Five months ago I wrote a series of posts about why it is crucial to understand how the committee system works at City Hall. I started with the issue that raised the question initially: Anatomy of a Street Name Change, followed it up with my best guess as to how the process worked in Politicians Understand How Important Committees Are – Do You? – and then had to do one of my famous flip-flops as I gathered more information, I Stand Corrected, Happily So.
The bottom-line of what I finally figured out was this, straight from the email account of Jay Kincaid, the mayor’s chief of staff:
It is up to the Mayor’s discretion which legislation goes through which Committee and it can change.
We are now smack-dab in the middle of another real-life lesson in why it’s important to understand the Committee process. And this time the issue at stake is a lot more important than a silly little name change. On Tuesday Mayor Cranley decided he didn’t like the vote by the Neighborhood Committee against a developer in Madisonville who wants to build a 25 million-dollar luxury apartment complex. So he scrapped that decision and sent the issue to another committee, Economic Growth & Infrastructure, chaired by Christopher Smitherman, with only two other members, Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn.
Will the vote be any different when it goes before Economic Growth & Infrastructure?
Of course it will. They will approve the amendment that is opposed by the Madisonville Community Council and the neighborhood development corporation. Why is it opposed by people who actually live and work in this neighborhood? Because the developer has not delivered on the agreement he signed with the city on December 6, 2007. But for some mysterious reason the Mayor believes that we can trust the guy to do what he says he’s going to do this time and it’s all going to be great for everybody. The residents of this community just don’t understand. All development is good, the bigger the dollars on the ordinance the better. Obviously, John Cranley with his professional experience as a real estate attorney (and a developer in Price Hill), with his political backers from the development industry, must understand the facts better than the members of the Neighborhood Committee, better than the residents who show up month after month to volunteer their time to make Madisonville a better place to live.
Members of Economic Growth & Infrastructure will vote with the Mayor advancing the Ordinance to full Council. Full Council is represented on the Neighborhood Committee, so we can assume they will once again vote against the amendment to the original development .What frightens me is the Mayor’s ability to veto, a right he exercised recently on the Over-the-Rhine parking permit agreement. One man can over-ride the people who live in a neighborhood and the judgement of the public officials elected to represent our city.
I talk to the people who work in administration at City Hall on a regular basis and these are not easy jobs. Just last week a woman described her hour-long conversation with a citizen frustrated with a city policy, but this young, energetic public servant understood that it was her job to be the human voice on the other end of that call, to listen and care. Democracy is a pain in the neck. It’s messy. And it takes a lot of work. Of course, our corporate executives get frustrated with how cumbersome the process is, but our objectives as a community are richer and more complex than any financial bottom line.
City government is not a corporation and the Mayor is not a CEO. Let the process of democracy run its course without interference. Let it do its job.