By Joe Bachman
STEVENS POINT — City officials approved an ordinance that would allow committees to select their own chairs, rather than having them appointed by the mayor.
The ordinance, which still seeks a final nod from common council next week, continues a variation of a 2013 ordinance introduced by then alders Wiza, Beveridge and Phillips. It was their suggestion in 2013 that committees should have the power to select their own chairs, and that the council president should appoint such committee members.
“This ordinance amendment goes beyond this council,” said Alder Tori Jennings. “I ask that we common council members consider this issue not from our own self interests, but from the perspective of democracy and good governance.”
Jennings pointed out that governments in Oshkosh, Madison, La Crosse, and Wausau follow the same suit by having committees select their own chairs instead of the mayor.
Even though then Alder Wiza lobbied for a similar shift in power to committee members in 2013, that same proposal was eventually shot down in a tie-breaking vote by then Mayor Andrew Halverson.
“Maintaining balance of power between the executive and legislative branches of our municipal government helps strengthen our democracy by creating a more efficient and fair government,” said Jennings. “As such, ordinances at variance with the Wisconsin mayor-council form of city government (as described by the Wisconsin Legislative Council) deserve our scrutiny and should be revised where necessary.”
However, while not having a vote in the matter, Mayor Mike Wiza carried some concerns over the ordinance. Citing the main reasons as the ordinance takes the power away from the entire common council, as well as a lack of criteria for member selection. He would also like to see a path back from the ordinance in case problems arise from it.
Wiza stated that he would be more supportive of the ordinance if the vote for committee member selection went to the entire council, rather than a handful of members per committee.
The ordinance passed with a majority vote of 4-1, and will seek final approval at next week’s common council. Alder Mike Phillips was the only Alder to vote against the ordinance.