Tussle over Environmental Appointments to Come

Appointments to the city’s environmental commission (EC) will likely a point of friction at the Ann Arbor city council’s May 5, 2014 meeting. Re-appointments for currently serving members of the EC – Kirk Westphal, David Stead, and Susan Hutton – were brought forward at the council’s meeting on April 21.

The action taken by the council at its April 21 meeting was to postpone the vote until May 5. That’s not unusual for appointments to the EC – because nominations are not made by the mayor, as with most boards and commissions. Past practice as been for the appointments to the EC to mimic the typical two-step mayoral appointment process – with nomination at one meeting followed by confirmation at the next meeting. So council has customarily had the EC appointments on its agenda for initial consideration and postponed a vote until the next meeting.

But council sources indicate that there will likely be debate on at least Stead’s appointment. Stead was originally described in the agenda item as having served on the commission since 2007. That was subsequently corrected. City records in Legistar indicate he was among the first members to be appointed, on Sept. 18, 2000 after the council established the commission in a resolution approved on April 3, 2000.

Based on Legistar records, he has served continuously since that initial appointment. Stead also served on the city council representing Ward 5 from April 1993 through November 1994.

David Stead, right, reads a resolution he proposed at Thursday nights Environmental Commission. The resolution, which was approved, recommends removing Argo Dam.

David Stead, right, reads a resolution he proposed at an environmental commission meeting in 2009. The resolution, which was approved, recommended removing Argo Dam. At left is Margie Teall, a city councilmember who also sat on the environmental commission at the time.

There are no term limits for Ann Arbor city boards and commissions, but several councilmembers have expressed concerns about the length of service by some members of some boards and commissions preventing a broader range of participation in local governance. Most recently the issue arose in connection with the re-appointment of Wayne Appleyard to the energy commission on Oct. 23, 2013. Also a factor in the 8-3 confirmation vote for Appleyard was his non-city residency.

Stead is vice president of Resource Recycling Systems. City council minutes show that the council has approved roughly $300,000 in contracts for consulting work by RRS for the city of Ann Arbor between 2007 and 2009.

Westphal is being put forward as the planning commission’s representative to the environmental commission. He currently serves as chair of that commission. The planning commission voted at its Jan. 23, 2014 meeting to recommend Westphal’s reappointment. Westphal did not participate in the vote on that recommendation.

Westphal, a Democrat, is contesting the Ward 2 seat to which Sally Petersen is not seeking re-election – because she is running for mayor. Nancy Kaplan, who’s currently a member of the Ann Arbor District Library board, is running for that same Ward 2 seat.

In 2013, mayor John Hieftje declined to nominate Jeff Hayner to serve on the public art commission, citing a policy against nominating candidates for city council to serve on city boards and commissions. Hayner ran for Ward 1 council against Sabra Briere that year – a race in which Briere prevailed.

Hutton was first appointed to the environmental commission in 2011 and is concluding her first three-year term.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron.