Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A new direction?

Today's Salem News article on whether or not the mayor can or should have the right to address council, talks about whether or not the charter guarantees the mayor the right to speak. Of this, they say, " In recent weeks, the debate has taken a new direction."

KIKS readers will know that this is not a new issue, as I raised it over fourteen months ago, here. Additionally, the mayor asserted as much in council chambers during the budget meeting last year, when Councilor Ronan attempted to block the mayor from speaking, though she was invited to attend and participate in that meeting.

See for yourself. About two minutes into this video.

Copying from myself:

Section 19 of the General Provisions, is as follows:
19. Mayor to provide information to council; attendance at meetings of council; addressing the council.
The city council at any time may request from the mayor, or, under Plan D or E, from the city manager, specific information on any municipal matter within its jurisdiction, and may request him to be present to answer written questions relating thereto at a meeting to be held not earlier than one week from the date of the receipt by the mayor, or, under Plan D or E, by the city manager, of said questions. The mayor, or, under Plan D or E, the city manager, shall personally, or through the head of a department or a member of a board, attend such meeting and publicly answer all such questions. The person so attending shall not be obliged to answer questions relating to any other matter. The mayor, or, under Plan D or E, the city manager, may attend and address the city council in person or through the head of a department, or a member of a board, upon any subject. (emphasis added)
This provision of the charter doesn't permit council to prevent the mayor from addressing them. It expressly authorizes the mayor to address council regarding any subject. Therefore, Pinto (and council's rule) may have violated the city charter with his actions. So which takes precedence? The City Charter is basically the City of Salem's version of the constitution. A rule of council in their handbook that violates the Charter wouldn't be permissible, and would therefore be invalid. Don't believe me? Consider this example. The Charter lays out that there will be 11 City Councilors. If City Council decided to vote to increase that number to 13, without amending the Charter, do you think that would fly? Surely it wouldn't. So without amending section 19 of the charter wouldn't Pinto's action also be illegal?

Do I think that the mayor should be allowed to attend city council meetings and filibuster for hours? Of course not. I don't think I buy that the charter allows that, either. The way I read it, the council president does have the responsibility to recognize the mayor, or a department head, or board member sent by the mayor. That doesn't mean that the council president has to allow them to go on indefinitely. The president still holds the gavel. This is going to be made into a much bigger deal than it has to be.

The last thing anyone wants, is a new charter commission. Though, if there is one, sign me up!

The idea that this is a "new direction" for this debate, however, is another example of the snooze being in the dark. It has been discussed in council chambers several times. It was even mentioned on their own pages months ago.

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