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Well, I have to say, I won the Blowup of the Week bet with my only too obvious pick of City Manager appointments. I thought because it was so obvious, it was likely the blowup would not be about appointments, but some heretofore overlooked item on the agenda. Alas, this City Council can’t even surprise us in its stupidest moments.
First, I’d like to make a WTF? comment on taking the executive session for discussing Lynch’s potential extension out of order. I know Rourke/Golden is new to things, but his colleagues ought to know better. Here’s all the way that it was a poor move: the viewers at home were trying to watch a meeting, and BOOM! an hour and a half or thereabouts went silent. (Actually, not precisely silent. There was music for a time, and then the mic went live for a bit which was really fun. I think the LTC folk thought something was about to happen, then it didn’t, so eventually they went back to the music.) So you hosed the viewer at home, who wanted to see the public portion of the meeting. Most people, who are not masochistic like some of us are, probably gave up and turned on Jeopardy or whatever it is the average demo of Council meetings watch when Council isn’t on. A big win for democracy!
Then, you also screwed LTC. Now the replay of the meeting has to include an hour and a half of dead space. Since they provide “gavel to gavel coverage” they can’t just edit this part out. Thanks for that.
But the worst is that all the people still hanging around for motions or considerations that would have normally been quite early in the meeting had to sit around the chamber, waiting. I’m thinking particularly of the aforementioned appointments. They couldn’t go out for burgers because no one knew how long the executive session would go, so they were stuck. These Councilors constantly “suspend the rules” to allow some person about whom a future motion affects, is speaking on, etc. But hey, let’s not think about those people, we’re leaving them sitting there so we can beat them up later on. *rolls eyes*
Moving on to the BotW, it was a complex dance of rules-bending, misapplication of rules, outright attempts to violate long-known rules, and of course, beating people up. So in trying to tell this story, I’m going to resort to video clips - which include some commentary. This is a long post, but it was a weird night, even for this Council.
So, note that the first appointment comes up, Dr. Julia Hans for the Green Building Commission. Rita jumps right in - not to discuss the appointment before her, but to form a brand new motion about hogtying Manager appointments…a motion which is not on the agenda…a big, and basic prohibition under the laws governing the City Council. Mercier’s been on the council a couple decades, so why does she think this will work this time? Because Elliott’s as clueless as she is? Oh, wait, he is. And as always, they ask the lawyer last.
The second hilarious thing about this is that Rita is a flipflopper. Literally. She was against this before she was for it.
Lowell City Councilor Kevin Broderick’s request that City Manager John Cox refrain from making any more board appointments before his resignation becomes official July 31 appears directly tied to two high-profile vacancies.
THE PRO-COX councilors — Caulfield, Armand Mercier and Rita Mercier — were sputtering mad at Broderick’s motion, particularly Caulfield and Rita Mercier, who likened it to an attempt “to slap the manager’s face.”
I guess one person’s slap is the same person’s “lame duck.” Remember, Cox was known for political appointments, and the reason for his ouster besides his terrible financial stewardship was that the ZBA and Planning Board, in particular, were “fix is in” boards for connected developers, and other boards weren’t much better. If Rita has such a concern that Lynch will do this, she should say so. Otherwise…
(PS - is she reading her remarks off a paper - like she always does? I don’t think she’s supposed to do that.)
Commentary does accompany the videos.
Kennedy then asks, can we know how important the ZBA and Planning Board appointments might be to quorum? (If a quorum isn’t at a meeting, no votes can take place, wasting developers’ - and developers’ lawyers’ - time.) Baacke responds by saying that some items require a supermajority and this can be hard to get without a full complement of members and alternates. Remember, we’re still technically on the item for appointing Dr. Hans to the Green Building Commission, which doesn’t even need Council approval.
After more Rita ranting (might make a best-of clip later), Rourke jumps in with his “disappointment” that Lynch dared to bring appointments. Remember, Rourke dropped his motion the previous week which proposed cuffing the manager from doing this. This “disappointment” is one thing you must remember…or nothing that follows will seem wondrous. (Sorry, Muppet Christmas Carol reference.)
After this, Milinazzo questions whether or not this is even relevant given that the Green Building Commission appointment is a communication, not subject to Council approval. Of course, Kennedy has to ask, if this is the case. Sigh. To Mercier, it doesn’t matter. She says she wants to bring up an illegal motion anyway. That’s when Milinazzo says, you can’t do that. Then Elliott is totally confused for a moment. Then he finally turns to the city solicitor. Watch:
This is not the first time the solicitor has to bring up this no-new-motions it-breaks-Open-Meeting-Law point. It seems like every other meeting this is questioned. No, the law didn’t change since the last time someone pooched the screw, guys, stop asking and start not doing the things you’re not supposed to do!! Elliott: “What in the Charter prohibits us from doing that?” Are you freaking KIDDING ME???
When the solicitor explains about the Open Meeting Law, Elliott then suggests Mercier’s motion might be more appropriate for the next item (an appointment requiring Council approval). Um…NO!
On voice vote the communication on Dr. Hans finally just gets accepted.
Anywhos…So after some other seemingly inconsequential items on the agenda, here’s where it gets good! Yes, this was all just appetizer to the main course.
Here you’ll see, after Salmira Mitchell’s appointment gets scuttled (tabled), on 5-4 vote - and I want you to note in the video who was a Yes to table - the next appointment comes up, and Milinazzo moves to approve…remember, the previous appointment was just moved and voted to table by Mercier. Now either Milinazzo got there first, or she was only interested in scuttling one appointment, the one married to a blogger, her comments to the contrary notwithstanding.
PS: Elliott kept butchering SalMIRa’s name…as I am pretty notorious for bad pronunciation of people’s names whom I don’t already know, and some I do, I won’t criticize too harshly, except, if I were a mayor, I think I would ask for people to tell me how to pronounce any names I might have trouble with. I don’t know how Elliot is getting his hard “i” there, either. If her name were Salmire-a maybe…
Next appointment comes up, Milinazzo moves to approve, then speaks (talking about Robert Malavich’s bonafides) which I’ll skip. Then it’s Belanger and I left the Manager’s answer in, and then I had to leave Kennedy’s weird little exchange with Lynch in there…
Now for the meat! The entree, the babyback ribs of the matter, so to speak! Pay close attention!
Now, there’s also a huge question as to whether or not tabling was an appropriate motion for anyone to make. If you’re just looking to kill an item on an agenda, Robert’s Rules state you should look to a procedure that requires a 2/3 vote. Bold mine:
Robert’s Rules of Order states that the use of the motion to “table” to kill a motion is improper because a majority vote should not be sufficient to permanently cut off debate on a main motion. Robert’s recommends that a member seeking to avoid a direct vote on a main motion while immediately cutting off debate instead make a motion that requires a two-third vote: Either an objection to consideration of the question (which is in order only before debate has begun and requires a two-thirds vote to block further consideration of the main motion) or a motion to postpone indefinitely (in order at any time, majority vote required) followed by an immediate motion to call the previous question (end debate and proceed to a vote on the motion), for which a two-thirds vote is required.
But hey, we can’t even get the longest serving Councilor currently in office to stop making basic Open Meeting Law gaffes, so…
It keeps going after this, you know. This was not the end of the madness!! Next you’ll see the second fastest flipflop ever seen in modern politics. (The fastest flip flop was Rita voting yes on the Malavich and Paglia appointments after stating she was not interested in any appointments going through and was willing to scuttle the lot of them with an illegal motion.)
OK, so that’s that. This was an exhausting post, and it’s highly unlikely I’ll do this with such detail EVERY week. However, with great video editing tools at my disposal expect at least Best-Of-Blowup-Of-The-Week videos!
One last thing of note: does anyone really think that people will continue to step forward to volunteer for this sort of crap to get on a board or commission? Lynch is putting these people an awkward position? Right. Sure.
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