City of Lafayette

Lafayette, CA
Round
Spring-Summer 2016
Project Location
Lafayette, CA
Project Type
Full team
Project Focus
Strategic Planning
Organization Type
Government or Public Services

Organization

First farmed in 1847, Lafayette was incorporated in 1968 primarily to maintain its rural character. Its population of 20,000-25,000 has not changed substantially over the last decade. At the time of incorporation, paid city staff was quite small due to Lafayette’s almost unique status as a ‘no-tax’ city. This status dictated that Lafayette rely heavily on citizen-volunteers to provide services and policy through reliance on a robust organization of commissions, committees, and task forces. In 1990, the no-tax limitation was largely relieved allowing for a more extensive city staff, but the commission structure has not substantially changed.

Situation

Since 1990, county tax money has been put towards a staff of forty full-time and thirty part-time employees, but the commission structure has never been thoroughly reviewed. Due to changes in statutes which impact both commission operations as well as the work of those commissions, the commission structure has become more expensive and cumbersome to administer. A review of the functions and organization of this system is long overdue.

Project Objectives

The ACT team was asked to determine if/how the commission structure can be modified to better serve the needs of the City, as well as to make recommendations to the City Council for potentially improving outcomes while balancing the City’s interest in efficiency and preserving Lafayette’s long tradition of participatory governance.

Project Overview

The ACT team approached the project in a handful of ways:

  • Reviewed existing City information regarding commission
  • Surveyed commissioners
  • Interviewed city council staff, as well as leaders in other similar cities
  • Researched advantages and disadvantages of commissions, best practices, cost data, and trends impacting cities

Key Recommendations

  • Keep most non-advocacy commissions with little change
  • Transform advocacy commissions to non-commission status
  • Improve administration of commissions, including staff roles, training, responsibilities, control, and communications
  • Examine term limits, appointment strategy, and on-boarding
  • Deal decisively with transparency issues
  • Look at role and structure of the Design Review Commission
  • Evaluate charter, structure, function, and management of Circulation Commission

Key Conclusions

Commissions are an important part of the City of Lafayette. However, given the evolution in the City since commissions were first established, some changes are beneficial. As a result, a commission framework, selected changes, and some enhancements can lead to improved management and effectiveness of commissions while maintaining the tradition of participatory governance.

Final Report Outline

  • Project background
  • What we did
  • Setting the scene
  • Findings
  • Recommendations
  • Appendix