In a sweeping reorganization of its boards and commissions, the City Council has notified all 53 current appointees that they may be replaced if, as expected, the council declares their seats vacant on March 25.
The move comes in the wake of a council vote to abandon the old system of having the mayor make all appointments and adopt a plan that gives each council member the authority to appoint one or two members to each body. Most appointments would be for one year, instead of four years as had been customary. Appointees would continue to serve without salary.
Final council approval of the ordinance that would establish the changeover is expected Feb. 11.
The change would affect the Parks and Recreation, Planning, Civil Service and Youth commissions, the Board of Library Trustees and the Housing and Urban Development Citizens Advisory Committee. Duties of the Board of Appeals would be assigned to the Civil Service Commission.
To Appoint Equal Number
To give each of the five council members an equal number of appointments, every board and commission would have either five or 10 members.
Mayor Talmage V. Burke said the proposed change was prompted by a charter amendment approved by voters last year to rotate the position of mayor among council members, giving each a nine-month term. Burke said the rotation system would have given some mayors more appointments than others because of the schedule under which board and commission terms expire. So the council decided to revamp the whole system.
Surprisingly, Burke said, none of the commissioners or board members has complained, even though some are expected to lose their positions and all are expected to be accountable to the people who appoint them.
By having most terms run for just one year, Burke said, each council member would have ample opportunity to replace anyone who does not reflect his own views. Burke said some people might decry the loss of independence, but he does not.
"I look at members of boards and commissions as an extension of the council," he said. "I don't think it's a function of boards and commissions to be fighting the council."
Burke added, "I certainly would hope that my appointments would reflect my views."
Burke said he has no problem with any commissioners or board members and, in fact, expects most to be reappointed.
Fred Burkhardt, a planning commissioner, said the proposed change has benefits, but he does have two concerns. The short, one-year terms could be inhibiting, he said, with commissioners always wondering how their actions might affect their reappointment. And, he said, the presence of 10 members on boards and commissions might result in more tie votes.
But Burkhardt said he agrees that commissions should reflect the will of the council. Otherwise, he said, commission decisions can be constantly appealed to the council and reversed, wasting everyone's time and energy.
The Parks and Recreation, Planning and Youth commissions, which all have nine members, would be increased to 10 each under the new plan. The Housing and Urban Development Citizens Advisory Committee would be reduced from 11 members to 10.
All appointees would receive one-year terms except those named to the Board of Library Trustees and the Civil Service Commission. The City Charter specifies that these must have five members appointed to four-year terms.