Today’s hot topic was focused on the $15,000 our County Council just spent at a retreat outside of the county, which came straight out of the taxpayer’s pockets. Nice way to start off the New Year, but I’ve said enough already on that topic, via my Twitter posts.
I wanted to comment briefly on an issue that was buried underneath news about Council barring Leslie Johnson from committee assignments. On the day they made that decision, they also assigned themselves to the committees that will make most of the choices that directly affect county business. A press release was issued, but nobody was paying attention to it.
My biggest disappointment was learning that my Council representative, Mel Franklin, was not assigned to the Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee. After all, he was probably the only one to make a specific campaign promise not to take money from developers, and he didn’t. It seems that in light of the post-election arrests of the Johnsons for allegedly taking bribes from developers, that it would be in the best interest of the Council to assign Franklin to chair that committee. At least they could be certain they would have a truly honest broker not bought off by the influence of any developer. Instead, he’s been assigned as Vice-Chair of Public Safety and Fiscal Affairs, an important one, but his work there could be influenced by the Professional Firefighters and Fraternal Order of Police, who endorsed him and contributed several thousand dollars to his campaign. I’m not sure the unions always have the best interest of residents on their agenda.
I was even more mystified that Obie Patterson and Karen Toles were selected to oversee the Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee. While Patterson formerly served as a delegate for three terms, his professional and legislative experience (listed on the County website) gives no indication that he has ever actually worked on any of these issues. His professional work focused on grants administration and he spent his time as a legislator working primarily “in analyzing the State budget, education reports, tax and revenue reports and transportation reports, among others” according to his own biography. He also claims credit for a signature issue: treatment and training for nonviolent drug offenders. Seems like he would have a steep learning curve for his current assignment, and might be a much better fit in Franklin’s role as Vice Chair of Public Safety and Fiscal Affairs.
What’s even more astounding is that Toles would be chosen as Vice Chair of Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development. She was the only Council member chose for leadership on two committees, so it’s likely this appointment was in place of Leslie Johnson, who was supposed to chair this committee before Council decided to deny her that privilege because of pending federal charges.
In looking at Toles’ experience, it seems that she would have been a better fit for the Health and Human Services committee. She has a degree in Public Health, and has lobbied for the healthcare industry and the public employee union. I don’t see any indication that she has spent considerable time learning the intricacies of planning, zoning, and development issues in the County. I have considerable concern about Toles reviewing and making decisions on growth issues that will shape the future of our County.
So what do you think of the committee assignments? Are your Council representatives appropriately appointed? Where would you place them?