Civic participation beyond the realm of social media is a foreign concept to many.
In Jerome’s case, the idea of decommissioning the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission and Design Review Board comes in response to a lack of community volunteers to step up to the plate.
This problem is not unique to Jerome. Clarkdale is constantly soliciting volunteers for its various advisory boards and commissions. Cottonwood likewise recently put out “help wanted” notices so it could keep its Planning and Zoning Commission in business.
In Camp Verde, the ongoing problem of finding enough volunteers to maintain the town’s annual community events has been well-documented. One of the Verde Valley’s most popular annual events – the Camp Verde Cornfest – was canceled this year because of a lack of volunteer manpower.
It’s not just government advisory boards suffering from this lack of community volunteerism, it exists at the elective level as well. A year ago, we reported that County School Superintendent Tim Carter almost always has vacancies to fill on school boards throughout the county.
Further, this is not a problem that materialized over the past few months. One year ago we reported the following:
• Clarkdale has 12 openings on its Board of Adjustment, Community Services Commission, Design Review Board, Planning Commission or Public Safety Personnel Retirement Board.
• In Jerome, there are unfilled vacancies both on the Design Review Board and Planning & Zoning Commission.
• Cottonwood has three openings on the Board of Adjustments and two openings on the Parks and Recreation Commission.
Some may consider Jerome’s discussion of getting rid of its advisory boards and commissions as a threat. In reality, it’s more of an acknowledgment of the severity of the problem. Jerome Town Council members are publicly voicing what others in the Verde Valley long have thought.
After all, in the end, it’s the elected town council that makes these decisions anyway, right? Why not bypass the advisory process and let the elected council deal with it.
That seems to be the direction we are heading.
It’s not the direction we should go.
There’s great value in having community issues vetted by community volunteers unburdened by the impact a decision will have on their chances for re-election. Especially with community development issues, having an extra set of eyes examine the impacts of growth can be extremely valuable. Advisory boards and commissions most often play a valuable role in eliminating nuisance concerns before issues are passed on to the elected council. They streamline the process.
It also bears emphasis that service on a government advisory council is the best training ground one can receive before taking the next step to elective service.
Limiting the scrutiny of an issue that impacts our communities is not a good thing.
In Jerome, let’s hope the message voiced by the council about doing away with its boards and commissions forced a lot of people to think long and hard about their commitment to their community.
Further, let’s hope the situation in Jerome forces some reflection by everyone throughout the Verde Valley that they have something to offer their communities.
Something that involves more effort and commitment than sounding off on social media.