Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is facing criticism for his refusal to reappoint Carl DuRocher to the city's Transit and Parking Commission. As The Capital Times reports:
The mayor says he's replacing DuRocher, who has been chair of the panel since 2005, to bring some new blood to the committee and its related subcommittees. But that's not the only reason -- Cieslewicz has also made it clear that the move is related to a public disagreement in recent months between DuRocher and himself on raising bus fares. Critics of Cieslewicz's actions, however, say the city stands to lose substantial institutional memory and knowledge about disability issues when DuRocher leaves the panel.
I agree with the mayor. He has the right to make appointments. When the mayor makes an appointment, the common council must make a simple decision as to whether or not the proposed appointee is qualified.
The city also has a requirement that citizens cannot be reappointed to a position after ten years of service, which is also taking some criticism:
Mayoral appointments are subject to City Council approval and are usually for three years. The city has used a 10-year guideline for term limits in the past and the City Council voted earlier this year to require a two-thirds vote of the council for a member to serve longer than 12 years. Now, however, some current and former council members are debating the wisdom of that limit.
"It's not that I don't think there should be turnover, but I think it's important that there are enough people on the committee who know, 'Yeah, we took up that issue three or four years ago,'" Webber says. "It's important to have that historical knowledge."
Ken Golden, another former council and commission member, called the term limits on citizen committees an "absurdity." While many people leave before 12 years of service, "those who don't usually have something to contribute," he says, and the city gets their advice for free.
True, but it overlooks two important points. First, committee members can become entrenched and use that very same extended tenure to unduly influence others. Secondly, and more importantly, in a city the size of Madison there should be no single individual who is so critical and essential that not one other person out of the 200,000 residents cannot also do the job.
It appears that there is some historical knowledge missing here. Until the ordinance with the ten year limitation was adopted, the continued reappointment of the same people was causing problems, not only for other committee members, but also the staff and the public. There had been citizen appointees who expected a reappointment as a matter of right and were using their extended tenure to pressure mayors and council members for reappointment, thus depriving other citizens the right to serve their community.
I disagree with the mayor on the bus fare increase and on his removing DuRocher because he disagreed with the mayor. I first appointed DuRocher decades ago and my opinions on him have not changed. Carl is thoughtful, persuasive, effective, and brings a needed perspective to any discussion about land use and transit.
Some final thoughts:
If the mayor wanted to overcome the ten year limitation he could, with the support of twelve members of the council, renew the appointment - but the ten year limit should stay in place. And the mayor can appoint DuRocher to any of the many other important city committees.