Syracuse City Council Citizen’s Report for 09/23/2008

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(This is a “local politics” post. If that doesn’t interest you, move along to the next or previous posts.)

Last night the Syracuse City Council held their regular City Council Meeting. I attended with my neighbor P~, we both had interest in the passage of Proposed Ordinance 08-07 Recodifying Title 10 of the Syracuse City Municipal Code (old Title X). Our interest in these changes go back prior to the first of this year (http://www.syracuseut.com/files/page_text/Microsoft%20Word%20-%2002-05-08%20PCMinutes.pdf, http://www.syracuseut.com/files/page_text/Microsoft%20Word%20-%2003-18-08_PC_Minutes.pdf).

Rather than free-hand my account of the meeting, I’ll go down the published (amended) agenda.

  1. Meeting called to order, prayer (“invocation of thought”), Pledge of Allegiance, motion to adopt the agenda as published (which was approved).
  2. Approval of minutes from various prior meetings:
    • Joint City Council/Planning Commission Meeting of August 26, 2008 (approved)
    • Work Session Meeting of August 26, 2009 (approved)
    • Regular Meeting of September 9, 2008 (approved with clarifications)
  3. Public Comment on Agenda Items
    • Several persons address the Council with respect to agenda items 11 and 12 (selection of a new Councilmember) and the lack of a female voice on the council, and the apparent homogeneous makeup of the Council (even though Mayor Panucci is of Italian decent).
    • Comment was made on a telephone pole in the road and how to get that resolved; additional comment was made regarding not taking public input on the proposed withdrawal from Syracuse City’s participation in the Davis Technology Economic Cooperative (DTEC) – the exact words were “Mayor, how dare you! How dare you!” (http://www.syracuseut.com/files/page_text/DTEC-Cancellation-09-23-08.pdf)
    • Comment was made about items site plans and subdivision plots regarding the type of fencing to be used and that “sometimes the minimum acceptable material” isn’t really acceptable (paraphrased); a request was made to introduce a period of non-binding public comment on future plat approvals, the request was entertained by the Mayor and the motion to approve Title 10 would later be amended with this provision.
  4. Councilmember Reports
  5. Mayor Report (which was also a “where the roads are going and why we don’t want to be in DTEC” soapbox)
  6. Subdivision Plat Approval, McBride Auto Shop Subdivision, located at approximately 3938 West 1700 South (approved)
  7. Site Plan Approval, Warren’s Drive-in, located at approximately 1778 South 1000 West (approved)
  8. Proposed Resolution R08-24 defining Syracuse City’s participation in the Davis Technology Economic Cooperative (DTEC) (resolution approved)
  9. Public Hearing – Proposed Ordinance 08-07 Recodifying Title 10 of the Syracuse City Municipal Code (roll call vote, approved with provisions: that a public hearing phase to site plan/subdivision plat approvals be added; the number of hens and/or rabbits be set at a total of 6 of either or a combination of both, which was up from 5 hens previously)
  10. Presentation by applicants for appointment to vacant Councilmember Seat (left vacant by former Councilman Phil Orton)
  11. Consideration of adjourning into Closed Executive Session pursuant to the provisions of 52-4-205(1)(a) of the Open and Public Meetings Act for the purpose of discussing the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of an individual (roll call vote, approved)
  12. Selection of new Councilmember (roll call vote)
    • A motion to select Commissioner Robert Whiteley (chairman of the City Planning Commission) was made and seconded; the vote was 2 yea, 2 nay, (1 vacant vote), the Mayor abstained (which the City Attorney said was acceptable, “the Mayor has a vote but is not required to do so”).
    • Councilmember Knight made comment that the task set before the City Council was to select the most qualified individual to fill the interim vacant position, and that Commissioner Whitely was the correct choice.
    • A motion to select Larry Shingleton was made and seconded; the vote was 2 yea, 2 nay, (1 vacant vote), the Mayor voted yeah to break the tie. Motion was carried.
    • Councilmember Peterson and Councilmember Hammond both made comment that Mr. Shingleton was the “runner up” in the last election, and that should be considered as an indication from the people who should be selected.
  13. Swearing in of selected Councilmember (Councilmember “elect” Shingleton was sworn in.)
  14. City Administrator Report
  15. Adjourn
    • A request for a Motion to Adjourn was made by the Mayor, motion was made, seconded, and carried
    • Two members of the audience (myself included) stood to object that approved Agenda Item 15 (Public Comment) was bypassed and held the Council in violation of the approved agenda. After a nod of affirmation from the City Attorney the Mayor asked if there was anyone who wanted to comment, two voices answered in the affirmative.
      • P~, the other of the two who stood to object and had earlier submitted himself for consideration for the vacant Councilmember seat, stated the results of the prior election should not be considered in the appointment of a City Councilmember, that the obligation of the City Council was to choose the best suited candidate of those that submitted themselves for consideration.
      • Joe Levi (me) began stating that he voted for Larry Shingleton in the last election, and will support his appointment to the Council, and will most likely vote for him in the upcoming election (should he choose to run), that said, no offense is intended with what follows. The votes were tallied and Mr. Shingelton lost. The people voted
        a
        nd they said “no” to putting Mr. Shingleton on the ballot. In any election, the “runner up” is never the “next person in line for the office.” He then recalled some history. He said, not so very long ago Syracuse had a City Council that decided to change the form of City Government under the guise of “clarifying existing definitions and responsibilities.” At that Council meeting citizens went on public record opposing the changes and demanding the Council hold an open public hearing and let the public vote on the proposed change, the City Council ignored these demands and passed the measure anyway. The Citizens revolted and took their argument to the Courts where a judge agreed with the citizenry and ordered an injunction against the Council’s actions and reverted the form of government back to the way it was before the Council’s vote, the court further ordered the topic be placed on the ballot in the upcoming election. The City Council under the umbrella of an “independent group” organized a debate prior to the election. It wasn’t it a debate, it was a setup; the City Council showed up to argue all the reasons why they were right and why we should vote to uphold their change; no one showed up to argue the other side. When Joe Levi showed up at the debate he went with an open mind, hoping to hear both sides and with that information make up my mind and vote accordingly. Instead he had to stand up to argue the other side because no one else would. The Mayor didn’t argue, Doug Peterson didn’t argue, it was too political a topic and too unfairly set up; so he did their job for them. The resulting election saw over 50% voter turn-out. That’s amazing. In a National election a 25% voter turn-out is hailed as a success, we got over 50% (which is still abysmal compared to what it should have been), but it’s still amazing. Why did so many of us show up? We had two things to do: We had to vote our opinion on the form of City Government and we had to elect 3 Councilmembers. When the dust settled we overthrew the Council’s plan to change the form of government, and we fired the Councilmembers that were up for re-election. We fired them because they failed in their fiduciary duty to represent the citizens of Syracuse. We fired them because they felt once they were elected they no longer had to deal with the people that put them in office. They were wrong. They’re not on the stand with you today. With all due respect, tonight Councilmember Peterson, Councilmember Hammond, Mr. Mayor, you have failed in your fiduciary duty. The City Council had the obligation, the duty to pick the candidate based on their qualifications, the results of a previous election should not have been a consideration, and even if they were, the consideration should have been to disqualify this person because the people had said no to his election to the Council in that election. Your action tonight was contrary to the public input that was heard earlier tonight. Your action tonight was contrary to the will of the voters. Your action tonight shows the citizens of Syracuse that again we have a runaway City Council that doesn’t consider the will of the people and does what they want with little or no regard to the will of the people. We won’t forget this. 15 months from now when you see record numbers of us at the ballot box you’ll know again that you are the employees of the people and we will not stand to have our employees insubordinate to our will.
    • The Mayor made a final call for others who wanted to comment, hearing none he asked for a motion to adjourn; the motion was made, seconded, and carried. The meeting was adjourned.

As of the time of this writing, the minutes have not yet been posted, but when it is it will probably be at this link: http://www.syracuseut.com/files/page_text/CC-M-09-23-08.pdf

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