WHAT DO THE Automatic Data Processing Policy Board, the User Charge Review Committee, and the Committee on Quarters, Subsistence and Laundry have in common? They are on the list of nearly 200 boards, committees and commissions affiliated with the District government. And yet they do not answer their telephones - or, as far as can be determined, even exist. Other bodies on the list actually do show signs of life, but little else to justify their existence. This disqueting state of affairs has moved Councilwoman Nadine Winter to convene hearings on March 21 to find out what all the city's boards and commissions are up to these days.
After trying to contact some of the commissions ourselves, we think Mrs. Winter's examination couldn't have come at a better time. We found, for example, that the Citizens Fuel Conservation Committee, created at the height of the oil crisis hasn't met in several years. The Commission on Post-Secondary Education, on the other hand, meets frequently, but it's almost impossible to get an explanation on the telephone about what the 24 commission members do. The Public Space Committee is actually a group of city employees charged with deciding questions such as which streets to close for public events. But they shouldn't be confused with the Space Use Committee, also made up of government employees, charged with assigning office space to District agencies.
No one can say exactly how many boards, commissions and committees there are. Mayor Washington appoints most of the members of these groups, but there isn't an accurate catalogue of those appointments - even though persons who have been deceased for a while turn up on membership lists now and again. Mrs. Winter intends to explore some of these matters in next Tuesday's hearing. She also plans to find out the purposes of the groups and determine which members get paid for their service. There may even be time to examine whether city employees should be appointed to citizen groups in the first place, and whether some groups are not simply local government staff meetings.
There are a number of citizen groups that provide invaluable service to this city: the Zoning Commission, the Board of Trustees of the University of the District of Columbia, the Board of Library Trustees, to name but a few. Hundreds of residents spend countless hours trying to resolve the concerns of local citizens. But it is self-evident that there are other groups that are less productive and ought to be done away with. Mrs. Winter's hearing may be just what is needed to hasten the process.