Sunday, May 01, 2005

Hail to the Chief

As you probably already know, there is a charter amendment to appoint the chief on the ballot for May 7th. I have many problems with this initiative.

First, there are pro's and con's to electing or appointing a chief. My problem is the lack of planning and the likely outcome if we approve appointing the chief.

The proposal was put on the council agenda at the last possible minute. It was submitted with such a short time available that a special second council meeting had to be called. Because of some of the weaknesses noted in the proposed amendment, especially when the lack of protections for the chief were brought out, a resolution that was a sense of what the council planned to do was submitted to the council and passed the day before early voting started.

It is obvious that there was no planning or research before this was proposed. It's true that they had talked about it off and on for quite a while, but it was obvious at the council meeting where this was proposed that the council members had no idea of the depth of impact this amendment would have, and how it was affected by other laws and statutes, especially civil service. It was obvious that the councilman that proposed the amendment thought that the chief would automatically be protected just like any other civil service covered employee, which is not the case.

Then we get to the resolution. As it was proposed, the resolution creates a public safety committee with 4 out of 7 members being labor organization representatives, one member the personel director, and 2 members being retired public safety members. This does keep regular politics out of the selection and review process, but gives labor special interest groups a majority on the committee. If the purpose of the committee is to prevent undo political and special interest influence on the chief, it fails right off the bat. It is also interesting that there is no room on the committee for just a regular citizen. Might be good for a selection committe, but not a very good makeup for a committee to review terminations.

There is also the problem that what the city council can give in an ordinance, it can take away. If current city council passes a sensible set of selection and termination review criteria in an ordinance, a majority of any city council can also change or remove those criteria. It only takes about a week to pass an ordinance change. Under normal circumstances, council meetings are 2 weeks apart, and final agenda is ready the friday before the meeting. Two regular meetings and an ordinance can become law if you can keep a majority voting for it. In special circumstances, 72 hours notice, meeting, 72 hours notice, second meeting, ordinance is changed. No voter approval required.

Bottom line is that any protections and requirements not in the city charter can be changed at the whim of the majority of the city council.

These are my thoughts, what are yours?

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