(The latest in a series of posts on City government)
A great deal of important City work is done by volunteer citizen-based Authorities, Boards, and Commissions.
Gadfly calls them the ABCs.
Because of the important work the ABCs do, it is crucial that we have the best people serving.
Especially on what he calls the “hot-button” ABCs: Parking, Criz, the Historical Conservation Commission, Planning, Zoning, and so forth.
Gadfly goes to a lot of meetings. He sees a lot of good people doing a lot of good work. In fact, that is what he mostly sees. Gadfly loves this significant exhibition of community involvement. A vision of Gadfly’s Norman Rockwell fantasy world in action.
Take a moment and mentally high-five those volunteer good people doing good work when they could be sitting on their fannies.
But Gadfly has some worries.
You’ve seen him register them once in a while — at the Parking Authority, for instance.
So you have also seen Gadfly — joined with some Council members — calling for tighter oversight of membership on the hot-button ABCs at least, especially by calling for evidence of performance when members come up for reappointment.
The Mayor nominates members for the ABCs. And you can imagine that it is not always all that easy to identify and persuade good people to serve. Good people are very often busy people.
The Mayor nominates people to Council. Gadfly is not sure, but he thinks most times appointments are (or have been) pretty pro-forma, with the Mayor sending only a resume of the person to Council. Gadfly is not sure that the resume is accompanied by a letter of support from the Mayor explaining the person’s qualifications or suitability.
Council’s job is to approve the Mayor’s nomination based on the information provided but also free to do independent interviewing or investigation. As far as Gadfly knows, Council choices are independently arrived at; there is no effort to act in concert — for instance, joint interviews. One can imagine that a number of Council approvals are based on “faith,” faith in the Mayor’s judgment and/or the person’s background demonstrated in a print record.
Then Gadfly has made some noise lately about requiring performance evidence if and when a person comes up for reappointment. To ensure some accountability.
The initial appointment to a hot-button ABCer should be taken very seriously. It should involve more than a resume.
Two new members of the Zoning Hearing Board — a hot-button ABC — are slated for appointment tonight at City Council.
One of the proposed appointees is currently an alternate member of the ZHB and served, in fact, as a voting member on the panel for the Bethlehem Manor case that has been the subject of a half-dozen posts here on Gadfly recently.
Gadfly doesn’t suppose there is a “job description” in the layers of City codes for this ZHB position, but if he were to write one, it would stipulate that members of the ZHB — though they need not necessarily have any relevant professional skills — must be intelligent, independent, objective, fair, and empathetic.
How can we tell if the two proposed appointees tonight exhibit these desirable traits?
One has a record that can be viewed. She ran unsuccessfully for City Council in the May primary.
And her May and June “Campaign Finance Reports” can be viewed on the City web site.
What can we see?
1) The records seem to be incomplete. The June report shows expenditures of $8475.58 from a Schedule III. There is no schedule III. One would like to see how the money was spent. And Gadfly cannot find a total contribution amount that matches the itemized contributions. But this vague paperwork isn’t the big problem. The big problem is what one can easily see.
2) In her contributions, $4500 came from the “Friends of Bryan Callahan.” Gadfly does not think anyone would deny that Councilman Callahan is very “pro-development,” a fact he himself has admitted to Gadfly in personal conversation. In addition, another $4300 in contributions came from people even the inexperienced Gadfly recognizes as associated with developers. Then there is $2000 from Union sources — construction people, building people. The vast majority of her campaign funds taint assurance of independence and objectivity.
Gadfly became aware of the “Friends of Bryan Callahan” contributions at the 11th hour of the primary and wondered aloud here in posts about the ethics of that, but since her Council bid was unsuccessful, he let concern about it slide. But it should be back in view now that she is being selected if not elected to an important City position.
Gadfly sees a BIG RED FLAG here!
Developers and builders are very much interested parties in many Zoning cases.
The evidence would lead a reasonable person to believe that this nominee has strong ties to the developer/builder community.
The evidence would lead a reasonable person to believe that she could not be trusted to be independent and objective.
This person should not be appointed to the Zoning Hearing Board.
Council, please take note!