Talk about your power of the press! Just a couple of weeks ago, this column opined that Mary Lou Makepeace would be remembered as the best mayor to ever preside over our pastel-tinted sprawlopolis. The lesson here: You should never praise politicians or let your dog eat table scraps. Just like an undisciplined mutt, an overpraised politician quickly learns inappropriate behavior.
An interesting memo crossed my desk this morning. Specifically, it was from the mayor to City Council, dated Feb. 22, concerning a "Citizen's Charter Advisory Committee'" whose task it would be to recommend changes in the City Charter.
The memo includes a bunch of possibilities, many of which are simple housekeeping measures.
As you might expect, it's suggested that the miserable pittance paid to the mayor and Council (currently $6,250 annually) be raised to an undetermined amount.
And buried among all the legalese was an innocuous paragraph concerning term limits for mayor and Council. Currently the City Charter permits council members to serve two full four-year terms, and a portion of another term. The mayor, by contrast, can only serve two terms, even if one term is less than the full four years.
Makepeace's Feb. 22 proposal suggests that the Charter be amended to eliminate this inconsistency, allowing mayors to serve two terms and a portion of another as well. If this proposed amendment is put to a vote in November's general election, and approved by the voters, it'd take effect immediately. So what? you ask. Well, that'd mean that Mayor Makepeace, who will have served one half term and one full term, would be eligible to run for yet another term next April!
And how would this work? It's simple enough; Council would ask for citizen volunteers to serve on a charter review commission, which would in turn suggest issues for this November's ballot. Most likely, Council would simply rubber-stamp the recommendations, and send 'em on to you and me and all of our fellow voters for approval. Let's see; if Mary Lou serves another four years, she'll have spent 20 years as a City elected official ... remember that great John Belushi Saturday Night Live party routine, "The Thing That Wouldn't Leave"!!!??
And there are currently some other fun mayoral-drafted memos floating around as well for consideration, including one titled "Draft Policies for Equipment Use and Expense Reimbursement." Mostly boring bureaucratese, but there are a few nuggets to be gleaned by the suspicious and/or cynical among us.
Clearly, the mayor is concerned about "inappropriate uses" of city-owned computers; no more porn for all you horny council members! But that's not all. "Inappropriate uses" are identified as "any use that interferes with the performance of their duties ... or for personal economic gain, including gambling activity ... or any use deemed offensive by colleagues or citizens."
"Offensive materials can include, but is not limited to, sexually explicit material and materials that includes racial, ethnic, religious or sexist slurs," the draft proposes. The key words here: "is not limited to." Does that apply if a councilperson signs on to an Internet joke site, or the Freethinkers, or the Republican National Committee? Any of those uses could be offensive to a substantial number of citizens.
But as the memo explicitly notes, the equipment, the network and the contents thereof are public property, so if you want to do, say or learn anything that might offend a 12-year-old, you'd better do it on your own dime. Might be easier to do without all the freebies, and the attendant aggravation, given that we're such a no-fun kinda city -- specifically forbidding Internet gambling!
The memo also deals with reimbursement for golf and tennis (no can-do, says the City) as well as child-care expenses. Until the early '90s, the City, in its then-blatantly sexist way, didn't include child care as a reimbursable expense. Appropriately enough, that policy was changed, allowing Council members with minor children (who included at-the-time Councilwomen Lisa Ar and Mary Lou Makepeace) to be reimbursed for child-care expenses while on City business.
But apparently, that policy also needs a little reworking. As proposed, future child-care expenses will be capped at an as-yet undefined level, and will not be reimbursed when "the child's other parent is available to care for the child."
Hmm, you don't think that these proposed policies are in any way influenced by the fact that the Council members currently eligible for childcare reimbursement (Charles Wingate, Ted Eastburn and Margaret Radford) are among the mayor's political opponents? Of course not ...