Every city, county, and even special taxing districts in Colorado, have citizen-led boards and commissions that influence local public policy decision making. These volunteer positions have, at a minimum, a fiscal impact on you as a taxpayer, and often they have rule making authority that can directly impact such things as your private property rights. If you have ever wanted to participate in your local government, without being elected, these board and commissions are great way to get involved.
As just one example, the City of Centennial has nine boards and commissions, including such things as budget, audit and election committees to open space advisory and planning and zoning boards. The city is currently accepting applications for openings on most of them and the application process is open until February 25, 2022.
Recently an intern at the Independence Institute identified over five hundred boards and commissions in just eight front range counties. This didn’t even include the many special districts such as metro districts, library Districts, parks and recreation districts, and school districts.
Indeed, there are hundreds of such openings around the state, with local elected officials having appointment power to these boards and commissions. “Serving on a local board or commission is an ideal way to make a big impact on your community and to understand how your local government operates,” said Councilman Don Sheehan of Centennial.
Unfortunately, there is no one place to find out all of the boards and commissions you may be eligible to serve on. In fact, your home address determines what myriad of local governments and taxing districts you reside within. You may live in one special district and the house across the street may be in a completely different district. A little bit of homework on your part will save some frustration as well as open your eyes to how many different government entities truly impact your day-to-day life. Councilman Sheehan admitted, “while [serving on a commission] can be challenging and even a little frustrating at times, it is very rewarding.”
One place to start looking for local boards and commissions is your city or county’s website. You’d be surprised at what your local governments are up to. With COVID-19 restrictions, many boards and commissions are still meeting online. You don’t even have to go to your city or county office to attend a meeting. Why not hop on and see what your local planning and zoning board is up to? You might just be amazed at what power unelected, average citizens have.
Applications for boards and commissions are online and are generally easily accessible. Why not apply today? Many complain about overreaching or unresponsive government, but how many become the solution? Our Constitution proclaims “We the People”, but many citizens choose to be silent observers. Remember, we get the government we elect. However, we also have a way to actively participate through citizen led boards and commissions.
I am convinced that Aunt Bea, from the Andy Griffith Show, was on the local library board. She knew what was happening in her community. She not only knew the inner workings of the library board, but she passed on the idea of civic engagement to Andy and Opie. Perhaps we too should listen to Aunt Bea and get engaged ourselves.
Kathleen Chandler organizes training classes for local government involvement at the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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