If you are the kind of person who wants to get involved with city government or community volunteer work, a city board or commission should be the perfect on-ramp. The City of Fishers website reads:
In reality, citizen applications are not reviewed or even acknowledged. Appointments to city boards and commissions in Fishers are made behind closed doors and current appointments are just blindly renewed for another term. If you are one of the dozens of citizens who applied, you are not being considered.
Back in January 2021, I demonstrated to the City Council that this problem needed to be fixed. I reviewed the makeup of all the Fishers boards and commissions at that time and found an egregious lack of diversity. For example, only 20% of all appointments are women. Since these appointments lack transparency and fail to consider citizen applications, there is zero opportunity for more women to serve. New ideas will never enter the room if seats at the table are only offered to the people currently sitting in them.
At that time, 47 citizen applications were received. 47 people wanted to serve. None were considered. The city did not recruit citizens to apply. In short, the City Council’s Republican majority did not want new citizens participating in these boards and commissions.
How did the City Council majority respond when I flagged this concern and made a recommendation to evaluate current appointees and open up future appointments? They said absolutely nothing.
Our community’s local news blogger, Larry in Fishers, commented on this after my remarks at the January 2021 meeting. He said, “It concerns me that city council appointments to boards and commissions fail to reflect that diversity of today’s Fishers.”
A year later, a taskforce of selected city councilors was created to evaluate all city committees and consider creating a new Rules Committee. The taskforce’s efforts were commandeered by the Republican majority. They recommended giving full authority to one person, the City Council President, to independently make all the appointments to boards & commissions. Thankfully, that proposal was defeated.
The Indianapolis Star reported, “A proposal to give the Fishers City Council president final say on appointments to boards and commissions ran into resistance this week by (the two Democrat) councilors who said it was secretive, unnecessary and fails to increase diversity on the citizen panels.”
Finally, in January 2022, a Fishers City Council standing Rules Committee was formed. The purpose of the new Rules Committee is to recommend the appointments to city boards and commissions. Finally, a transparent and formalized appointment process would be created!
Not so fast. Although created in January, the committee didn’t conduct their first meeting until December. When the committee met for the first time to consider the 2023 appointments to city boards and commission, the Rules Committee meeting lasted only 5 minutes!
The Rules Committee approved a draft of 2023 appointments to city boards and commissions at their December 15, 2022 meeting. The city attorney prepared that draft and the committee approved it as presented. Each of the appointments in the draft was a renewal of the current appointee.
No new appointees were considered. Many applications were submitted by citizens this year who wanted to be considered for these appointments, even though the city did not promote this opportunity. These applications were not reviewed by the committee at their meeting.
Who in our community gets picked to serve on a City of Fishers Board or Commission? Not you.
Not unless you already serve on a board or commission. And that can really explain why there is a lack of diversity in these appointments again. This is unacceptable.
I have directed chairperson Selina Stoller to reconvene the Rules Committee, fix the errors on the appointment recommendations, consider all of the new applications and review the current roster of appointees. In addition, I offered this example of a best practice for Fishers to adopt. A City of South Bend ordinance includes simple procedures for appointing citizens to city boards and commission. These new procedures would be a big improvement in transparency for Fishers.
In conclusion, the City of Fishers is the 6th largest city in the state. We are looked upon as a leader, one of the few bright spots in Indiana. Our city government practices here should be precise, transparent and thoughtful. It’s not hard.
It is clear from this two-year-long journey that the current city administration and majority of the city council do not take the responsibility board and commission appointments seriously. The Republican majority is determined to control these appointments and have no concern about a lack of transparency. They are not serving the entire community. They are serving themselves and hope you don’t notice.
Thankfully, the appointments do not have to be finalized until January 17, 2023. There’s still time to do it right. And, it requires more than a five minute meeting for the Rules Committee to fulfill its responsibility.
Fishers residents, if you’d like to be considered for an appointment to the City of Fishers board or commission, please complete the online application. We must try to make our city better and better represent the people who live here. I’m here, fighting for this with you.
UPDATE: At the January 17, 2023 City Council meeting, the citizen appointments for 2023 city boards and commissions were finalized. I voted NO because each appointment was renewed with the person that had currently served in that seat. When I asked Selina Stoller, city council member and chair of the Rules Committee, about the evaluation and appointment process, she said that “…we have always allowed people to renew their (seats) and this allows us to develop community leaders.” I point out again that citizen applications are not reviewed or even acknowledged. Current appointments are just renewed for another term. Seats at the table are only offered to the people currently sitting in them. This closed and shady practice does not develop community leaders. It develops only one thing: the Republican majority’s ongoing stranglehold on all aspects of our local government. Under Republican leadership, Fishers’ City Council suffers from a lack of transparency that permeates our local government and purposefully ignores citizen’s voices.