First, I’d like to thank The Ottawa Herald, particularly Doug Carder for the excellent job he does in reporting the city news beat. His articles are accurate and well written.
Secondly, I’d like to address Richard Warren’s March 22 Herald letter to the editor.
I truly value the service of our public board volunteers. And Warren is a good example of an excellent public volunteer — well informed, thoughtful and insightful. He is an asset to our community and I consider him a friend. Having served on public volunteer boards myself, I understand and also agree with where he was coming from.
As many times is the case, the situation is more complicated than the brief article might lead a reader to understand. I certainly did not mean that I expected our appointees the Ottawa Recreation Commission board to continuously check with us on every issue, but it is imperative that all ORC board members keep the lines of communication open between the members of the ORC and their appointing bodies, especially on large issues.
The ORC is unique to most boards to which the city appoints representatives. We do not directly appropriate funds to it (as with the Ottawa/Franklin County Economic Development or Ottawa Main Street Association) and have no staff member advising it (as the planning commission or airport board), so we therefore have no direct oversight or “claw-back” with them. The ORC board is an autonomous body making public decisions without direct accountability to the voting, tax-paying public. Their accountability is funneled through the elected officials on the school board and the city commission making us indirectly responsible for their decisions without direct input. The city, however, provides facilities worth millions of dollars for their use — swimming pool, ball diamonds, playgrounds, soccer fields and the Don Woodward Community Center, etc. In addition, we are tasked with strategic planning for future recreation venues (parks, tennis courts, etc.) without having direct input with ORC functions.
Although the school board provides the funding conduit for the rec commission, they have no direct oversight either, and are in a similar situation.
I actually have been approached by frustrated residents urging us to consider doing away with the ORC all together and to take control of the function as a city department thereby creating more control and direct oversight. It’s an old issue. One of my first involvements in volunteering for the city was 10-plus years ago as an appointment by then-Mayor Deb Henningsen to serve on the Mayor’s Recreation Task Force exploring this very issue.
Earlier this month, both the school board and city commission each independently considered appointing one of their own elected officials to the rec commission, but, in the end, we both decided to stick with the present system and strongly urge our appointees to seek our input.
It’s an imperfect system, but it’s the one we have. I would welcome any input from our residents on how to tweak the current system to make it work better. It is my desire to provide the best service for our residents that we possibly can.
— Blake Jorgensen, Ottawa city commissioner/mayor pro tem