Mayor Scott Johnson had originally been planning to unveil the committee by the end of last year, but he said he was still waiting on commitments from some members when New Year's came and went, so he decided to wait until Jan. 17th for the State of the City.
"It seemed appropriate," he told me last week.
Well, he might have waited too long for his own good.
At the Monday morning City Council meeting, the seeds of discontent were planted by two members of the City Council.
Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan and Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen both questioned the mayor's role in appointing a Comprehensive Planning Committee, which will be charged with reviewing the city's (wait for it) Comprehensive Plan. That document is basically a blueprint of how the city would like itself to look in the next decade or so.
"It's one of the city's most important documents," Madigan told me a couple hours after the meeting.
She and Mathiesen expressed their concerns about the fact that the mayor is appointing the entire committee.
"I can't find anything specific in our charter that the mayor appoints," Mathiesen said. Both he and Madigan cited Department of State documents which say it is the responsibility of the "legislative body" to appoint a committee or review the Comp Plan themselves.
On Page 16 of the Dept. of State's Guide to Planning and Zoning Laws, it defines the prepreation as follows:
In the city charter, it says:
"The legislative body of the city, or by resolution of such body, the
planning board or a special board, may prepare a proposed city
comprehensive plan and amendments thereto. In the event the planning board
or special board is directed to prepare a proposed comprehensive plan or
amendment thereto, such board shall, by resolution, recommend such
proposed plan or amendment to the legislative body of the city. "
"The Planning Board shall have and exercise the powers and duties as follows:Both Madigan and Mathiesen said they would like the issue to be looked at, though Johnson seemed a little perturbed by the whole thing.
A. At the direction of the City Council, to prepare a City Comprehensive Plan for the development of the entire area of the city."
"I can tell you at this point in time the committee has already been constituted," he said, but added "we can talk about it."
Madigan later said while she hopes the issue can be sorted out "amicably," that "If (City Council members) are legally allowed to appoint members to any commission, I would be surprised if (other City Council members) give that right up lightly. I would not give my right to choose someone so easily."
Of course, in the city code that outlines the mayor's responsibilities (Section 3) has this little tid-bit:
F. Initiation of reviews. The Mayor shall cause a review of the City Comprehensive Plan and City Charter to be conducted periodically. The City Comprehensive Plan shall be reviewed at least every five years, commencing with the effective date of this Charter. The City Charter shall be reviewed at least every 10 years commencing with the effective date of this Charter.
That, to me, muddies the water a little.
Madigan said she was unaware of the law until it was pointed out to her last week (I don't know by who) and that she was unaware that Johnson was planning to unveil his committee members at the State of the City.
I have been talking about his plans to appoint the committee for a couple of months now, but then sadly not everyone reads my blog or articles...
Johnson did not return a call for comment, but Mathiesen evidently did Tuesday morning. I was not yet in to get his call and he is now unavailable, so we'll just have to wait and see what happens at tonight's City Council meeting.