Monday, September 10, 2007

Those are good points

I don't completely agree with Blake on this, but I think he's more right than wrong about this ...

The (debate over the alcohol ordinance) exposed a number of problems with the Athens system of government. One, there’s no leader, just a lot of shifting alliances among people who tend to agree on most issues but don’t appear to communicate all that well.

Two, appointed officials are the ones really running things. Manager Alan Reddish, Police Chief Jack Lumpkin, Attorney Bill Berryman and Finance Director John Culpepper worked on a 30-page list of revisions to the alcohol ordinance for a whole year before blindsiding the commission with it, and commissioners are still sore about it. They want to be telling staff what to do, not having staff bringing them finished products unbidden to vote on.

Three, the committee system doesn’t work because their recommendations mean nothing. It is a waste of time. Everything has to be hashed out twice. One commissioner, who is not on the LRC, complained that the recommendation should have come to the full commission at a work session. If commissioners always want to act as a committee of the whole, what is the point of committees of the half?

Four, none of the commissioners had a burning desire for alcohol reform at all, yet it’s dominated the agenda for six months. In the meantime, they’ve done little work on issues they actually care about, like affordable housing and the environment. And time is running out – six months from now half of them might be running for re-election.

Namely I think the second and fourth points are pretty accurate and reflect something which isn't necessarily a pressing problem with the system, but something which must be terribly frustrating for the commissioners. Granted the existing process is that staff prepares these recommendations - and we have a most talented and able staff - but I think that may not always be the most appropriate arrangement, particularly for the community which has elected these commissioners to serve as their representatives.

Blake argued for it a while back and I concurred, but this community needs to have a full-time commission that has the ability to develop and present legislation, rather than react and respond to prepared ordinances from staff. It would probably make the government more efficient in terms of its responsiveness to the community.


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