Monday, March 10, 2008

Please don't let me be misunderstood

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.


Char said...

Could Dowd have voted for the Kraus resolution in addition to filing the appeal? Wasn't the resolution just giving the administration an opportunity to clean the mess up themselves?

These are mostly rhetorical questions. Am not too interested in the answers because the good news is someone is taking action of some sort. The better news is that Dowd has taken a putlic stand. And the best news is his public stand, in my opinion, is a very good one.

Thank you Mr. Dowd.

EdHeath said...

Right, my impression (and my hope) is that Dr. Dowd could have supported a different resolution. Apparently his reading of city code is that the Mayor may not be able to order the Authorities to do something. In any event, the action he did take will allow Zoning Board to comment themselves as to whether they want to be part of the process.

Bram Reichbaum said...

We had a parliamentarian. Her name was Susan Malie. We decided emphatically that loyalty to the mayor was more important.

Speaking of which, if the Mayor desired to make such a request of the authorities, it would be obeyed. If there are indeed limits to the mayor's power, THAT is not one of them. The authorities are essentially his arms and legs.

As you know I am nervous about standing, even before the quasi-judicial ZBA board. Then again, I am a nervous nelly. Let's all watch closely tomorrow.

EdHeath said...

Which “we” decided loyalty to the Mayor was more important (and to which Mayor)?

So why would Rich Lord say Dr. Dowd’s appeal to the Zoning Board had triggered an April 10th hearing if Dr. Dowd doesn’t have standing? If the Zoning board waits a month only to say Dowd doesn’t have standing, that will be a serious line drawn in the sand. By that time the national press will be bored, have been around here for weeks with nothing much to do. Maybe we will make the front page of The Times or The Post. Pat Ford might decide he wants to make his precedent on some other issue, or some other time.

Bram Reichbaum said...

1. Which "we"? Sigh. The big "we". Pretty much everyone. Few wanted to disparage loyalty to that mayor at that tumultuous time.

2. Why did Lord write "will trigger"? Dunno. Perhaps the ZBA first has to meet in order to determine standing. Perhaps Lord's sources at that time had different opinions than my sources at that time. Smart legal minds can disagree.

In my defense, I have been couching my concerns about standing in the language of doubt, not determination. Then again, yesterday evening I had the luxury of several more hours to poke around after the day's events before going to publication, I think.