In the comments section of my post about the OHA Board appointments (a lively discussion that I tragically never found time to engage in, btw. I am still hoping to get something up about the discussion of the appointments at the City Council soon.) there were a number of questions about how one gets appointed to various city boards.
Here’s the deal. The City puts out an annual list of anticipated vacancies (PDF). If you’re interested in serving on something, download it and page through. What you’ll find will likely depress you. Most Boards are lousy with vacant seats. It’s sad, really. On the plus side, it means that there are many, many opportunities for you to contribute to Oakland.
The vast majority of Boards and Commissions are simply advisory – that means that unlike the Planning Commission, or the Housing Authority Board, or the Port Board, they have no real power. Everything you say could just get completely ignored by everyone all the time. On the other hand, you could potentially have an impact on the City’s priorities or activities in whatever sphere you choose to serve. If nothing else, you’ll learn a whole lot about one specific subject and might even gain some newfound respect for the genuinely tough job the City has to do.
If, after paging through the list, you find something you think you would like to serve on, the next step is to fill out an application (PDF). Then you send your application, your resume, and a letter of interest to the Mayor’s Boards and Commissions staff person (yes, that is an actual job). The details are all in the application (PDF). I’d encourage anyone who does submit something to follow up with a phone call or e-mail a week or so later, since, in my experience, the office can have a tendency to be…um…unresponsive.
It’s all pretty simple. So now onto the main reason I’m writing about this. Applications are currently being accepted for a super duper important seat. You think Oakland’s government is so corrupt? Well, if you want to do something about it, maybe you should consider joining the Public Ethics Commission.
This is not a position where you sit around bloviating about how the Council is all in the pocket of developers. Public Ethics Commissioners hear complaints filed by citizens about violations of Oakland’s numerous transparency and good government rules and decide what to do about them. They oversee compliance with and enforcement of the Oakland Campaign Reform Act, the City of Oakland Code of Ethics, conflict of interest regulations, lobbyist registration, the Sunshine Ordinance, and so on. You can read all about their duties here.
And what’s it take to do the job? Well, you have to live in Oakland and be registered to vote. You can’t work for the City (now, or for a year after your three-year term expires). You can’t be running for any office. And you can’t have any involvement in any Oakland political campaign (again, now or for a year after you leave your seat) – that means no donations, no precinct walking, no endorsements, no phone banking, no signs in your yard, nothing. You won’t be allowed to have an opinion on the next Mayoral race or whatever new tax the City will inevitably try to push on you next cycle. You have to be totally apolitical, interested in nothing but good, clean government.
If you think you can handle all that, head over to the Commission website and read some more. Check out some of the recent agendas to get a better feel for what meetings are like. If you have questions, call the number there and talk to the Public Ethics staff – they’ve always been really nice and helpful for me. And if you’re still interested, fill out an application (PDF) and turn it in. This application is for a seat appointed by the current Commissioners, not the Mayor. The deadline to apply is October 31st.
It’s real work and it doesn’t pay anything. And you give up a lot to do it. But I know I have tons of wonderful, community-minded readers who genuinely just want Oakland to be a better (and better run) city, and I hope that at least a one or two of you will consider tossing your names in the ring.