Thursday, November 11, 2010
Planning and Zoning Commissioners Fail In Election Of Vice President
The Bylaws of the Planning and Zoning Commission mandate an organizational meeting for the election of officers at their first meeting after a general election. The Commission partially satisfied this mandate at their meeting last evening, unanimously re-electing Les Adams as Secretary and Quentin Phipps as Chair. However, rigid partisanship prevented them from electing a vice-chair.
The election of officers was not on the published agenda, which is set by the Chairman Phipps, together with staff in the City Office of Planning. When Deputy Planner Michiel Wackers informed the Commissioners that they would be electing officers, all seemed surprised. After the meeting, Phipps told me that he had been thinking about the organizational meeting during the week before the general election, but in coming to the meeting, "it just slipped my mind."
After the roll call, Wackers chaired the meeting. The Commission voted to amend the agenda to allow for the election of officers, and then proceeded to hold a 10 minute recess in order to allow the Democrats and the Republicans on the Commission to caucus separately.
The Democrats held their caucus outside of the Council Chambers and (as is their right) refused to allow this reporter to listen.
The Republicans remained in the Chamber, and agreed that they would nominate Catherine Johnson for Vice-chair. Commissioner Les Adams said that the position of chair and vice-chair had never been contentious long ago. He said that after the contentious chair election last year, his conversations with Commissioner Dan Russo led him to understand that there would be a different outcome this year. Adams said, "I'm a firm believer in equity." Johnson said that of the members whose terms expire in 2011, she was the only one who had not held a leadership position, and said it was important "to encourage leadership."
After the caucuses were complete, and Adams and Phipps were unanimously re-elected Secretary and Chair, respectively, the Commissioners held two consecutive elections for Vice-Chair. In both elections, all 3 Republicans voted for Catherine Johnson, and all 4 Democrats voted for Richard Pelletier. Alternate Commissioner Michael Johnson expressed his strong support for Richard Pelletier, eagerly praising his leadership during the past year, "If I did have the opportunity to vote I would have supported Richard Pelletier."
Since any action by the Commission requires a super-majority of 5 out of 7 votes, nobody was elected and the vice-chair election was tabled until their December meeting.
Phipps told me that he hoped that a solution to the impasse could be found that would be considered fair by everyone, "I would want to talk with both my caucus and with members of the other caucus." He declined to speculate on what the solution would be, "At this time I'm not quite sure."