Three Salt Lake City Council members whose districts are underrepresented on city boards and commissions say they plan to watch board appointments more carefully to ensure their constituents get a voice in shaping city affairs.
`I think that needs to be looked at," said Keith Christensen, who represents District No. 7. "I wasn't aware it was skewed so badly."The Deseret News reported Monday that a computer-assisted analysis of city boards and commissions shows they are grossly unbalanced geographically and by gender.
There are 20 city boards with a total of 161 seats; 156 of those seats are currently filled.
Only 18 people from Christensen's district, which includes the Sugar House and Arcadia neighborhood councils, serve on city boards. By contrast, 30 people from District No. 6, which includes most of the neighborhoods along the city's east border, hold board seats.
"There are equally qualified people throughout the city," Christensen said. "I think we need to watch these appointments and balance it out over the next few years."
Christensen also voiced displeasure with the number of non-residents on city boards, including the Airport Authority, and said he expects the City Council will move to correct that. Twenty-six non-residents sit on city boards.
Paul Hutchison, the council member for District No. 2, said part of the imbalance in his area stems from the fact that "it's very difficult to find people to serve."
Only five residents of the district, which includes Poplar Grove, Glendale and a portion of the People's Freeway neighborhood councils, hold board seats.
Ted Wilson, a former Salt Lake City mayor and now director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, sympathizes with that difficult task, which largely falls to the mayor.
"In some parts of town, for economic or cultural reasons, it's not as easy for people to serve," Wilson said. "That's where you've got to have proactive staff members seeking these people out."
In a city of 165,000 residents, balancing the equation doesn't mean sacrificing talent or ability just because the search is broadened, Wilson said.
Stuart Reid, who represents Council District No. 1, said the findings of the Deseret News' analysis are symptomatic of the larger fact that his constituents are often overlooked in the grand scheme of things. His district includes the West Pointe, Rose Park, Jordan Meadows and State Fairpark neighborhood councils. Thirteen residents of the area sit on city boards.
"I'm going to be much more vigilant in looking over appointments and terms. I just had no idea there was the difference in numbers," Reid said.