But Council Rules are kinda boring and outside our scope here. So we'll get back to them in a moment.
|Neon at the Grand!|
(But on a Friday, the sidewalk was dark, alas)
The new sign on the Grand is great. On the agenda is an information report regarding the Hearings Officer's decision to permit a couple of sign wings to be enlarged. Once the corner cafe is operating again this could really enliven that corner.
|New median, enhanced crosswalk at 17th and Nebraska!|
(I believe this is the same plan that is perhaps even completed now at 17th and Mill.)
In slightly odd news, the City is filing to initiate Eminent Domain and Condemnation Proceedings on two projects, and one of them involves a parcel owned by Bednarz Holdings, Inc. So is the City having trouble negotiating with a business interest of a City Councilor? Makes you go, "hmm..."
The parcel in question is associated with the Commercial and Kuebler widening project, slated for construction in 2016.
The other project is at the Fisher Road extension to Market Street. Both are auto-centric projects on auto-centric streets, so there's not much more really to say.
The formal appeal on the Battle Creek apartments is on the agenda, and the formal Staff Response is rather brief, I think, as these things go.
|Site plan east of creek: Not enough parking?|
|The letter of appeal: "not enough parking"|
The proposed development provides 373 off-street parking spaces at a ratio of 1.8 spaces per dwelling unit, which is 71 spaces more than is required under the City's off-street parking chapter. Because the proposed development meets and exceeds the minimum off-street parking requirements of the SRC, there is no basis for a reduction in the number of dwelling units.The appeal looks weak. (For previous notes, see here and here.)
The Economic Opportunities Analysis will have a First Reading for formal adoption as a "support document" to the Salem Area Comprehensive Plan.
But the City and the consultant team omitted one of the most important variables. It's a decidedly 20th century document, and a discussion of greenhouse gases is a remarkable omission. (For previous notes see here.)
|EOA-HNA draft Report - Jan 2015|
(graph added from CO2 Now)
- Require advisory boards and commissions to vote to approve requests of staff for major projects that would require more than one hour of staff time (this is the same requirement that applies to Councilor requests of staff time)
- Require requests for exceptions to established Council policies to first be presented to Council, before an advisory board or commission considers or makes a recommendation on a request
- Require that items on an advisory board or commission agenda be within the scope of authority of the board or commission
- Allows Council to conduct a required second meeting of a month on the same date as the first meeting. In rare cases, usually around the holidays in December, there may be a dearth of agenda items for the second meeting of the month. Because the second meeting requirement is in the City Charter, the meeting must occur. This would allow that second meeting to occur on the same day as the first meeting if approved by Council in advance
- Provides procedures for quasi-judicial appeal hearings when the person appealing a decision is not the applicant
Doubling up on concurrent "second meetings" looks like something conducive to funny business without adequate public notice or participation.
The changes to procedures on quasi-judicial appeal hearings looks like it could restrict third-parties from appealing a decision. That one bears a close reading.
Together these don't look all that citizen-friendly.
- Discourages Council member use of non-city email for city business
Under the Boards and Commissions section, check this out:
Even if the board/commission approves a request for more than one hour of staff time, "The City Manager, or the City Manager's designee, retains the authority to not fulfill the request, either in whole or in part, if the request would utilize too much staff time or City resources ..."
The point of city advisory boards is to advise city council. Any attempt to limit expert citizen advice - including advice on exceptions to council policies - defeats the point of having advisory boards. The reality is that advisory boards are usually *much* more familiar with the policies that relate to their board's scope than are city councilors, whose civic purview is comparatively broad and unlimited. I don't have a problem with council being able to override any advisory board vote - council is the ultimate "decider." I do have a problem with efforts to dilute or head-off advice before it reaches council. This is a recipe for less informed decisions - you don't know what you don't know.
- Darlene Strozut, past chair of: Salem Citizen Budget Committee, North Gateway Advisory Board (Salem's North Gateway Urban Renewal Area), Salem Cultural and Tourism Promotion Advisory Board, Highland Neighborhood Association
“The proposed rule changes seem much more expansive than mere housekeeping details, and they don't often seem like things conducive to citizen participation or oversight of City government. They deserve a critical eye.”
Yes, they do deserve a critical eye, if not public outreach, or at least a longer period for public consideration and comment before the Council acts on these proposals. According to the memorandum, the Rules Committee (Mayor P., McCoid, Andersen and Bennett) worked on these amendments for “months” before rising with the results on July 13. If there was any mention in the public record that this work had been undertaken, and why, it was minor.
“I guess if you feel that advisory boards and commissions have been doing a bunch of wasteful and frivolous free-lancing, maybe you think these are necessary.”
Indeed. Sadly, in recent years, and especially as the City has had to cut staff, including eliminating training for boards and commissions, those B&Cs are often only as informed and efficient as the staff assigned to them. Salem has some staff who are very adept at anticipating and resolving conflict. However, staff lacking knowledge and experience in parliamentary procedure tend to resort to authoritarian techniques to handle conflict, e.g., by making a rule, instead of working through it, and busy managers (who may also lack knowledge and experience in parliamentary procedure) tend to go along. Such rules are intended to and usually do increase staff authority, the perception if not the reality that government processes are arbitrary, and the likelihood that only the most passive citizenry will be willing to serve on the City’s B&Cs.
“Doubling up on concurrent "second meetings" looks like something conducive to funny business without adequate public notice or participation.”
Yes, but, considering how much day-to-day City business requires the Council’s stamp of approval, how full (but not exciting) most agendas are, that the agendas are set by staff (Rule 5(b) - “Clerk of Council”), that there can be “no items” on the “second meeting” agenda before a motion to double up is in order, and that such has historically occurred only in the month of December, this amendment is probably benign in effect.
“The changes to procedures on quasi-judicial appeal hearings looks like it could restrict third-parties from appealing a decision. That one bears a close reading.”
The memo states that the change “Provides procedures for quasi-judicial appeal hearings when the person appealing a decision is not the applicant.” But, “the procedure” in question (Rule 16(e)) just limits how long different parties get to speak (applicants and “affected parties” get five minutes longer than non-applicant “appellants”). The place to look for restrictions on rights of appeal is in the particular ordinance, e.g., SRC Chapter 86, where the Council is considering giving appeal rights to anyone filing a timely comment.
Amending Rule 5 to specify the City Manager may comment with the Mayor and Councilors, and group “unfinished” business to “special orders” of business seem benign enough. Same goes for amending Rule 6 to keep non-agenda related mail separate from the material the Council gets to spend every other weekend wading through.
The amendment to Rule 8 provides a warning that a person is out of order before the person can be expelled from the chamber. Seems obvious, even to the inexperienced. (The memo states the amendment is needed to “conform to recent case law.”) More interesting to me would be knowing who the Council’s Sergeant at Arms is. Anybody?
The Rule 15 amendment says people wanting to use slides need to give staff their powerpoint presentations ahead of time, which one would think would be obvious. The Rule 20 amendment is a little concerning. It would allow a public hearing before an ordinance is drafted, which is fine, as long as public comment is going to be accepted after the ordinance is drafted as well.
Rule 22 and 23 are entirely new, and mostly unconcerning, predictable, perhaps borrowed from some other jurisdiction. But Rule 22(h) (“Limits use of email and the internet during Council meetings generally, and quasi-judicial hearings”) is concerning because it begs the question whether any of the Council have engaged in the prohibited conduct, or the prohibition is just “standard.” Probably, we’ll never know, but if Council have been emailing, etc., during public meetings, it is doubtful that the problem is correctable by rule. Of interest is whether or not the rule is intended to be enforced (doubt it). Rule 22(l)(3), prohibiting Councilors from forwarding “information” considered “confidential” is also concerning as overbroad, and is probably unenforceable.
Thanks for the commentary and analysis!
Interesting. Apparently Councilor Bednarz didn't declare a conflict of interest on the Eminent Domain matter!
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