If a neighborhood is to remain vibrant, its residents must feel they have a say in city politics - that their opinions are sought and taken seriously. Unfortunately, too many Salt Lake City areas are being overlooked when it comes to appointments on boards and commissions that make vital decisions.
Deseret News reporter Brooke Adams shed light on this problem earlier this week after gathering information on all city board appointments and using a computer database to examine them.Among other things, she found that only five of the city's 156 board members are from the Poplar Grove, Glendale and People's Freeway areas combined. Those neighborhoods are on the city's west side.
By contrast, 36 board members come from the more affluent Capitol Hill and Avenues areas, and 51 come from other east-side areas, including Yalecrest, Bonneville Hills and Oak Hills. The city has even gone beyond its borders to fill positions. Twenty-five of the appointees live in other cities.
Mayor Deedee Corradini appoints board members with support of the City Council, but she shouldn't bear all the blame for the current imbalance. She inherited much of the current configurations from past administrations. She also is following a city tradition of allowing board members to serve two terms before considering replacements.
To her credit, she has made diversity by gender, race and geography a stated goal when finding new appointments.
While diversity is desirable, it shouldn't be the overriding factor when seeking applicants for a position. However, the mayor should go out of her way to find candidates from neighborhoods that traditionally are overlooked, especially when it comes to filling boards that deal with issues of importance to those areas.
These important positions include spots on the nine-member Library Board. Currently, three City Council districts are completely unrepresented there. Library patrons from these areas may feel justified in complaining that their branches are being overlooked as funds are spent and decisions are made.
Similarly, one council district is completely unrepresented on the city's Planning Commission, which considers important zoning matters.
Officials in the mayor's office said they are working to correct these inequities as new vacancies are filled. To speed the process, the mayor should abandon the two-term tradition. Also, the practice of finding board members outside city boundaries should stop.
These changes would provide a needed voice for many Salt Lake residents and it likely would prepare many future civic leaders from neighborhoods that now are overlooked. Ultimately, the entire city would benefit.