D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has in recent months sharply reduced vacancies on government boards and commissions, but hundreds of open slots still remain, and a much-touted plan to trim the number of city panels will not be the ultimate antidote for the staffing woes.
A Washington Examiner analysis found that as of May 31, there were 299 vacancies spread across dozens of boards. Gray has submitted 47 nominations for those jobs, but they are pending.
Although the mayor has more work to do, his administration has already cleared a significant backlog. In March 2012, the city recorded 729 vacancies, leaving dozens of panels unable to function because they didn't have enough members.
"It's been hugely important to me, because I happen to believe that the boards and commissions have an important role to play," Gray told The Examiner on Tuesday.
The centerpiece of Gray's effort is a 23-page proposal, which a D.C. Council committee will consider on Wednesday, that would abolish or merge 32 boards.
But that measure has its limits. If lawmakers approve Gray's plan, the changes would eliminate only 58 vacancies, leaving the mayor with 194 spots to fill if the council also confirms all of the nominations he has submitted.
Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells, a mayoral candidate, praised Gray for trying to eliminate obsolete panels.
"The mayor is doing the right thing on trying to winnow the number of boards and commissions that we have," Wells said. "Some of them are outdated."
But Wells also said Gray had to move faster to fill other vacancies.
"The remaining boards and commissions have a function, and it does undercut their function if they're not fully staffed," Wells said.
A spokesman for Ward 4 Councilwoman Muriel Bowser, the only other declared mayoral candidate, did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.
Administration officials have grumbled privately that Adrian Fenty left hundreds of board vacancies when he departed the mayor's office, but Gray on Tuesday explicitly criticized his predecessor.
"I don't think he placed any emphasis on it at all," Gray said. "I don't think the boards and commissions were important to him."
Fenty did not respond to an email seeking comment.