ITHACA, NY – Oscar Wilde once quipped, “The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the expanding needs of the bureaucracy.” The City of Ithaca is taking a twist on that idea: they are expanding the bureaucracy in order to restructure its committee system and improve efficiency.

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On Wednesday, Ithaca’s Common Council voted unanimously in favor of forming the Boards and Committees Restructuring Working Group, or BCRWG.

According to Alderperson Donna Fleming, there are currently about 30 different boards and committees, many of which have overlapping missions. In addition, the city has occasionally found it difficult to find enough volunteers to actually staff all the different committees.

While the various boards and committees often have a liaison from Common Council or city staff, they are all volunteer based and serve in purely advisory roles.

The BCRWG will be responsible for creating a better structure that will improve efficiency and communication between the various committees and the Common Council and better utilize both staff and volunteer time. The restructuring may also include consolidating committees with overlapping areas of interest.

Perhaps a testament to the need for a more efficient system, the impetus for this working group actually came from a 2011 report from an outside consulting firm hired by the city. In fact, the report predates Mayor Svante Myrick’s time in office — it’s addressed to former Mayor Carolyn Peterson.

“We now have a committee to study committees… we are where I hoped never to be,” Myrick joked. “It’s a working group, which is of course the result of a task force that we set up to establish a committee.”

Myrick will appoint the new working group, which will include the following members:

  • Two present or former board or committee members
  • Two members of the Common Council
  • Two City staff with familiarity with the City’ s board and committee structure
  • The newly appointed Chief of Staff Dan Cogan

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.