terms, # of terms ending soon, # of vacancies.

3. Have bio of each member, the neighborhood he/she comes from, contact information, term start date, term expire date, total # of terms/years of service.

4. Every meeting should be on the home page calendar and should have minutes posted with attendance, quorum noted, with 2nds to motions, votes recorded aye or nay, motion to adjourn, time of adjournment, next meeting time and agenda.

Part II: Term Limits Issue.

The larger issue is whether all Boards and Commissions should have term limits – as seems to be required by existing city policy: “No member shall serve more than three consecutive terms or six years, whichever is longer.” But there is also a problem with members still serving after their term is expired and a further problem in filling vacancies quickly.

For examples: The Planning Commission has 21 members, has a limit of three terms, and each term is for three years – nine years total. If you look at the 2016 “Bios” page, only 19 members are listed, one commissioner is still serving after his term expired, and 5 of the 19 have terms expiring this year. The BZA has 9 members, no term limits, but only 8 are listed, and 3 are serving after their terms expired.

Part III: Post-Application Process.

An applicant for a commission / board should be notified his/her application was received, what/when as to next steps for being considered, how to “lobby” (letters of recommendation or whatever), and they should be notified if they’re not being appointed and whether they’ll need to re-apply (if still interested) or whether their application will “roll-over.”

Mayor's Staff Follow-up (August 7, 2016) with their priorities:

1. Fill vacancies with diverse appointments. Staff will be attending the Board Repair workshop on 8/17 to talk with potential applicants.

2. Website consistency. Staff is reviewing all the websites and outlining  the corrections that need to be made when they get some intern time.

3. Minutes. Staff drafted a memo to all the board staffs indicating what they expect with respect to minutes being posted and what they need to include.

4. Will explore what they are allowed to do with respect to posting contact info for individual commission members.

Updates (October 6, 2016)

SPS met with Council Member Rebecca Noecker, Taina Maki, & Mayor's staff to address the following:

1. Planning Commission's importance for our city and how disappointing it is that the city has not enforced its own policies re: boards / commissions----term limits and meeting times, etc.

2. Application and appointment process is not well defined, open, transparent, or accountable to the public----expired terms, vacancies, etc. Info on website is not consistent, communication with applicants is often non-existent, and appointments have not met ADA requirements.

3. Planning Commission roster (expired terms, reappointments, vacancies, poor attendance, lack of Ward 4 member).

4. Lack of diversity on the Planning Commission. The city has not developed enough good relationships with people of color city wide, nor have they included important info. about how folks can manage to serve on the PC-----per diems, transportation costs reimbursed. AND also the fact that the Planning Commission needs to alternate day time and evening time meetings. (Refer to Policy Concerning City Committees: city staff seemed unaware of this city policy and is seeking clarification from the city attorney).

We question the city's commitment to diversity with the following example: One applicant (Ward 2) was told s/he would be appointed to the Planning Commission, then the appointment was rescinded with no explanation. The city later stated the appointment process was being delayed while a more diverse pool of applicants was sought, but then the only new appointment was a white male. 

Five things Council Member Noecker identified to address going forward:

  1. Better communication of Planning Commissioners' roles in general, including responsibilities for the Commission and its committees.

  2. Better communication to folks who have applied. (Staff said a simple “thank you” goes out to applicants because the application process is considered rolling until all seats are filled).

  3. General follow-up on how the process will be fixed. Council Member Noecker stated that perhaps there should be a presentation to the City Council on where the process sits.

  4. The Policy Concerning City Committees will be sent to the City Attorney for clarification. After clarification, the city should be following policy requirements.

  5. City staff will give follow up report in 2 weeks.

 

Updates (October 28, 2016)

SPS met with Nancy Homans, Dana Bailey, Adam Prock, & Peter Grafstrom

Agenda

  1. Fill vacancies with diverse appointments.

  2. Better communication of roles, responsibilities, meeting days / times, per diem.

  3. Better communication with applicants: rolling for how long?

  4. Website consistency and user friendliness lacking. (landing pages, calendar)

  5. Posting contact info: bio of each member, the neighborhood he/she comes from, contact information, term start date, term expire date, total # of terms/years of service.

  6. Better minutes of meetings.

  7. Evening meeting times.

Follow Up

  1. Peter will inform us when changes have been made, including changes on the website. Deadline for landing pages clean up on website is March 2017.

  2. Peter will draft one pager for Planning Commission applicants (roles, responsibilities, etc).

  3. Data on appointments in last 100 days. (Celebrate success) Given verbally at meeting, we requested written report and were told we’d receive.

  4. Peter will send us the appointments demographics by the end of the year.

  5. Dana Bailey, Nancy, Adam, and Peter stated that the Mayor is prioritizing this work. Dana said that there are monthly meetings on these issues with each city council member. Nancy is working closely with staff of commissions / boards / committees. Peter is lead on recruiting applicants and cleaning up the website.

Follow Up from Mayor's Office

November 4, 2016:

In the last 100 days, the Mayor has made and the Council has confirmed 21 appointments.

9 have been re-appointments

Of the 12 new appointments: 7 are men, 5 are women. 7 are people of color (self-identified as African-American, Asian American, Hispanic or Other), 5 are non-Hispanic white

 

Saint Paul STRONG

Editorial, January 18, 2017

From Saint Paul STRONG Contact: John Mannillo, Saint Paul STRONG Spokesperson

john@mannillowomack.com

Letter / Article as printed in the Villager, February 1-14, 2017 edition, the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, February 2-8, 2017 edition, and the Park Bugle, February 2017 edition

To build the public trust, make St. Paul Gov’t more citizen-friendly (Villager), St. Paul Boards and Commissions appointment process still messy and murky (Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder), St. Paul appointment process messy and murky (Park Bugle)

Who are we? What are we doing here? Where are we going? Existential questions that do not begin with us, but likely go back to our very origins as human beings and may very well be pondered by our descendants through time eternal. Anyone paying attention to our world today feels these acutely as we reflect on trends, elections, and their outcomes.

Saint Paul STRONG (SPS), while perhaps not framing the issue in those terms, has been working with the City of St. Paul with those questions in mind. Such work is evident and relevant in the citizen appointments, or lack-thereof, to the city’s many boards and commissions.

Citizen participation and the perspective each individual brings is the very reason these formats were created. The Mayor, the City Council, and SPS all agree the process for citizen appointment to, and service on, the City's boards and commissions needs to be improved. Looking at the City's website it's hard to know what commissions have meetings and when, who's on the commissions, whether there are vacancies, what a member's responsibilities are, what's on the agenda, and so forth.

Since February, 2016, SPS has been meeting with, and bringing suggestions to, Council Members and the Mayor's staff.  Almost all of SPS's ideas about openness, trust, responsibility, transparency, and accountability have been favorably received.  Suggested improvements include: 

(1) An easy-to-use calendar posting when commissions meet and what's on the agenda;

(2) Biographies of current commission members, what part of town they're from, how much diversity they represent, and how long they've served;

(3) Contact information so their fellow citizens can contact them, and in that way, more voices are heard at the table;

(4) Minutes showing attendance, quorums, and votes taken;

(5) Enforcement of city policy to alternate morning and evening meetings for better attendance and equitable availability;

(6) Clarity on recruitment and application process to become a member, whether there are term limits, number of vacancies, and a way to acknowledge receipt of an application to serve, together with the next steps in the process.

Appointments to these commissions need to reflect the makeup of our community if we hope to achieve equity in our fair city. Consider this: census data is collected every ten years. Some commission appointments are for three years, with a three-term limit, but up until recently, the term limits were not honored. Many folks were sitting in these seats for a decade or more. If our appointments today don’t reflect census data now, we are going to be even farther behind in reaching equity goals if these seats don’t open up until after the next census is taken ten years from now. That is a trend we do not want to be setting.

After a year of meetings with city staff and elected officials (and making suggestions), there has been so little progress, it's time to take our campaign to the public.  Please join us in our effort to make these needed changes happen.  Call or write your Council Member and the Mayor's Office.  Find us, or join with us:

http://www.saintpaulstrong.com/

https://www.facebook.com/saintpaulstrong/

https://twitter.com/SaintPaulSTRONG

As President Obama said so poignantly in his farewell address, and President Bush before him, “The Constitution is only a piece of paper.” True. It is the citizens that make it come alive and give it meaning.

Who are we? What are we doing here? Where are we going? Who makes St. Paul “The Most Livable City in America?” Is that just a slogan we put on a piece of paper or does it mean something?

Follow Up from Mayor's Office

January 25, 2017

Assuming the City Council’s approval today, the Planning Commission will be at full strength with the following distribution:

o   White:  12 (including 1 Arab-American)

o   African American: 3

o   Asian American: 4

o   Latino: 1

o   Unspecified: 1

·         Today I forwarded to the City Council appointments to the CIB Committee which, if approved, will create the following distribution:

o   White: 9

o   African American: 5

o   Asian American: 2

o   Latina: 1

o   We are still looking for someone—preferably a person of color-- to represent HD 67A.

·         We are wrapping up work on making appointments to the Heritage Preservation Commission, Neighborhood STAR Board and Board of Zoning Appeals and hope to have those before the Council in the next two weeks.  We could use your help in finding a licensed professional architect—preferably a person of color—for the HPC.

·         Notices were recently sent soliciting applicants for the Transportation Committee (due January 31; appointments are made by the Planning Commission Chair) and the newly constituted Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Committee (due February 10).

·         We refreshed the membership of the Truth in Sale of Housing Board whose members had served for many years.  It was difficult to find people of color interested in those appointments—as tends to be the case for the more regulatory committees—but we are hopeful that the new members will help us identify future candidates.

·         Once we have completed work on the PCIARC appointments, we will work on bringing the Advisory Committee on Aging, the Advisory Committee on Persons with Disabilities, the Community Health Advisory Committee and the Food and Nutrition Commission to full strength.  If you know people of color who are interested in those committees, please encourage them to apply.

In addition, we made appointments to boards and commissions managed by others to which the Mayor is asked to make appointments:

·         Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board – 2 reappointments

·         St. Paul Public Housing Agency Board – 2 appointments

·         Our Fair Carousel Board – 2 reappointments

Letter as printed in the Villager, February 1-14, 2017 edition

To build the public trust, make St. Paul Gov’t more citizen-friendly

Who are we? What are we doing here? Where are we going? These existential questions go back to our very origins as human beings and may well be pondered by our descendants for time eternal. Everyone paying attention to our world today asks these questions as we reflect on trends and their outcomes.

St. Paul STRONG (SPS), while perhaps not framing the issue in those terms, has been working with the city of St. Paul with those questions in mind. Such work is evident and relevant in the citizen appointments, or lack thereof, to the city’s many boards and commissions.

Citizen participation and the perspective each individual brings are the reason these boards and commissions were created. The mayor, City Council and SPS all agree that the process for citizen appointments to, and service on, the city's boards and commissions needs to be improved.

Looking at the city's website, it’s hard to know what commissions have meetings and when, who is on the commissions, whether there are any vacancies, what a member's responsibilities are, whats on the agenda for upcoming meetings and so forth.

Since February 2016, SPS has been meeting with, and bringing suggestions to, City Council members and the mayor's staff. Almost all of SPS's ideas about openness, trust, responsibility, transparency and accountability have been favorably received.

Suggested improvements have included:

• An easy-to-use calendar posting when commissions meet and what's on the agenda;

• Biographies of current commission members, what part of town they are from, how much diversity they represent, and how long they have served;

• Members’ contact information so that fellow citizens can contact them and in that way bring more voices to the debate;

• Meeting minutes showing attendance, quorums and votes taken;

• Enforcement of a city policy to alternate morning and evening meetings for equitable availability and better attendance;

• Clarity on the member recruitment and application process, whether there are term limits, the number of vacancies, a way to acknowledge the receipt of an application, and the next steps in the process.

Appointments to these commissions need to reflect the makeup of the city if we hope to achieve equity. Consider this: Census data is collected every ten years. Some commission appointments are for three years with a three-term limit, but until recently the term limits were not honored. Many folks were sitting on these commissions for a decade or more. If our appointments today do not reflect census data now, and if these seats do not open up until after the next census, we’re going to fall even farther behind in reaching equity goals. That’s a trend we do not want to be setting.

After a year of meetings with city staff and elected officials during which there’s been little progress, it's time to take our campaign to the public. Please join us in our effort to make these needed changes happen. Call or write your City Council member and the mayor's office. Join with us at http://www.saintpaulstrong.com/home or https://www.facebook.com/saintpaulstrong/  or twitter.com/SaintPaulSTRONG.

As President Obama said so poignantly in his farewell address, and as did President Bush before him, “The Constitution is only a piece of paper.” True. It’s citizens who make it come alive and give it meaning.

Who are we? What are we doing here? Where are we going? Who makes St. Paul “The Most Livable City in America?” Is that just a slogan on a piece of paper or does it actually mean something?

John Mannillo, a resident of Highland Park, is the Spokesperson for Saint Paul STRONG, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving open and representative government in St. Paul.