Sun, Jul

Once Again City Hall Ignores NC’s and the City Charter

CD10 FILE - The attempted rush to approve an interim city council member for the 10th district is a slap in the face to neighborhood councils, but it’s their fault that it happened.

A motion to appoint an interim council member was submitted on a Friday and scheduled for a city council vote on Tuesday – the bare minimum amount of time for public notice required by state law. 

But when the new city charter was approved by the voters in 1999, it specifically said that the bare minimum isn’t sufficient. 

Councilman Joel Wachs, who spearheaded the efforts to create a system of neighborhood councils through the charter reform process, always felt that the most important feature of the charter was what is called the Early Warning System. 

Section 907 of the charter requires that the city council, its committees, and boards and commissions give neighborhood councils a reasonable opportunity to provide input before decisions are made. 

If there ever was, or will ever be, a matter that demands that the voices of the neighborhood councils be heard, it is who will represent them. 

But since 1999, city hall has regularly acted as if this provision never existed.  

Neighborhood councils don’t meet every week.  And even if they were able to schedule a meeting to discuss a rushed motion, they too must meet the same state requirement to provide at least 72 hours notice of their meeting. 

While the plan to ram through this appointment completely ignores the value that an informed public could provide, there is no excuse for the fact that the neighborhood councils have continually allowed city hall to ignore them and the city charter. 

My suggestion continues to be that the neighborhood councils should form a “caucus” of legal experts from within their system to meet and formulate strategies for long-term improvements to the Early Warning System, and to deal forcefully with attempts circumnavigate the charter and the neighborhood councils whenever they arise. 

(Greg Nelson is a retired General Manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and a contributor to CityWatch.)