Roll Call 2015
Very few people attend any city meeting, whether it’s the city council, its committees, or the very important planning commission. Sometimes the absence of spectators translates to the absence of the players themselves–One city
councilman this year has been absent for nearly a third of regular council meetings; a Board of Zoning Adjustments member was voted off for excessive absences (she may not even know it), and in past years Planning Commission members have missed as many as half the monthly meetings that make some of the most controversial and enduring decisions in the city.
The following are tables of absences at the four public boards covered here, with links to the numbers for past years, for comparison. Only the council is a paid job, with a strenuous schedule of meetings, pre-meetings, and committee work taking up at minimum 2 hours per week, and not a job you can leave at the office. Others are definitely light duty by comparison, and any absenteeism more . Previous years’ reports linked here.
The City Council is the city’s only paid board, with each representative earning $400/month plus expenses for things such as out-of-town meeting travel, food and lodging. The council president earns $600/month. For those who accept, the city provides iPads and data charges for city business, and food at committee meetings. In 2015, there were 29 meetings and work sessions, not including an April 24-25 called meeting at a Muscle Shoals resort for training purposes (which polled three absences—Mr. Hallman, Ms. Smith and Ms. Reid, who resigned the next month.) Vance Moody missed more than a third of the meetings. There’s no attempt here to track each member’s attendance in committees –where most deliberations take place–but these numbers will give you a pretty good idea. Previous years’ reports linked here.
Planning Commission (zoning and development board)
The Planning Commission is an unpaid entity inhabited by mayoral appointees who governs land use, master planning and advise the city council on any request to re-zone property. This year the commission was also given final authority to rule on West Homewood District zoning plans. The commission is set up under provisions of state law, to consist of 9 members selected by the mayor and including the mayor himself or his designee, one city administrator, and one member of the council, chosen by the council, to serve ex officio. A term is long—6 years except for the council member, who leaves when his own term is over, or city administrator, whose term continues along with the mayor’s. Attendance is poor. Previous years’ reports linked here.
Board of Zoning Adjustments
The BZA acts in tandem with the Planning Commission and rules on requests for exemptions to zoning regulations, particularly those involving building setbacks from the street and property lines. The board also hears appeals from city administrative zoning decisions; its own decisions can be appealed to circuit court. This year the BZA got stricter in granting variances, and was also given authority to hear variance requests in the new West Homewood District. BZA membership is set by state law at 5 seats. Rules require that any vote to grant a variance requires a super majority of the membership, or four votes, with state law providing for two alternates, or “supernumeraries” to serve in case of absences. Absences have been an issue on the BZA, with the board ousting supernumerary Valerie Askew in April. Additionally, a September meeting had to be rescheduled for lack of a quorum. Ward 5 member Hope Cannon has missed more meetings than she attended this year. Previous years’ reports linked here.
The Park Board governs the employees, budget, operations and policies of Homewood Parks and Recreation, under the direction of Berkley Squires. However, if the board wields this much power, it is not apparent at meetings. Here, the board meets very briefly each month to approve staff-recommended policies and upcoming events. It also hears yearly reports from several youth sports programs and rubber stamps a budget that the director submits to the mayor, and votes to “accept” the council approved version that funds its operations. Its Facilities and Programs subcommittees meet infrequently and most business is handled at regular meetings. This year the board has been occupied with making rulings concerning shared parking with the expanded Exceptional Foundation, a task that is still not complete. Absences for most members have improved. Ms. Smalley’s attendance was an issue in past years; In 2015 she is recovering from a serious injury sustained in December 2014. Previous years’ reports linked here.