Back in May, city staff came forward with a proposal to eliminate the city’s Historic and Cultural Preservation Board, Street Naming Committee, Community Trails Committee, Public Nuisance Hearing Board and Building Code Appeals Board, all chaired by community volunteers.

The idea is that rolling each of these board’s responsibilities of making recommendations to the city council on issues pertaining to their particular focus into the Planning Commission’s responsibilities will create cost and time efficiencies for the city as well as those doing business in Highland.

While we understand the appeal of reducing the number of boards and committees businesses and property owners have to interact with while working with the city we appreciate City Council Finance Subcommittee members John Timmer and Larry McCallon’s foresight in requesting to spend more time considering the proposal.

During that first discussion at the May 14 Finance Subcommittee meeting, several issues were brought to light. In the end, it will likely be a question of balancing community participation and practical efficiencies.

These committees give 26 residents the opportunity to be more intimately involved with the city’s governing processes. The meetings they hold give the wider public additional forums in which to have their voices heard by city staff ⎯ in addition to the more commonly attended city council meetings.

As City Manager Joseph Hughes noted, the committees also give the City Council the benefit of assistance from residents with specialized experience and deeply invested interest in their respective areas. This is most evident in the work of the historic and trails committees.

Times have changed since the city first established these boards and their roles may very well warrant reevaluation, but their elimination would represent a major change in the city’s organization. We appreciate the council’s willingness to give it considerable thought while making the decision.

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