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Council splits on composition of bond review committee

Friday, March 26, 2010 by Jacob Cottingham

Council members approved a resolution Thursday authorizing a $100 million transportation bond election, but not before some contentious debate over how to name a citizens task force to monitor the process. 


The bond, which is not to exceed half the allowed bonding capacity at the city’s current tax rate, would go toward improvements in “road, sidewalk, bicycle infrastructure, trail and other transportation-related investments.” Council had decided not to seek a rail bond election this year. But Mayor Lee Leffingwell has continued as the driver of the transportation bond train.


Although Council members may have agreed on most aspects of the transportation bond, there were several revisions to the resolution concerning how the citizen task force should be composed. The sole purpose of the task force will be to review the proposed bond package and make a recommendation to the City Council. Nominees are to be approved by Council on April 8.


The language initially had the committee comprised of seven appointees, with one appointee each from the Planning Commission, Zoning and Platting Commission, Environmental Board, Urban Transportation Commission, Public Safety Commission, 2006 Bond Oversight Committee, and Comprehensive Plan Citizens Advisory Task Force.


Council Member Randi Shade, co-author of the resolution, sought to increase the panel from seven to nine members, allowing them to come from any board or commission, and appointed by a Council subcommittee, composed of herself, Leffingwell and Council Member Chris Riley.


Shade also added language that required the proposed bond package to come before the Comprehensive Planning and Transportation Committee for briefing before it came before Council.


Council Member Sheryl Cole wanted the city to place a high priority on projects that could have state or federal matching funds. “It’s imperative that we send the signal right from the start that every single Council member is going to be involved in the process,” Cole said, and asked for a friendly amendment to strike the Council sub-committee as the source for task force nominations. She said in the past every single Council member made an appointment.


Shade did not accept the friendly amendment, saying the three subcommittee members would be working with their colleagues and the eventual task force, “would be diverse. . . I don’t see a need for it to be amended the way you’re suggesting. This is going to be a Council approved committee and the only way we’re going to have a group to bring forward for the Council to approve is working collaboratively and we do appoint task forces from time to time.”


Cole then changed her amendment from friendly to one requiring a vote, “I recognize that we bring nominations to the Council and the whole Council approves those nominations,” but said she disagreed with “the premise that all of Council appoints everyone anyway, because we make individual appointments that are associated with us and last our entire term.”


Leffingwell corrected her, saying that each Council member had a nomination, not an appointment.


“I’m just trying to make the point that we do have individuals associated with individual Council members in the nomination process,” Cole reiterated.


Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez said he wouldn’t be voting for Cole’s motion and added the Women’s and Children Task Force several years ago was appointed by a subcommittee, saying “it’s not an anomaly.”


Spelman did support Cole saying “one of the great benefits is each of us then has one member on that task force that we know we can talk to and rely on.” Council Member Laura Morrison said the motion speaks “to a big picture issues. We need to say something to the community that this is a full-council effort.”


After a vote on the amendment failed 3-4, with Morrison, Spelman and Cole voting in favor, Cole proposed a change so that former board and commission members to be considered. “I know there are some African-Americans who serve on the boards and commissions,” she said, “but I also recognize that we had a very difficult time when we had over 100 applicants in the comprehensive planning process, even coming up with three African-Americans. The pool of minorities sitting on boards and commissions is very small and even that pool – they are stretched very, very thin.” 


The friendly amendment was accepted. Later in the day between items, Shade and Cole hugged and smiled at one another.

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