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Residency rule creates vacancies on city boards

Monday, January 27, 2014
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— A residency restriction sought by Amsterdam’s Common Council created four vacancies on boards or commissions last week, and one council member expects to see more people resign.

The city of Amsterdam needs volunteers to sit on the Civil Service Commission, the Planning Board and the Urban Renewal Agency. Résumés are due soon — the City Clerk’s office is asking they be postmarked by Saturday.

Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler said people who live outside the city need not apply.

“We’re trying to open it up to more people and to get more people involved in local government,” she said. “The city residents are taxpayers and they should have the priority to sit on these committees and make decisions or make proposals that could be acted upon.”

The Common Council approved a resolution last week requiring any board or commission member living outside the city to step down within a week. City residents on more than one board are being asked to choose and serve on only one.

The resolution awaits a signature, or veto, from Mayor Ann Thane, who is considering the impact it might have on getting enough volunteers to serve.

Hatzenbuhler said her goal is to broaden participation from those who have a stake in the decisions these boards and commissions make. And she contends the mayor’s appointment powers leaves these boards filled with her minions and under her control.

“We don’t have a large pool of business people that want to get involved in government,” said Hatzenbuhler, who alleges Thane ignored interest expressed by individuals who sought to serve on the Golf Commission.

The Golf Commission is caught in the middle of a disagreement between the Mayor and Common Council: Thane wants to follow the commission’s recommendation and hire management for the golf course and market the site on the Internet to boost membership and revenues. The Common Council sees no need for improvement at the golf course and rehired the same individuals who have been running the course for years by overriding a mayoral veto last week.

Thane sees the residency requirement as a move by the Common Council to load city boards up with their friends and followers.

“It’s a shame that they’re focusing their efforts on a power struggle rather than on the real problems the city’s facing — the real challenges like public safety, economic development, neighborhood revitalization,” she said.

She said a residency requirement may do more harm to progress than good.

“It’s very difficult to get people to step up and participate,” the mayor said.

 
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