Tuesday, April 28, 2009 | As someone who was also “not-reappointed” by Mayor Jerry Sanders (in my case to the Planning Commission), I read your blurb about the pension board and Bill Sheffler with a laugh and a grimace. Are we to presume that Mr. Sheffler was willing to continue to serve? And that the Sanders Administration makes “no comment” on appointments? That would be my cynical guess.
One of the lessons I learned while working inside the system as a volunteer, is that staff prefers appointees who don’t ask questions or attempt to change their pre-determined outcomes. This cultural attitude unfortunately can lead to what happened on the prior pension board, where some members of the board itself work with staff to achieve the pre-determined outcomes that have been negotiated amongst themselves. This replaces and corrupts the goal of the public hearing process as providing real oversight and accountability for the outcomes. The public hearing process becomes hugely discounted – if not completely corrupted – instead of being the place where issues are actually debated and decisions are really supposed to be made, based upon a set of independent standards and public input.
Questions – especially in public hearings – can cause trouble and ruin pre-existing plans. They slow down the already slow wheels of progress. So the culture has become biased against decisions really being made in public hearings. They want their pre-determined outcomes to always be the outcomes – independent and regardless of any public input at the hearing – or alternative expert opinions. The Council or Commission or Board, is trained, and usually biased, to always take the recommendations of staff over even the well-informed public – or minority members with valid points. I can remember hearings where this led to absurdities and ridiculous and more costly outcomes for all concerned.
Individual members of the public, or minority members of Councils or Boards, are not always right, but they are all too often steamrolled even when they are.
Always keep in mind that the “best” candidate for special interests is either the yes! candidate or the quiet, go-along, get-along candidate. This is also the case for political appointees. At the time I was ousted from the Commission, I was the only member not from the development or development-related industries. This is not to say that such expertise is not needed from the industry itself, but it is to point out that the rules don’t require balance on most Commissions; that is left to the Mayor. So you can learn a lot about any administration about who they appoint and, or don’t re-appoint.