The city of Madison has some 80 committees, commissions and boards composed mostly of private citizens who draft, debate and refine important city policies.
But, in order for the Common Council to consider commission proposals, they have to be sponsored by an alder - usually the one who serves on it.
Three commissions - Affirmative Action, On People with Disabilities and Equal Opportunities - would like to have the power to go directly to the council, without a sponsor.
"It creates another door for underrepresented people in our community to take concerns to the council," says Christian Odom, president of the AA Commission. "It gives us the ability to be heard on the council floor."
The idea didn't come up because the commissions are unhappy with the alders. Rather, Odom calls it a measure for "a day when our commission may have an alder who may not agree with the commission."
Ald. Mike Verveer says he's keeping an open mind. "But unless they have a strong case, I don't see this going very far with the council. It seems to me that with 20 alders and the mayor, you can always find someone sympathetic to your cause."
There are already some exceptions to the sponsor rule, says City Attorney Michael May. He introduces an ordinance every year to clean up mistakes his office finds in the city code. And the Public Works and Plan commissions and the Personnel Board have the power to go directly to the council in some matters.
In order for the commissions to get this power, they'll need a council member to sponsor their proposal. Ald. Brian Solomon, who sits on the EOC, says he's leaning toward sponsoring it.
"That doesn't mean I'd vote for it," Solomon says. "But I'd like it to see the light of day."