The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

The Watch


Individual Articles

County Council, February 8

New head of Environmental Management
No enthusiasm for proposed changes relating to proxies and election of Chair
Warwick Jones

There was not much to highlight at yesterday’s meetings. But notable was the resignation of the Director of Environmental Management. We do not know the reason for his resignation. Council was told that his resignation was effective only a few days ago. And from the tone of comments of the Environmental Management Chair, the resignation was a surprise. Chair Moody thanked staff member Tonya Lott for stepping so quickly into the management position left vacant by the resignation. Ms. Lott has been with the County for 3 years and has a background of experience in the industry.

A presentation was given to the Environmental Management Committee by staff on the construction of the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and a time line. We won’t spell out the details of the time line but as staff stated at the last meeting of the Committee, the project is expected to be completed by March next year.

Chairman Rawl was unhappy about Council members appointing proxies to serve in their stead on County agencies such as CARTA. If proxies are necessary, they should be drawn from County staff, he said. And at his request, the issue was on the agenda of the Administration Policy/ Rules Committee agenda.

We are not sure we followed the Chairman’s reasoning but it went something like this. The proxy who is not a staff member may not be following the best interest of the County. A staff member could capture the essence of meetings and one way or other, the essence would be available to Council.

Nobody agreed with Chairman Rawl. In fact, all those that spoke were opposed. The Chair of the Committee, Council member Pryor said he thought that a staff member would possibly have difficulty expressing his views considering the Chair of Council may be sitting on the agency board. Council member Qualey said that a proxy may well be better acquainted with issues on some boards than a staff member. And Council member Schweers scoffed at Council members briefing Council on agency meetings. He could not recall it ever happening. However, most Council members who spoke said that those appointed to outside agency Boards should try to attend all meeting but they all recognized that attendance was often difficult because of many factors. And the issue died.

The Committee also discussed the issue raised by Council member Moody – the election of the Council Chair and Vice Chair. He thought each should serve 2-year terms, not the present 1- year term. He was trying to avoid the annual tension that accompanied the election – at least this year’s election.

Nobody seemed in favor and Committee Chair Pryor said that the proposed change simply meant a possible tense meeting every two years instead of one. And Council member Sass, echoing comments by Council member Darby at the last Council meeting, thought a little bit of angst was a good thing.

Council member Schweers suggested, as he did in the last Council meeting, that the Chair should be elected by popular vote and not by Council members. Chairman Rawl noted that this is effectively an “at large” vote. He questioned whether legally it was possible considering that the County had been told to adopt single districts over a decade ago. He said a referendum and changes in state law may be necessary. He asked staff to come back with an opinion. But Committee Chair Pryor thought this may be a waste of staff’s time. And it seemed that other Committee members were not enthused about Council member Schweer’s suggestions.