Is Clojure core project management frustrating for small contributors? Definitely! I also think that would be the case for most similar projects.
We must not forget that Clojure is a very young language. The core team is still getting used to running a project of this nature while continuously improving it. Also the recent move from Assembla to JIRA clearly doesn't help for now, but I'm confident that things will get more streamlined in the ((hopefully) near) future. I've personally stopped trying to contribute to core/contrib because of the slow process and JIRA (which I've not spent time learning yet (not even sure I've got the right permissions)) so that I can concentrate on libraries. One thing that is really annoying tough is that the whole patch submission process must go through the centralized issue tracker, bypassing github which I think is much better for smaller changes (and even getting quite good for the whole process).
P.S.: One sure thing is that Lau is always good at driving traffic to his blog! ;-)