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Santa Rosa seeks to clarify mission of Community Advisory Board

An obscure city board set up to improve communication between Santa Rosa's neighborhoods and City Hall is having an identity crisis.

The 14-member Community Advisory Board was formed in 2003 to be the eyes and ears of the City Council in the community. But it hasn't always worked as advertised.

Council members have questioned the need for the board, which was instituted after voters in 2002 approved changes to the City Charter aimed at increasing diversity in city government.

Board members have also been confused about their role in city government. Are they representatives of their districts? Liaisons with the council? Or there to help neighborhoods organize?

And the public remains largely unaware of the Community Advisory Board, why it exists and how it operates.

"I'll be honest. I didn't know I had a Community Advisory Board," Chanate Road resident John Woodward told a joint session of the board and the City Council Tuesday.

The session was designed to clarify the board's mission and discuss ways of making it more effective.

But after 2 1/2 hours of discussion, plenty was said about the shortcomings of the board, but few concrete ideas emerged about how to fix them.

Council members Scott Bartley and John Sawyer emerged as two of the most vocal critics of the way the board operates today.

"We've never been able to get it to work the way we've wanted it to," Bartley said.


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