Friday, June 04, 2021

Notes on My First Board Meeting


OK, not really my first board meeting -- I've served on various committees, and this is my second "government" appointment.

The other "government" appointment (local draft board member) had a grand total of one meeting in the eight years I was on it, and that was a training session in how to do the job if the draft ever cranked up. So yeah, that was easy.

But anyone who's served on a political party committee of any kind has a reasonably good idea of what it's like to do the same thing on a government board, and I've done that at every level from county committee to state committee to national platform committee to national committee to national convention (which is, essentially, a short-term, very large committee meeting). There's parliamentary procedure. There's an agenda. There's discussion/debate. There's voting.

A lot of it is, frankly, boring. It may sound very empowering and glamorous to people who have never actually done it, but mostly it's really just the scutwork that keeps any organization operating according to whatever its larger scheme is.

In the case of the Gainesville/ Alachua County Bicycle / Pedestrian Advisory Board, that work involves making recommendations to the Gainesville City Commission, the Alachua County Commission, and the Gainesville Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization with respect to federally funded stuff concerning, you guessed it, bicyclists and pedestrians.

As is usual with being new on a board, I promised myself I'd mostly keep my mouth shut at my first meeting. And, as is usual with me, I wasn't able to to that. I discussed, questioned, made/seconded/voted on motions, etc. Hopefully I did so productively.

A good part of the two-plus-hour meeting was spent deciding whether or not to advise MTPO to adopt its current draft Transportation Improvement Program, draft List of Priority Projects and draft Public Involvement Plan.

The "staff recommendation" on all of those items was, of course, to advise MTPO to adopt them.

And that's what we did, after some discussion of their content. I voted in favor of those motions (in fact, I believe I made at least one of them).

Which is not to say that I support everything in any of them, but all of them had been worked on for a long time before I joined the board, and had presumably been drafted with past input from the board. I was satisfied with the answers given to my questions about them, and the answers to the questions asked by other board members. My expectation is that over the next three years I'll be able to watch the future iterations of these plans as they're developed and perhaps have some input of value to offer.

My experience of being on, and watching, boards tells me that many of them nearly automatically, and without many questions, tend to go with "staff recommendations" on almost everything. I'll do my best to avoid being that kind of board member. 

Will there be a lot involved here that offers opportunities for libertarian advocacy?

Hard to tell, other than perhaps advocating that the board advise against particular projects that look wasteful or unnecessary (the federal funding as a whole is likely an "on rails" kind of thing powered more from the federal end by budgeting rather than from the city/county/MTPO end by requests; it's how it's spent that's more in question).

Old Zen saying: "Before Enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water."

Boards, be they charitable, political, governmental, etc. are the chopping of the wood and carrying of the water. If I can bring some libertarian "enlightenment" to that chopping/carrying I will, but the price of any such potential opportunity is the willingness to chop and carry in the first place.


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