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Thursday, January 03, 2008

City Council Farewell and Reorganization Meetings

Out with the old, in with the old and new...

Last night City council held two meetings. The beginning of the session was the farewell meeting of the City's Third Class City Code Council. The ending was the reorganization meeting for the City's first Home Rule Charter Council.

The evening was mostly ceremonial. The only uncomfortable moments swirled around the appointment of Pam Panto to the newly-made (Home Rule Charter) Council seat.

Now, let me just interject some for-the-record editorial...

For me, the issue has never been Pam Panto serving on Council. The issue is Pam Panto being APPOINTED to City Council WHILE her husband is in-charge of it. As I said to Mrs Panto on election night, it would be different and less controversial if she ran in two years.

Appointments to political positions are arguably the most abused of all political processes. We see it time and time again. Just this last cycle we saw it in D.C. (remember the fine job Brownie did in Louisiana?) and we got a good slaterin' of it at County Council with the appointments of McClure and Branco (the party politics choke hold).

It would have been a hugely symbolic gesture if we could have avoided the appointment of Pam Panto as an issue. It would have made it obvious to any doubters that power was not an issue. As I said to WFMZ, "I know and trust the Pantos and so do hundreds of others, BUT there are a lot more people that have no idea what they are like personally." So for the Pantos to say things like "we're individuals and we think for ourselves" works fine for me, but what about everyone else?

If someone like John Stoffa (whom I do not know personally) told me to trust him enough to appoint his wife (whom I also do not know) to County Council, should I just turn off my scrutinizer and say OK because of his words?

Bottom line. Liking someone is not enough for me to allow them to do something that I would not allow someone I did not know, like, or trust to do.

I accepted the fact that Pam Panto was going to get appointed. And I am fine with it, because I like her and respect her a lot. Is that enough?

What I did not like was the way that Council handled the voting. Nominating one candidate from a field of five (when you have to favor two anyway) injures the democratic notion of one-man one-vote. It creates one-candidate no-vote. The Charter Commission had the foresight to protect Council members' votes from losing significance by instituting the rolling roll-call (the voting order rotates through the members). And, one more thing, when a vote is of that magnitude it would serve us all a lot better if everyone made a statement with their vote. Last night's voting was very discouraging. It was uncomfortable when only one person was nominated the first time, but it was insulting when Jeff Warren nominated Ken Brown. Hmm, the new guy appoints the Vice Mayor. That was a demonstration of power that I hope to never witness in city Hall again.

OK, I wish only the best to our new Council and the Mayor. Mayor Panto's vision for the city is shared by us here at EU.

One more, one more thing... I am officially never giving anymore TV interviews. two minutes of talking about the Charter gets me 10 seconds of somewhat out of context airtime. And as most of you know I can hardly afford the 10lbs that TV adds.

Farewell Session Audio(30 minutes 30 seconds 2.49Mb)

Reorganization session Audio(52 minutes 12 seconds 5.97Mb)

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