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Response to PLAN-Boulder on Boards and Commissions


photo courtesy City of Boulder

Letter to Boulder City Council sent on March 2, 2012

(In the Blue Line web site) I read the recent letter from PLAN-Boulder County Board of Directors addressed to the Mayor and the Boulder City Council suggesting that city boards and commissions not “be overloaded with development professionals.”  I believe that this is a gentle way of recommending that these professionals not be appointed.  I take this opportunity to critique the letter as part of my support for appointing design professionals on boards and commissions.   I am a retired architect and was on the Planning Board and Landmarks Board for five years and speak from that experience.

“Professional judgments are provided by city staff. ” (Quotes are from PLAN-Boulder County’s letter.)

Not so, the city staff are professional administrators.  They also craft the zoning zone code to meet the intent of the City Council who is responsible for initiating policy and code. The staff’s role is not to initiate policy.  The role of the boards is to consider policy issues and design projects and then make recommendations to the decision makers, the City Council.  Here design professionals have been effective in raising perceptive questions to the staff which often help other board members formulate their questions.  Thus this elevates the level of the board’s discussion by clarifying issues.


Staff and the City Council are in need of feedback by the community in a representative government.  Design professional board members are also members of the community and as such, are expected to state their opinion.  My experience is that an individual design professional’s opinion may differ from other design professional’s opinions in much the manner that any citizen’s opinion differs from another citizen’s viewpoint. An appropriate design professional shares the goal of all appropriate citizen board members of moving Boulder toward always being a great place to live.


I agree that the city’s decision process should reflect the entire community.  Therefore there should be a combination of qualified non-design professional citizens as well as qualified design professionals on appropriate boards and commissions.


“The best that we can hope for is to have people who are committed to make sound decisions based on the best information available at the time.”  I agree heartily with this statement by PLAN-Boulder County.  Design professionals can contribute to the soundness of a board’s decisions.


PLAN-Boulder County wrote: “It is desirable to have members of the lay public on boards…”   Yes, I agree with the importance of having “members of the lay public” on boards and commissions.  Design professionals bring their individual opinion along with professional interaction with consumers, the citizens who are affected by the city codes.  Any board member who has built-in biases and is not open minded is not an appropriate board member.   This section does not argue against including any design professional on boards and commissions.


PLAN-Boulder County wrote: “The boards and commissions are training grounds for future elected and appointed positions.”      The boards and commissions are not primarily training grounds for future elected and appointed positions.  Their full attention should be on the issues of the board or commission that they are on.   They should not be influenced to make a decision meant to benefit their future plans for a higher office.

In summary, I support design professionals being on boards and commissions.

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