After the Planning Commission meeting last Friday, I happened to leave at the same time as Council member, Amy Murray, and her staff. Her legislative aide mentioned my editorial in that morning’s Enquirer about the way the vote was handled on Carl H. Lindner Way. “The reason they rushed it was because of the Christmas party,” he explained, referring to the legendary bash Great American Insurance throws for all its employees every December.
“It’s so confusing,” I complained and then said I’d learned a lot listening to the public hearing on another proposed street name change at the meeting we’d just attended. “We citizens just don’t understand.”
Amy agreed it was puzzling. “I don’t know why that one was in Planning,” she said. “Carl H. Lindner came through my Transportation Committee.”
Bingo. The missing piece.
Before legislation ever gets to City Council for a full vote, it first meanders through a mysterious (and apparently flexible) labyrinth of different committees and mayor-appointed commissioners who give their input and make changes before a final recommendation goes to full Council.
But a Christmas party for thousands is not planned at the last minute.
Mayor Cranley will make the official announcement at that party and he’s had the date on his calendar for months.
Yet the item was added to the Transportation agenda the day before the full Council vote last Wednesday. Nobody even had time to type it on the list they have to pass out at every weekly meeting so the public can follow along.
This was no emergency. It was an intentional strategy to impede citizen input. The administration didn’t take Carl H. Lindner Way through the Planning Committee – the standard route – because Mayor Cranley didn’t want property owners notified ahead of time and he didn’t want to have to invite them to a public hearing. He knew Council Members couldn’t politically afford to vote against a corporate hero, whereas the 5 non-politicians on the Planning Commission would be more sympathetic to citizen concerns.
In death, as in life, men who run big corporations get special treatment. The public would be furious if they could ever figure out how the process really works. He who determines the agenda at City Hall controls the legislative outcome. Last June it only involved a few old buildings from the Lytle Park Historic District as we ran into one unexplained delay after the next, racing the clock before summer recess and the expiration of any protection at all. This time it was a street name. Three days later it was the Wasson Way Land Use Study that was unexpectedly yanked from the calendar after more than a year of work and multiple public hearings. And someday in the not too distant future it will be another emergency vote on yet another abated building heavily subsidized by taxpayers to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
Maybe it’s legal, but it sure doesn’t look like democracy to me.