Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Table Dancing

In last week's post about the budget I noted that after nearly 3 whole hours of sitting silently, the commission was too exhausted to deal with a regular agenda that in truth consisted of one thing - appointments to the various city boards that allow interested citizens to advise and participate in subjects of interest to them and to the community.   It's been nearly two years and they have never been able to get around to it.   If I were not so bright and optimistic, I would think they are not interested in hearing from the citizens.   

They did however find nearly 45 minutes to hold a discussion on legal bills.  It did not go well.  In fact, the only thing missing was the theme music from Benny Hill.  At one point, they had three active motions on the floor.  The commissioner who negotiated the legal contract, Jorge Gonzalez, was unfamiliar with its terms.  The village attorney was questioned on the amount and then the commissioners talked over her as she attempted to answer.   The commissioner who sponsored the resolution, Wendy Duvall, was asking the village manager to treat legal as he would any other department reporting to him, not understanding that legal reports directly to the commission for very good reason.    

The concern is valid.   Legal costs are high.  Now they would be a lot less if the commission would do its job and make sure legislation complies with other laws and if the police chief had not illegally fired two officers on the grounds that they are not popular.   But instead of addressing the legals costs, the resolution went after the legal fees, a very different situation.   Specifically it started out as a directive to reduce the retainer charged from $18,000 to $10,000 per month, which was negotiated by Jorge Gonzalez in July.   And it instructed the village manager to do this even though our charter specifically puts the commission in charge of the legal department.   

With a minimal grasp of how the government actually works, the mayor lost control of the discussion and it degenerated into rambling discourses and other motions were haphazardly added.   It was embarrassing and it is completely unclear what finally passed.   

Frankly, the budget hearing was not that tiring.  A short break, a fresh look, and any well led commission would have brought up the question, listened for options and perhaps recommended a course of action.   The commission needs to deal with precisely these sorts of questions in accordance with our laws, charter and their own procedures.  That takes a chair who is able to manage and guide.   You know, like a real city.  

Kevin Vericker
October 2, 2013

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