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Davis, California

Thursday, April 18, 2024

City recruits for advisory commissions

Davis residents, UC Davis students invited to help plan city’s future

In Davis, advisory commissions promote the preservation of the city’s natural resources, advise park and recreation matters, advocate educational anti-discrimination activities and make public art recommendations. This month, the city encourages citizens 18 years of age and older to apply for these volunteer commission positions, through which they will make recommendations to Council about their given subject areas.

Those interested can choose from 11 specialized commissions: bicycling, transportation and street safety, civic arts, finance and budget, historical resources management, human relations, natural resources, personnel board, recreation and park, senior citizen, social services and tree.

A city press release promises that serving on a city commission means helping plan Davis’ future and describes commissions as a conduit for citizen input.

“Commissions […] provide an important avenue for determining the community’s feelings about issues and extending the reach of the democratic process,” the press release reads.

Mayor Brett Lee echoed this idea when discussing why commissions are important.

“They do outreach to the community, and also [they] have the ability to sort of dig in depth on a few specific things,” Lee said. “For instance […],  when there’s a new development built, we plant trees, and what type of tree should we plant? This would be a perfect thing for trees commission to dig into.”

According to Lee, commission service is open to those with various levels of experience with the commission’s subject. Recreation and park, for example, might have someone with a graduate degree in planning and who has studied recreation, as well as someone who has firsthand knowledge of the parks at which their children play.

“It’s good to have some people who have some academic or professional background in the area, but it’s also important to have people who are more enthusiasts in nature,” Lee said. “I think that if the commission is too heavily weighted toward academic or practical, or the flip side […], then it doesn’t make as good of a commission. We kind of aim for a diversity of experience and just also in terms of ages and backgrounds and things like that.”

UC Davis students are welcome to apply, and some currently serve on commissions — either independently, or through ASUCD, which appoints students to serve on commissions directly. For example, students have been appointed to the Unitrans Advisory Committee and the Police Accountability Commission by ASUCD instead of through the typical recruitment process.

Lee recommended that students apply if they are planning on remaining in the Davis area for at least the next few years.

“Obviously, we hope that [current UC Davis students] are going to stay for a while, because it takes a little bit of time to get up to speed,” Lee said.

Georgina Valencia, who serves on the social services commission, also encouraged student involvement. Valencia said this is a beneficial opportunity for students who want to understand how local government works, adding that it can also serve as a step toward a career in politics.

Although Valencia has not worked with UC Davis students, she said she would like to and suggested more collaboration with the UC Davis campus. Valencia also explained what prospective commission members can expect from the experience.

“I think there’s times when it feels really good, and there’s times when it feels really frustrating,” Valencia said. “Whoever decides to serve on a city commission does so because they see somewhere where there could be change.”

Valencia elaborated on some of the positive and difficult parts of her experience. The local government’s slow pace and the process of familiarizing oneself with governmental processes can take some time to adjust to, a challenge Valencia identified. Among the positive, Valencia counts the chance to hear from community members who want to present opinions about agenda items.

“I think that can be really rewarding to get to engage with people that way,” Valencia said.

With the exception of the personnel board — which works on an “on call” basis — commissions meet monthly. Lee estimates most meetings take about three hours, with about three hours of preparation time required.

“They’re volunteer positions — they’re not paid — but most people I’ve talked to feel like they get a lot out of it in terms of what they learned from being involved, [and] helping move the city forward,” Lee said.

The application period closed on May 20, but applications may still be accepted within a short amount of time after its end. Otherwise, those interested can look out for the next recruitment period this fall. Applications can be downloaded, or picked up at the city clerk’s office at City Hall.

Written by: Anne Fey — city@theaggie.org


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