Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bad Things Happen in the Dark

In the last administration, our commission meetings were to put it kindly free wheeling, more often resembling the Jerry Springer show than a deliberative body. The loudest voices, and often the nastiest, dominated the meetings. Several times it was obvious that some of the commissioners had not only made up their minds on critical votes, but they were not going to share their reasoning with the assembled citizens or one another in a public setting. A favorite tactic was to ambush the commission with a sudden resolution proposed at the meeting rather than on the agenda and pretend the matter was urgent, precluding the opportunity for consideration and deliberation.

The November election was a message to change that. There was no specific issue that dominated the election. It was a more general sense of not wanting to do things the old way, in the dark. Eddie Lim and Corina Esquijarosa were elected for that reason.

The meetings since then have been mostly boring which is a good thing. It's clear to the casual observer that three members of the commission, newly elected Eddie Lim and Corina Esquijarosa along with incumbent Frank Rodriguez, are trying to get this process right. There's resistance to the changes and the meetings have not always run smoothly. There has been confusion over the proper order of resolutions and the way to proceed, which is to be expected. But the commitment of the commission to do things the right way will go a long way.

There are two things that would help the meetings run more smoothly. The City Attorney is also the Parliamentarian of the Commission. The role is to ensure that the meetings run according to city code and Roberts Rules of Order. The City Attorney needs to be more actively involved in guiding the commission and not wait until asked. In the November meeting, we had a substitute who did an outstanding job of precisely that. I would urge the Mayor as chair to request more of the city attorney.

The second is less formal. In Dr. Paul Vogel, the commission has an incredible resource. Dr. Vogel is the institutional memory of the city. He was mayor for 18 years and returned to the commission as a commissioner. (Kind of like how John Quincy Adams was elected to the Senate after being President.) Public service is in his blood and although sometimes his health issues seem to preclude more active participation, I hope the commission takes advantage of his deep knowledge and wisdom. Ask him questions, solicit his opinion and viewpoints. He's not one to put himself forward but don't mistake that for nothing to say.

For now, the big job is to take back the process. To quote the political philosopher, Will.I.AM, "This is your chance. I wanna own it, wanna wanna own it."

Kevin Vericker
January 18, 2011

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