I was following some live tweets of the City Council meeting from Tuesday night and let me tell you, it’s nothing like actually watching it yourself.
I knew the appointments process was going to be crazy, but it exceeded all expectations. There were nine speakers — all that advocated for Dania Alvarez — and one comment I’ve clipped below because it was surprising how upset Planning Board member Lorre Zuppan was because, typically, she never gets that ruffled over anything:
I’m very concerned by the process that’s happened with this nomination because I feel that it is a process of intimidation for sitting volunteers on every board.
To disrespect the effort of a good performing member puts into a council or commission is really, in my opinion, a matter of bullying. Because the reason those members are typically excluded is because they expressed an opinion or a point of view that is not aligned with the person. It suppresses expression on all of the boards because if you speak out of line with the Mayor who’s appointing the members you won’t be reappointed.
That’s Lorre Zuppan who probably — of all the sitting Planning Board members — I would have guessed would be a lock for reappointment under a Trish Spencer administration.
And then this comment by Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft:
I have also heard from a number of Board and Commission members that the Mayor told them that she attends these meetings to see how they vote and wants to appoint people who share her political position. This concerns me as a lawyer because of what I would call a chilling effect. I want to have well qualified individuals serving on our boards and commissions and they don’t all have to agree with my political perspective, but I want independent members who will render objective decisions based on staff reports and that would includes the applicable laws and regulations. Public testimony, meeting with applicants, meeting with the community and all that we do to make a decision rather than voting the way they think the Mayor wants them to vote in order to be reappointed.
Unfortunately these two comments and the other comments (which I’ll try to tackle in a later post) did not move Trish Spencer at all. Who stood by her two nomination after a lackluster Q&A session after which she declared that she was “so impressed” by both candidates.
Lest you are actually convinced that Trish Spencer actually chose the two candidates because she’s “fair and balanced” (her words) I’ll point out that when Jim Oddie moved to separate the other nominations for the Commission on Disability Issues (2 commissioners), Public Art Commission (1 member) , Recreation and Park Commission (2 members), and Transportation Commission (1 member) to put those to a up or down vote sans the Planning Board nomination that’s when the politicking began. Oddie’s motion was quickly seconded by Frank Matarrese. After it was seconded Trish Spencer then asked to remove ONLY Chris Miley from consideration.
Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft pointed that the motion had been made and seconded and called for a vote which Trish Spencer voted against.
Yes, that’s right Trish Spencer voted against her nominations to the Commission on Disability Issues, Public Art Commission, Recreation and Park Commission because she wasn’t able to pull Chris Miley’s nomination for consideration. After all, she had stalled on reappointing Chris Miley who was in the same position as Dania Alvarez: competent and capable commission/board member who had put in the time and was interested in being reappointed by somehow had ran afoul of Trish Spencer. Somehow, in Trish Spencer’s mind, pulling Chris Miley’s nomination would be either (1) leverage to get her two Planning Board picks rammed through or (2) punishment for Jim Oddie (and later Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft) for daring to do their jobs as City Council members and use their best judgement on who should be seated on the Boards and Commissions as opposed to simply rubber stamping Trish Spencer’s picks.
I’m not sure if that falls under “fair” or “balanced” in Trish Spencer’s world.