The Government Organization and Legislation Committee (GOL) of the Town Council has proposed reorganizing the following committees: Finance (FC), Community Resources (CRC), Outreach, Communications and Appointments (OCA), and the GOL itself. The draft proposal was discussed at the regular Town Council Meeting on 1/6/20 and will be subject to further revisions by GOL. No date has been set for further discussion and a vote by the full Council.
The proposal recommends eliminating OCA and redistributing its duties among GOL,CRC and a newly formed Town Services and Outreach Committee (TSO). At OCA’s last meeting on 1/6/20, Councilors Sarah Swartz (District 1), Darcy Dumont (District 5), and Alisa Brewer (at large) objected to the process, noting that they were not consulted about the reorganization proposal or the status of OCA within it and that the disposition of OCA had been framed solely by the other two OCA members, Evan Ross (District 4 and OCA Chair) and George Ryan (District 3) who are both also members of GOL. Swartz, Dumont, and Brewer were told that they would have the opportunity to contribute input at a future meeting.
According to the GOL report, this reorganization is necessary because the current committee structure does not allow for an equitable distribution of workload, it does not allow a large number of councilors to engage in the review and discussion of substantive matters and because the current workload of the CRC is not sustainable.
Not discussed in the report was the considerable percentage of committee time that was devoted in the past year to inventing committee processes, or how lessons learned in the last year might guide a new committee structure. Also not discussed was how or if committee assignments will be redistributed under the new structure.
According to GOL, the proposed restructuring was based on the following goals:
- Evening out the workload between committees
- Lessening the committee burden on all councilors
- Making the work of the Council more efficient
- Giving greater clarity to where issues or topics should be referred
- Giving more councilors a chance to tackle “meaty” issues
- Making the job of Councilors more “doable” in the long term
- Giving Councilors a chance to be proactive, not just reactive
Summary of The Reorganization Proposal
The Committee made the following recommendations to the Council:
- Move the functions of the Audit Committee to the FC
- Break CRC into two separate bodies (CRC and TOWN SERVICES AND OUTREACH (TSO))
- Move committee appointments to GOL and dissolve OCA
Moving Audit To Finance
This seemed the least controversial change. The work of the Audit Committee falls well within the scope of the FC and would free three Councilors for duties elsewhere.
Breaking Up CRC
There was a strong feeling that the workload of CRC was not sustainable. Further, given the nature of its current charge, there was a perception that nearly every matter of substance falls under its purview, thereby preventing a majority of councilors from being able to review and discuss matters of real importance. The revamped CRC would have a more long term, big picture perspective. It would concentrate on issues like zoning, land use, housing, economic development, arts and culture, and the Master Plan. The proposed TSO (Town Services and Outreach Committee) would have a narrower focus, attending to the day-to-day provision of town services and the interaction between the Council, the Town, and the public. It would deal broadly with constituent services in areas such as public works, public safety, public ways, senior services, and transportation. Its mandate would also include advising the Council on matters that involve broadening public participation in Town affairs, ensuring regular and transparent communication with the public, as well as advising the Council on relations between the Town and its institutions of higher learning.
Dissolving OCA and Moving Appointments To GOL
While the communication and outreach function of OCA would be largely the task of the newly minted TSO Committee, the appointments function of OCA would be taken over by a reconstituted GOL committee, tentatively renamed GOAL (Governance, Organization, Appointments, and Legislation). GOAL would retain all of the previous functions of the old GOL. It would continue to advise the Council on matters of rules and governance, would continue to review all bylaws, committee charges, resolutions, proclamations, commemorations, and citations, and it would propose revisions to the General Bylaws to improve clarity, consistency, and actionability. IIt would also be tasked with making recommendations to the Council on all appointments to the Planning Board, ZBA, non-voting Council liaisons, and non-voting members of the Finance Committee. It would review and make recommendations to the Council on all appointments by the Town Manger to head Town departments as well as all Town Manager appointments to multiple member bodies.