City to Weigh Cost of Boosting Diversity on Its Boards and Commissions

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Scott Ball / Rivard Report

San Antonio Chief Equity Officer Zan Gibbs speaks to the Community Health and Equity Committee.

The City of San Antonio will consider funding enhancements to the application process for its public boards and commissions this year after an analysis found that most of these groups do not reflect the demographics of the city. 

That is likely a symptom of barriers to the application process, said the City’s Equity Officer Zan Gibbs.

“Women and people of color are appointed to boards and commissions similar to the percentages of which they apply,” Gibbs told the City Council’s Community Health and Equity Committee on Wednesday. “So there wasn’t really a gap there. What we found was that women and Hispanics do not apply to serve on boards and commissions in proportion to their composition of the city of San Antonio’s population. So it wasn’t so much about the selection process, it was more about the application process and potential barriers related to interest [in] applying in the first place.”

The Equity Office, Office of Innovation, and the city clerk’s office identified 18 recommendations that will be developed into an implementation plan by the city clerk, who handles applications. Those include improving the website,  better awareness efforts around vacant positions, and translation of applications into Spanish.

Click here to download the final report listing the recommendations.

Implementing these new processes will have a price tag, said Brian Dillard, chief innovation officer, as the city clerk’s office will need additional resources.

The city clerk should return later this year with an implementation plan, said Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7), chair of the Health and Equity Committee. “At that point, the budget will have been adopted and we’ll know what resources are available.”

City Council will consider the fiscal year 2020 budget draft on Thursday and will adopt a final budget in September. This initiative might be too late to include in that budget, but midyear budget reviews and other funding adjustments might arise later that could allow the Council to fund implementation.

The review was initiated in January 2018 when Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) asked City staff to study the application process and current membership and come up with solutions.

Today 54 percent of board and commission members are men and 36 percent are Hispanic, but San Antonio’s population is 51 percent women and 64 percent Hispanic.

Out of the more than 80 boards and commissions, 52 were included in the Office of Equity’s analysis because they don’t have restrictions around appointments and seats. “The 52 represented here are the boards and commissions that do have a selection process,” Gibbs noted.

This initiative represents a continual upgrade of the application process, City Clerk Leticia Vacek said, that her office has been working on for years.

“There are changes being made all the time,” Vacek said. “This is something that is constantly looked at. … Our [system] has been tweaked and is, of course, more sophisticated than other products.”

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