Council Tackles Enviro Group Appointments

Two actions related to the Ann Arbor environmental commission (EC) were taken by the city council at its July 7, 2014 meeting.

Given initial approval by the council was an amendment to the city ordinance establishing the commission. In other business, the council confirmed the appointment of additional members to the commission: Allison Skinner and Benjamin Muth. Those nominations had been announced at the council’s June 16, 2014 meeting.

The ordinance change relates in part to the way that nominations to the EC are made. The EC is one of the few boards or commissions in the city for which the mayor does not make nominations. The more familiar procedure – for most boards and commissions – includes a mayoral nomination at one council meeting, followed by the confirmation vote of the council at a subsequent meeting.

In the past, the council has mimicked this procedure for the EC by having some councilmember put a resolution on the agenda appointing a member to the EC, and then postponing the resolution until the next meeting. The ordinance revisions include clarification that the nominations put forward by the council as a body to the EC are to be made by the two councilmembers who serve as the council’s representatives to the EC.

Besides two slots for council representatives, the EC includes positions for members of the planning commission, park advisory commission, and energy commission. The ordinance revision to which the council gave initial approval on July 7 makes clear that those groups make their appointments to the EC without further city council approval. This specific revision comes after the planning commission had selected Kirk Westphal from its membership to serve on the EC earlier this year. Some councilmembers voted against his confirmation, when the council was asked to confirm his selection two months ago. For background on that vote, see “Hutton, Westphal Reappointed to EC.”

The staff memo summarizes the changes to the ordinance regulating appointments to boards and commissions as follows:

  • clarifies that the councilmembers currently serving on the environmental commission nominate persons for “at-large” appointments, which are then approved by council resolution;
  • clarifies that the planning commission, park advisory commission, and energy commission each designate a representative to the environmental commission without council approval and for a one-year term;
  • clarifies that the 3-year terms should be equally staggered;
  • removes references to the Leslie Science Center Advisory Board, which no longer exists;
  • requires the city administrator or the designated support staff of the environmental commission to notify council of vacancies – previously this was delegated to the clerk’s office, which does not always have immediate knowledge of vacancies;
  • contains a few minor, non-substantive corrections and clarifications.

The ordinance amendment will still need a second and final vote at a subsequent meeting, in order to be enacted.

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