Patrick Dowd revealed his strategy today for addressing the maneuver made by the Parking and Zoning Board Authorities to allow an LED sign to be placed on the Grant Street Transportation Center. Dr. Dowd has filed an appeal with the Zoning Board, triggering a hearing on April 10th.
This strategy has several interesting facets. First, there is a question of whether the non-binding resolution in Council a couple of weeks ago could have actually done anything. How much authority does the Mayor have over the Authorities? They have their own boards, they are quasi state related, it may be that this would be the time the Mayor would discover the limits to his own authority. Second, this move has triggered a hearing, so the questions about the Authorities’ process will be brought before the very people who have created and participate in that process. Third, the Authorities (first, at least) will have to consider the legality of the issue, the very thing requested from George Specter. Specter certainly still has an opportunity to render an opinion, but he may also find himself defending that opinion before a board or even a court. Fourth is that if the issue does ultimately end up in Commonwealth Court, the Court has the capacity to compel the Authorities to perform some action, such as to reopen the process.
On the down side, I think it is a shame that this issue has to be taken outside of council. The Mayor is not the only elected representative of the people, and I think it might be important for Council to say something about this situation, even if it is just a non-binding resolution expressing dismay that the process was bypassed. There’s danger too for Dr. Dowd, who has staked out a position; a position arguing that the city needs to follow its own rules. I hope that the Mayor will realize he let Pat Ford go too far I this case, but I fear that someone will whisper in the ear of the snow plow driver to ignore Dr. Dowd’s street.
The city needs a parliamentarian, someone who can express an opinion on the rules of the game. Mr. Specter, the city's lawyer, currently finds himself in a difficult position, where if he renders opinions that the city has done the wrong thing, he will have trouble then defending the city in court, if it comes to that. Mr. Specter needs to concentrate on finding defenses for the actions of city officials, and someone else, possibly in Mr. Specter’s office or outside, needs to be responsible for suggesting the truth of the matter. Otherwise I can only suggest that the state ethics board set up a permanent outpost on Grant Street, because we are going to need it.