Common Council Unlikely to Change Member Appointment Process Despite Continued Pressure

Dec 18, 2017

Frank Cetera announces his candidacy for councilor-at-large in May. He's petitioning sitting councilors to be more transparent about the appointment process to replace Helen Hudson as she ascends to President.
Credit file photo / WAER News

Former Green Party common council candidate Frank Cetera continues to pressure sitting council members for a more public process to consider candidates to fill an at-large seat in January.  But it appears councilors aren’t willing to change their appointment practice this time around.

The seat will open up once Helen Hudson takes the oath as the council’s new President.  City charter grants sitting councilors at the time of the vacancy the authority to make the appointment.  But Cetera feels there’s room for more public input..without changing the charter..yet.

"What I'm trying to do is elevate the process for the selection above and beyond what's required in the city charter, which is not specifically spelled out, to include full civic engagement component.  The residents of the city a role in this process, just like they had a choice on Nov. 7th."

Councilor-at-large elect Khalid Bey begs to differ.

"The public is included because the person who's appointed is immediately running for election.  You don't just get the seat, you have to win it in November.  So the person appointed in January, that same person not only has to run in 2018 and win, and then run in 2019 when the seat is actually open.  So, you have to run two years in a row."

Fourth District Councilor Khalid Bey will take his at-large seat next month.
Credit file photo / WAER News

That said, most appointees have no trouble keeping their seats come election time.  Cetera says there’s no harm in sunlighting the appointment process a bit more, and even allowing the public more of a voice.  He says that’s what happened in Seattle. 

"Allow [the public] to know what is being presented in the applications.  Allow them to speak to the applicants in a public setting.  Allow the council to debate in a public setting over the applicants, as well."

Cetera says he received little response from councilors after submitting a petition for an open and equal process in the consideration of candidates.   

Councilor Bey and some colleagues strongly objected to the appointment process that landed city hall veteran Joe Nicoletti on the council in 2015.  But Bey says that was because of a lack of transparency among councilors, which by the way he says was flawed, but not illegal.  He says there’s clearly a more open and robust discussion this time around.  Bey questions Cetera’s motives…since he’s acknowledged he wants to be considered for the post.

"When there's an argument from a person or persons who have interest in the outcome, you have to consider bias.  Would that same argument be made if these person weren't candidates?"