I have been on the City of Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission since 2004, and I am applying again as my term expires the end of this year. I am hopeful that City Council re-appoints me.
3 of my colleagues whose terms also expire the end of this year have decided for various reasons not to "re-up." My understanding is that very few people have applied to fill the vacant positions on this commission.
I also have heard around City Hall that this is the case with other commission openings that are open. I am deeply troubled that for all the talk of "civic engagement," and what appears to this writer as plenty of people with points of view around various matters Palo Alto, we are unable to attract a good number of quality candidates to fulfill these important responsibilities.
City Council ultimately decides policy matters, as our elected representatives. And they rely a great deal on what the various Commissions recommend to them. Council values the depth of knowledge and amount of time Commissions have to delve into issues that Council cannot, since they have only so much bandwidth.
The time commitment for serving on a Commission varies by the Commission and the degree of participation individual members choose to put into it. Speaking for myself, I run a small company in Fremont and am going through a divorce, both of which take up a great deal of my time. I still am able to participate on the Parks and Recreation Commission as we have our regular monthly meetings, special community meetings (such as the recent one about "The Dog Matter,") and meeting with staff about various topics that the Commission is addressing.
I know many people are busy with their jobs and their families, and are not able to allocate time to the duties of a Commissioner. By the same token, there are many capable people in town who are engaged in what goes on here and who can, if they choose to, make the time and energy commitment to take on these duties. These duties are an important part of what makes Palo Alto the type of city that it is, it is not busy work. It is policy work.
I am honored to have this blog space on the Weekly's On-Line service, and I am even more honored how many of you read it, and tell me that when I have a face to face encounter. I hope this posting is taken as a call to action for many of you to apply for a Commission opening that is of interest to you and where you can add value to the Community.
If you want to know what positions are open, please go to the City of Palo Alto web site or contact the City Clerk's office.
And good luck to those of you who decide to apply.