How strong the mayor?

Clarkston News Editor
The city attorney is expected to weigh in on who gets to appoint members of the city Historic District Commission at Monday’s City Council meeting.
Council members and residents were at odds over a proposed amendment to city ordinances regulating the matter.
“I should be able throw names up if I think they’re qualified for the position,” said Council member David Marsh at the Sept. 25 meeting. “The mayor still runs the meeting – if there are problems, at least others could put up names.”
“If you don’t trust seven elected City Council members to do that, you need to look in the mirror and ask some serious questions,” said Council member Jason Kneisc.
Council discussed a proposed amendment to Chapter 152 of the city Municipal Code. It would add to “the (HDC) members shall be appointed by the mayor,” the provision “with the advice and consent of City Council. A member may be removed from the Historic District Commission pursuant to Section 4.21 of the City Charter.”
Section 4.21 says commission members can be removed for misconduct in office only after a hearing with 10-day notice and opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and to present testimony.
Marsh and Kneisc wanted the “shall be appointed” provision to be changed to allow any member of the council to make appointments.
“Anyone can nominate, is essentially what we’re saying,” Kneisc said.
Mayor Steven Percival said that could lead to a “free-for-all” of nominations.
“I’m OK with the mayor appoints, council confirms,” Percival said. “I don’t know if we want just anybody to be able to pop up and make appointments.”
Council member Sharron Catallo said council members traditionally make nominations, which were considered by the mayor who then made the nomination, with confirmation by City Council.
“Basically that’s how we did it – we’ve always voted,” Catallo said.
Resident Bill Basinger, member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, agreed, saying past mayors had a “gentlemen’s agreement” to allow it. The “mayor shall appoint” provision is left over from the strong-mayor type of government used as a template for the city ordinances decades ago and has no place in the city’s manager-type government, he said.
“The mayor has no administrative authority – he or she is considered equal with other council members,” Basinger said. “It makes no sense to have one person be the gatekeeper – suggestions have always been considered in the past.”
“That’s not true,” said Council member Sue Wylie.
Under Chapter 30.01, if the city manager is disabled or sick and can’t perform his or her duties, the mayor “may perform the city manager duties and may designate a city employee, a member of the City Council or a member of a city commission or board to perform specific duties.”
Cara Catallo, whose non-nomination to the HDC by Percival kicked off the ordinance amendment drive, said tabling just delays the matter.
“My concern as a citizen is that I don’t want this to go on for months and months without being rectified,” Cara said. “Every other mayor we’ve had, it’s always been brought up at the table and there was a vote – the current way is the radical change.”
City attorney Thomas Ryan, who was not at the Sept. 25 meeting, wrote the proposed amendment. He’s scheduled to be at the Oct. 9 meeting.
“If you’re saying, have Tom Ryan look at it, I’m totally fine with that,” Kneisc said. “I’m fine with postponing first reading until it’s changed.”
The council voted unanimously to table the proposed amendment.

2 Responses to "How strong the mayor?"

  1. Cory Johnston   October 5, 2017 at 4:24 am

    The City Charter has been in existence for more than 25 years and has never been amended. The city’s Historic District Ordinance has been in existence for 21 years and is modeled exactly from Michigan law established 47 years ago. All have been routinely ignored by past city councils and mayors. Now that we have a mayor that wants to actually play by the rules established by his predecessors, some want the rules changed. Apparently following the rules is considered a “radical change” for some in our city government. Few cared about law, charter, ordinance and the city not following the rules for the last 25 years so what is different now other than who is mayor?
    Hypocrisy is alive and well in the Village Hall.

  2. Michael Powell   October 5, 2017 at 8:50 am

    I agree with Mr. Johnston, hypocrisy has been alive and well in the city for quite some time. I would add…Why “amend” a city ordinance that the Clarkston city council admits here it hasn’t been following? And why would anyone trust a city council that wants to amend any city ordinance (law) that they admit they didn’t follow to begin with? Will they follow the amended law, or in the future will a “gentlemen’s agreement” supersede the amended law and will it be ignored too? “Gentlemen’s agreements” have no place in law, especially when those agreements come at the expense of taxpayers.
    Another example of the city choosing to selectively enforce it’s laws came to light when it was reported here that the city has been ignoring it’s own Parking Deferment Plan as provided for in the city zoning ordinance book and into which businesses would pay if they lacked sufficient parking of their own. This law was knowingly ignored by city council for “many years” at the benefit of businesses, but at the taxpayers expense.

    Ignoring this law created the parking problems that city residents have been complaining about in their neighborhoods. So what does the city do? It continues to ignore it’s ordinances and instead shifts it’s parking problems onto Independence township taxpayers and into our neighborhoods. Thanks to Clarkston schools superintendent Rod Rock who recently agreed to provide the city with a donation based “free weekend shuttle service” using OUR school buses, fuel, employees, and school parking lot without the public’s input.

    What we’re seeing here is another example of the city council caught selectively enforcing ordinances because it has a “gentlemen’s agreement”, and when caught not complying with it’s own ordinances it chooses to change the rules, rather then abide by them.
    Hypocrite is too kind of a description of those who chose to ignore laws…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.