Committee agendas in Wonderland
Being lost is not always a bad thing. My mother was an intrepid global traveler. To her, getting lost meant adventures along the way. Along comes GPS. The only problem with a GPS system is you need a destination. Without one, it may as well be a baloney sandwich.
Remember Alice in Wonderland? Alice asks the Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" The Cat says, "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to." Alice did not “much care where,” to which the Cat said, “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
Being lost and not knowing where you “want to get to” are opposites. Lost means you have a destination. Individuals, businesses and governments operate under the same principle: you need a destination or nothing happens.
The launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957 led to President Kennedy announcing the goal of sending an American to the moon before the end of that decade. We had an agenda and we succeeded.
In contrast, University Heights City Council committees seem to be more like Alice. Public records show that since 2008, committee meetings rarely take place and the same agendas are still with us.
Council committee meetings are the nuts and bolts of the legislative process. Voters have the opportunity to be part of the process in these public meetings. Committees present recommendations to council. When council votes yes, the mayor begins work to make it so.
At the 20 council meetings held each year, the mayor requests reports from committee chairs. Public records show that for 64 of these meetings, since 2008, most said, “No report, Mayor.” Since Jan. 2008, five current council members have served on these committees.
Building Committee, Vice-Mayor Frankie Goldberg, chair. Six meetings recorded since January 2008. The agenda item “Review Section 8 housing, vacant properties/foreclosures” appears 60 times. The question arises, if not discussed in committee, is it ever discussed? If yes, where and what are the results? “No report, Mayor.”
Civic Information, Frank Consolo, chair. Three meetings recorded since January 2008. The following agenda items “Review citizen advisory committee,” “Website, e-mail, cable TV, Internet, publications” and “Advertisements in city publications,” appear 60 times. Added in 2010 is “Joining a senior network in another community.” What are the results? “No report, Mayor.”
Finance, Steven Sims, chair. Council allocated $2,000 to a March 15, 2011 special council retreat. Vice-Mayor Goldberg said, at the retreat, “I would love a full-time grant writer” with the other four councilmen appearing to agree. “Part-time grant writer” has been on the Finance Committee’s agenda since January 2008, until it mysteriously dropped off in 2010. Why allocate $2,000 for a special retreat to discuss this and not address it in committee? Where is the committee report?
Debt policy has been on the agenda since January 2008. Cities have capital budgets and use debt to buy the big things. We borrowed $800,000 to pave University Parkway in 2009.
Why borrow $800,000 for one project, but not others—an ambulance/squad vehicle at $150,000; computerize the building department at $10,000; refurbish a truck for $5,000? These are on hold because debt policy sat in Finance Committee from October 2007 until it mysteriously disappeared from the agenda in 2010. Why?
Today’s finance vision for our future is contemplating a “Contract with Neopost for the new postage machine.” Again, “No report, Mayor.”
Governmental Affairs, Kevin Murphy, chair 2008-09. There is no record of meetings in 2008 or 2009. “No report, Mayor.”
Recreation, Frankie Goldberg, chair 2008-09; Kevin Murphy, chair 2009-11. Three meetings recorded in 2008, none since. Agenda items “Study new recreational activity,” “Explore regional community recreation center,” “Pocket parks and bike routes” and “Parking/housing recreational vehicles” appear 60 times from 2008. “No report, Mayor.”
Safety, Steve Bullock, chair. Four meetings recorded since January 2008. Agenda item “Require landscaper registration” appears 60 times. “No report, Mayor.”
University Affairs and Resolution, Frank Consolo, chair. This 2008 committee appears to have met four times. JCU was diligent in providing its 5-year plan as a basis for resolving city/university issues. Lack of follow-up meetings by this committee to work on issues may have contributed to frustrations leading to the lawsuit JCU filed against city council.
Planning and Development, Kevin Murphy, chair. Formed in 2008. No record of any meeting.
University Heights is a vibrant city and, with solid legislation, will continue to be so. Let’s get to work, hold regular committee meetings and resolve the listed agenda items. This work needs to get done. Unlike Alice, most of us in UH do care which way we go.
Anita Kazarian is a marketing professional, founder of Noah’s Landing, LLC and a 29-year resident of UH.