Every city, county, and even special tax districts in Colorado have citizen-led councils and commissions that influence local public policy decision-making. These volunteer positions have, at a minimum, a tax impact on you as a taxpayer, and they often have rule-making power that can directly impact things like your private property rights. If you’ve ever wanted to participate in your local government without getting elected, these boards and commissions are a great way to get involved.
As an example, the Centennial City has nine boards and commissions, including budget, audit and election committees for open space advisory boards 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 Independence Institute intern identified more than five hundred boards and commissions in just eight frontline counties. This did not even include the many special districts such as subway districts, library districts, park and recreation districts, and school districts.
Indeed, there are hundreds of such openings in the state, the local elected officials having the power of nomination to these councils and commissions. “Being on a local council or commission is a perfect way to make a big impact in your community and understand how your local government works,” said Centennial City Councilor Don Sheehan.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one place to find all the tips and commissions you might qualify for. In fact, your home address determines what myriad of local governments and tax districts you reside in. You may live in a particular neighborhood, and the house across the street may be in a completely different neighborhood. A little homework on your part will save you some frustration and open your eyes to the number of different government entities that really impact your daily life. Councilor Sheehan admitted, “While [serving on a commission] can be difficult and even a little frustrating at times, it is very rewarding.
Your city or county website is a place to start looking for local boards and commissions. You would be surprised to see what your local governments are doing. With the 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 get on board and see what your local planning and zoning board is up to? You might be amazed at the power that unelected average citizens have.
Applications for boards and commissions are online and are generally easily accessible. Why not apply today? Many complain about a government that goes too far or does not respond, 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 councils and commissions.
I’m sure Aunt Bea of the Andy Griffith Show was on the local library board. She knew what was going on in her community. Not only did she know the inner workings of the library board, but she passed the idea of civic engagement on to Andy and Opie. Maybe we should also listen to Aunt Bea and get engaged.
Kathleen Chandler runs training courses for local government involvement at the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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