City of Lawrence

City Manager’s Office



Thomas M. Markus, City Manager


Diane Stoddard, Assistant City Manager


August 2, 2017


Casey Toomay, Assistant City Manager


Advisory Board/Committee Work Session August 8, 2017


As part of the recently adopted strategic plan, the City Commission identified the following initiative: 


Inventory and evaluate the role of existing advisory boards and commissions and identify opportunities to consolidate or sunset as appropriate, and adopt consistent operating guidelines.


During discussion about this item, the Commission identified issues with too many advisory boards/commissions, inconsistent procedures, and expressed a desire to discuss the consistency of term limits for city advisory board members.  Staff has also identified the lack of formal procedures for liaisons and the city related to appointments, orientation, timing of notification of agenda materials, and allowance for public comment by advisory boards/committees. 


The following staff were assigned to coordinate this initiative:  Diane Stoddard, Bobbie Walthall, Danielle Buschkoetter, Aliza Bidinger, and Eileen Horn.  As the first step in the process, staff prepared an inventory (Updated 08/04/17) of all city advisory boards and committees, boards/committees to which the City Commission makes appointments, governing boards, joint boards, and steering committees.  The inventory provides a matrix of information and links regarding how the board was originally established, whether it is required by state statute or city code, the number of members, whether the board has term limits or not, and other key information.  Staff also convened a meeting of staff liaisons that assist the various advisory boards and committees.  This group provided feedback regarding potential elements of an advisory board policy and shared ideas regarding potential consolidations. 


Currently, there are 44 Boards/Commissions to which the City makes appointments.  Out of these 44 boards/commissions, 25 are City Advisory Boards, six (6) are boards that have City appointments made to them, five (5) are joint City/County Boards, and eight (8) are Governing Body Boards.  There are also several ongoing or task-specific committees that have been established that require City appointments, but are not included in the counts above: MPO Bicycle Advisory Committee, MPO Technical Advisory Committee, MPO Policy Board, Regional Transit Advisory Committee, and the Horizon 2020 Steering Committee.


Draft Advisory Board/Committee Policy:

Staff recommends that the City Commission consider establishing an advisory board/committee policy that would set forth standardized procedures for appointment of board members, terms, orientation, attendance, resignation procedures, the procedures for handling meeting notifications, agendas and minutes, addresses City employees serving on voting boards, and public comment at meetings.  Staff has prepared a draft policy for the City Commission’s consideration and direction. The policy could come back to the City Commission in the future for formal action, if the City Commission so directs. Much of the policy reflects procedures that have been the practice for some time but have never been incorporated into a formal policy or written procedures.  Also, the policy attempts to add clarity to several things that have been identified as issues, including:


  1. Sets forth goal for enhanced diversity on boards/committees reflective of the diversity in the community.  This goal is in line with the STAR ratings and articulating the goal in this manner will enable credit on this in the future.  (Section 1.d)
  2. Clarifies that a partial term will not count toward the terms capped with any term limits. (Section 2.b)
  3. Requires orientation of board members by staff liaisons. (Section 3)
  4. Sets forth a process by which excessive absences of advisory board/committee members could be addressed. (Section 4)
  5. Formalizes that all bylaws should have City Commission approval. (Section 6)
  6. Formalizes that all boards/committees should have an email list and information on the website and that staff liaisons should ensure posting of agendas several days in advance of the meeting and utilize the email list for notifications.
  7. Formalizes that City employees should not serve as voting members on boards.  Currently, there are several City employees who serve as voting members on advisory boards.  This has the potential to create conflicts of interest or awkward situations.  The policy draft sets a process by which existing city employees serving in these roles can transition by serving out their current terms but would not be eligible for reappointment.
  8. Formalizes that opportunity for public comment should be provided at each advisory board/committee meeting.  Some boards do allow public comment on agenda items now, and some boards do not.


Term Limit issue:  A number of the advisory boards/committees specify term limits but some do not- so there is a lack of consistency with regard to term limits. The City Commission has discussed implementing uniform term limits. There are a number of compelling advantages to implementing term limits. Term limits can help to promote diversity of opinions and ideas and maximize the number of people involved with government.  However, there are also possible disadvantages to the implementation of term limits. These include a challenge with being able to find qualified members willing to serve and also potential loss of some experience. 


The challenge of being able to find qualified members is more evident related to appointments to trade boards. Based on the requirements of contractors, journeyman, and master electricians, plumbers, and mechanical technicians and comparing it to those who are licensed by the City, there are currently 338 people that could possibly serve on the Electrical Code Board of Appeals, 65 that could serve on the Mechanical Code Board of Appeals (due to residency requirements), and 209 people that could serve on the Plumbing Code Board of Appeals.  While there are a number of eligible people to serve on the trades boards, there has been a lack of interested parties coming forward to serve.  The Mechanical Code Board of Appeals and the Contactor Licensing Board have term limits currently, the remainder do not. Because of the expertise and experience needed on these boards, members have been appointed to serve additional terms after the two-term limit has passed. The Mechanical Code Board of Appeals is the only trades board with a residency requirement, stating that members must either be a City of Lawrence resident or a Douglas County resident who is an employee of, or owns a business within the City of Lawrence.  In some instances, a quorum has not been able to be established for several months because a term had expired and an appointment had not been made due to lack of interest.  In other instances, an outgoing member was able to continue to serve until a replacement was found.  However, with the proposed policy, staff is suggesting that a member is limited to the appointment timeframe, which would not enable a member to continue to serve beyond their term. 


The City Commission should discuss this issue and provide direction to staff.  Should the Commission wish to implement uniform term limits, it should be added to the policy (along with exceptions, if any) and then appropriate cleanup of non-conforming by-laws, etc. should be undertaken for future action.


Possible Advisory Board/Committee Changes:

Staff has internally discussed possible changes to advisory boards/committees of the City as functions of the boards were analyzed and possible changes were discussed with staff liaisons.  Below is a listing of staff recommendations for consideration relating to possible consolidations of boards/committees which seem to have overlapping functions and possible elimination of boards/committees. While this staff report was distributed to the advisory boards/committee members along with the date of this work session on this topic, input on these recommendations has not been sought from the advisory boards/committees at this point.  Because these issues are under the purview of the City Commission, the Commission may wish to provide direction on these matters or request further input.  If changes are directed, changes will require follow up and future action (such as changes to City code, etc.) as needed. 


          Recommended Consolidations:

Joint Economic Development Council (JEDC) and the Public Incentive Review Committee (PIRC) – It appears that there may be some opportunity for consolidation of the JEDC and PIRC by folding the functions of the JEDC into PIRC.  The JEDC is a joint board created by city and county action.  The JEDC purpose to provide input and feedback into economic development policy matters and reviewing the Chamber’s budget requests for annual Economic Development Corporation (EDC) contributions could be incorporated into the existing role of PIRC, which is also an advisory board with county and school district representation. In order to sunset the JEDC, joint action between the city and county would have to occur, as well as the Chamber of Commerce.


Lawrence Alliance and the Human Relations Commission - Both Lawrence Alliance and the Human Relations Commission have responsibilities and purposes relating to anti-discrimination.  The Human Relations Commission functions are set forth in Chapter 10 of the City Code.  The Lawrence Alliance was established by resolution and its functions are less defined.  It appears that the Human Relations Commission could take on the purpose and function of the Lawrence Alliance and the two could be consolidated.


Funding Recommendation Boards - Social Service Funding Advisory Board and Transient Guest Tax Program Advisory Board.  Both of these boards are charged with reviewing funding proposals and making recommendations to the City Commission.  There is an opportunity to combine these boards because their overall functions are similar, though the subject matter of their recommendations differ. 


Code Appeals Boards – Building Code Board of Appeals, Electrical Code Board of Appeals. Mechanical Board of Appeals, Plumbing Code Board of Appeals, Fire Code Board of Appeals, and Contractor Licensing Board.  City code establishes various boards with technical expertise to review new codes proposed for adoption and to handle appeals arising from the administration of the city’s construction codes.  It appears that rather than six separate boards, one board with representation from all of the trades may be possible.  This would eliminate time staffing multiple boards, enhancing staff efficiency, while maintaining the expertise of individual trades as a resource for reviewing codes. 


Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission -  A number of cities closely align recreational and arts activities.  There may be some natural synergy between the functions of these two advisory boards.  However, it should be pointed out that volunteer members of the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission are directly involved in the work of administering some of its programs, such as the annual Phoenix Awards.  If the boards are consolidated, staff representation from both the Director of Arts and Culture and parks and recreation staff could continue.  


Recommended Eliminations:

Sister Cities Advisory Board -  The Sister Cities Advisory Board is an advisory board of the City, but the group also maintains its own non-profit 501(c)3 status in order that it can collect dues and other revenues which are not handled by the City.  While it is important for the City to maintain a connection with and sometimes active involvement in Sister Cities, staff believes that this group could function more effectively and efficiently without being an advisory board of the City.  In the past there have been challenges with establishing a quorum for meetings, which could be avoided if they were separate from the City and determined their own membership. Additionally, there are some potential liability issues for the City relating to some of the functions of the organization and its finances over which the City has no control.  In order to maintain the important connection and communication with the City, a staff liaison could be assigned to attend meetings.    


Community Development Advisory Committee - The CDAC makes recommendations to the City Commission relating to the annual expenditure of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME funds received by the City from the federal government.  The amount of these funds received have significantly dwindled in past years.  Many cities do not have an advisory committee make recommendations regarding funding and instead incorporate this into a staff function with a hearing before the City Commission. In lieu of making recommendations to the CDAC first, staff could absorb making recommendations on funding directly to the City Commission and the CDAC could be eliminated.  If the City Commission wishes to maintain the function of the CDAC, its function could be rolled into the consolidated funding boards mentioned earlier in this memo.


Homeless Issues Advisory Committee -  The Homeless Issues Advisory Committee has reduced its meeting schedule over the years from monthly to quarterly.  For the past several years, the Homeless Issues Advisory Committee has received quarterly reports at its meetings from the agencies involved in serving the homeless, but the committee has not recently passed along recommendations to the City Commission nor do they have a regular function identified in City Code.  Staff believes that this committee could be eliminated.  If, in the future, the City Commission has a specific charge, a task force could be assembled for a limited period in order to address that charge on this topic.


Sales Tax Audit Committee -  The sales tax funds authorized by voters in 2008 set forth a Sales Tax Audit Committee to ensure that the expenditures related to the 10-year sales taxes were spent on what was authorized by voters.  Staff would present reports to the Committee and the reports and recommendations of the Sales Tax Audit Committee were also shared with the City Commission formally.  Staff suggests that this Committee remain in place as promised relating to the current sales taxes until those taxes sunset. If the voters approve the renewal of the sales taxes, staff believes that the reports can be shared directly with the City Commission and also be made available to the public at large via the City website and that a sales tax audit committee would not be necessary.    


Obsolete Boards:

The following boards have been established by City Code, but are no longer functioning and do not have appointees.  City Code should be updated to eliminate these boards:


·      Lawrence Advisory Board on University Student Issues (Article 13 of Chapter 1 of the City Code) – This board was established in 2000 for the purpose of reviewing, discussing, and forwarding recommendations on issues, concerns and initiatives of the students of the University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University and the City.  The board has not been active for over ten years.


·      Downtown Parking Advisory Board (Article 15 of Chapter 1 of the City Code) – It is not clear when this board was established.  The board was established to consist of residents interested in issues and policies regarding parking in the downtown area. The board has not been active for over ten years.


·      ECO2 Commission (Article 22 of Chapter 1 of the City Code) – This Commission was established as a joint advisory commission to the City and County in 2004 for the purpose of having Douglas County residents, some having economic development interests and some having preservation of open space interests, seek to reach consensus on future economic development and open spaces needs in Douglas County.  The Commission has not been active for around seven or eight years.  Douglas County noted that in its records, the board was dissolved in 2011.


Boards Identified for Further Study:

Staff identified the potential to examine the Public Transit Advisory Committee and the Airport Advisory Board for future consolidation with the recently created Transportation Commission.  Staff believes that this requires some additional study and some additional time for the recently created Transportation Commission to gel with its new functions.  This could be examined in the future.