This is not an official blog of the City. It is the work of Mark Kapel who is solely responsible for content.

Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

City Commission Meeting of 12/10/13. Will the real Mayor of the City of Bloomfield Hills Please Stand Up ? Maybe in 2014 ?

 So far... two City Commissions meetings  and our newly elected (or appointed) Mayor Pat Hardy has yet to whack the gavel or ascend the bully pulpit. 

Roosevelt Who used the White House as the Bully Pulpit

A rare  excused absence for Hardy prevented either  from happening at last night's meeting. Former Mayor and now  Commissioner Sarah McClure did most of the talking, and  more or less held court  at the November meeting as well.
 "That's because I knew most of the stuff on the budget." Commissioner McClure explained later. Actually  Mayor-elect  Pat Hardy was also at all the budget meetings. In fact she and McClure, had better attendance records at the important annual budget meetings than their male counterparts. Maybe McClure was speaking for the benefit of the boys. 

Maybe new Mayor Pat Hardy was silent because of the solemnity of her elevation.Two and a half years had gone by since it was last her turn  to be Mayor. May 10th 2011 to November 12th 2013  or 917 days be exact. Almost as long as President  Kennedy had in the White House (Jan  20th 1961 to November 22,1963 or 1036 days).

In May of 2011, the world and this publication were young. Spring was in the air and lying was yet to become the new truth.  In those days The Mayor of the City was determined by a  rotation among the City Commissioners.  The Mayor that year  as every prior year was to be the commissioner who served the longest without being Mayor or who was had been  Mayor in the most distant past. 2011 was Pat Hardy's Turn. She had first been elected to City Commission  in 2003. Her first turn at being Mayor occurred in 2007, the City's 75th Anniversary Year. Hardy presided over balanced commission of four exceptional commissioners all of whom either were or would become Mayor. History tells us 2007 very good year for the City of Bloomfield Hills. 

Four years later,  after the City Election of May 2011, Pat Hardy's turn to be Mayor came again.

She would  not however become  Mayor. 

History Tells us that 2008 and 2009 were divisive bad years for the City. The economy went in the tank. The balanced commission of  Hardy's last turn at Mayor split into two factions. Hardy  joined one of them  to form a  3-2 majority which ruled  absolutely until the City elections of 2010 when a new 4  to 1 majority  took office and took the City in a different direction. Hardy the last vestige of the old, mourned it's passing, and often was the sole dissenting vote on the new commission. History.tells us 2010 was good year of the City which ended shortly after a rainy election day in May 2011.
Seven Days in May (1964) Poster

In the mid 1960's the expression Seven  Days in May, the title of a popular book and then a movie entered the American vocabulary. It concerned a possible military take over of the elected government of the United States. A decade later when President Nixon was seeking to replace special Watergate Prosecutor Archibald Cox with one less diligent and more to President's liking, the phrase "Saturday Night Massacre " (based on the number of people the President had to fire that weekend to get his will) came in vogue. One "massacre"  survivor remarked that it wasn't exactly Seven Days In May, but it sure was three days in October.

  Prior to this year, the City Election and the election or appointment of a new Mayor were always separated by seven days in May. Somewhere in those  seven May days of 2011 a decision was made that despite it being her turn 
Hardy would not be Mayor. 

Various conspiracy theories abound but based in the number of City Commissioners (5) it is fairly easy to arrive at a smoking gun (another term from Watergate). 
Commissioner Hardy was informed of the decision but not obviously party to it.
Another commissioner resigned supposedly over how the matter was being handled. A third was out of town and would not be present at the City Commission meeting in which the public would be informed of the change of events.
That left two commissioners  to do the explaining. The reader can decide which of the two would  be the more trigger happy.

The explanation was  that  the City Commission had decided to revert to what  City Charter ordained.That was that the Mayor should be elected by commission as opposed to being appointed by virtue of a position in a pre-arranged rotating arangement. Inherent in that decision is the idea that the words "appoint" and "elect" are not synonymous. 

When  all words mean the same as all other words the year George Orwell, warned us about will indeed have arrived

An argument offered by many who  favored  the rotation was that the Mayor of the City of Bloomfield Hills is a "weak" mayor meaning he or she is not elected directly by the people. Thus the Mayor's function was deemed merely ceremonial and an honor 

In our City run by five elected commissioners that is not the case. Our Mayor, sets the agenda, wields the gavel, and has virtually unlimited access to the Bully Pulpit.  

The Mayor also determines the role, participation, and power afforded tax paying residents  and the City Staff. While the City Managers is in charge of the day to day functioning  and mechanics of the City, it is the City Commission, which determine policy at  public meetings. If  elected commissioners sit silent at those occassions  and the Mayor relies on opinion from the City staff, power shifts from the people to that of City employees. 
The Mayor also determines the role of the City Manager. In his years of serving the city, City Manager Jay Cravens, depending on the Mayor, has been either a valued friend, in the dog house, a heaped upon employee, or  a trusted adviser bordering on oracle.

In the two years that followed her rejection as Mayor Pat Hardy had  with no bitterness or rancor worked hard as a City Commissioner. Those that rejected her then came to like her and  said  they never objected to her personally or her abilities as indicated by her turn as Mayor in 2007. Rather it was her sense of allegiance to the years 2008-2009 that puzzled. 
 Her elevation to Mayor comes as no surprise. It is important for the City to know how that was arrived at however. Was it by election or by appointment ? For the position of Mayor Hardy was the only person nominated. For the position of Mayor Pro Tem  Michael Dul was the only candidate nominated. Both nominees received a unanimous vote.

Why is this important ? Because City Commission either exists a representatives of the people in a participatory  democracy or it exists as an exclusive old boy-old girl club who's main concern is self perpetuation. 
City Residents who pay the taxes have a right to know which form of government is in session. A mayor rotation removes the electorate from the process entirely. An election of a Mayor by representatives the people elect puts the residents in the picture. 

Of course there is always the possibility of of only one candidate being nominated and thus receiving a 
unanimous vote.  If  however in the waning days of 2013, one can  write down the names of the  Mayor and May Pro tem for our City for every year till the end of the decade, it is not the interests of the people who are being served. 

That fact may not concern everyone however. Now that times are not so contentious  and no boogie person appears on the  horizon maybe the rotation amongst a gang of five isn't so bad after all. Especially if one can see a advantage for oneself.

The  unanimous selection of Hardy and Dul, (qualifications notwithstanding) fits the old rotation pattern. Hardy has not been Mayor since 2007. Dul has never been Mayor. McClure was the last  Mayor. Sherr and Coakley are the most recent new comers and go to the end of the line. If the rotation system were to be followed, assuming  the current crowd is always re-elected with no retirements the following rotation would occur. Election years are marked in yellow.

Mayor  Pro tem

At the December 12th meeting, Mayor Pro Tem  Michael Dul chaired the meeting, kept it light, and moving along.
Commissioner McClure was the most, vocal.  Commissioners Coakley and Sherr asked intelligent qualifying questions of agenda items. The later seemed to be recovering from a respiratory illness perhaps brought on by kissing too many germy babies. The illness kept him from attending the November 12th meeting in which officers were elected. That  may have  contributed to the unanimous vote totals. Sherr seems to like the role of devil's advocate.In conversation with this reporter  he did favor the rotation of offices among the commissioners but did listen to the views expressed here.

The City Commission meeting  of May 12th 2011 was televised. Unlike other cities those videos are not available to residents via archiving on the City's often under achieving web site. They can found by laboriously scrolling  through  BCTV/vimeo archives. The 2011 meeting was an interesting turning point  in our City's history and worth the effort. The selection  process of the Mayor is the first topic discussed and is about 45 minutes long.

If you are interested in this publication's reporting of that meeting you can find it  through our archives on the bottom left and side of this page or by clicking on the link below.

If you are too young to remember, or so old you've forgotten Seven Days in May or the Saturday Night Massacre of Watergate the following  You Tube clips  will help you discover the  zeitgeist of 1964 and 1973.A commentator  in the first clip wearing a black striped shirt and bow tie is none other than Arthur M.Schlesinger a Pulitzer prize winner and biographer of the Kennedy's.

No comments: