Mayor Ortega is using his seat to bully citizens and fire a warning shot.
In his first few months in office, Mayor Ortega has decided one of his biggest priorities is to oust a Planning Commissioner for, what he considers, excessive recusals for potential conflicts of interest. It is an agenda item for Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
We don’t have rules about recusals except that you should recuse yourself if you have any real or potential conflict of interest. Some time back, City Council discussed adding a new rule that would have created limits to recusals and call for a City Council review if the limit was exceeded. The rule was never adopted.
Curious. If Ortega thinks we should monitor recusals, he doesn’t re-open the conversation to adopt a rule, rather he calls out one Commissioner by name in a televised City Council meeting?
Commissioners and Board members should be encouraged to declare conflicts and refrain from voting. They should err on the side of caution. Whether the conflict is real (according to statutory definitions), potential or perceived, folks should be encouraged to declare a conflict. Calling a Commissioner out by name in a public forum will have a chilling effect and discourage others from recusing themselves in the future.
All of our Boards and Commissions are made up of citizen volunteers who freely lend their time and talent to advise the City Council. They have no legal authority. Many Commissioners bring professional expertise.
It is not surprising that successful professionals doing business in our city may run into matters that may create a conflict. We all benefit from their expertise and must require them not to engage in discussions where they may have a conflict.
There has been a push in recent years to have more Commissioners with no professional experience sit on the Planning Commission. The thinking is to have more citizen input. (I would point out that all Commissioners, even the professionals, are citizens.)
Throughout our history, real estate professionals, like architects and builders, served on Planning and helped to insure the quality development that built this great City. They know when and how to push for more quality.
Today, three out of seven members do not have any professional expertise in building or design.
The Commissioner in this case is considered by some to be in the real estate business because he has a company that works on projects by reaching out to neighbors to share plans, hear their concerns and modify plans in response to what they learn.
Curious. If Ortega wants more non-professional members, he doesn’t appoint new members as terms expire, rather he calls out one Commissioner in a televised City Council?
Ortega has made it clear that he disagrees with zoning decisions made by the previous City Council and that he wants to change zoning codes. One way to get support for his agenda is to populate Boards and Commissions with people who support his agenda.
The Commissioner in this case supported projects that Ortega opposed.
Not so curious. Ortega sees no place in City Hall for people who disagree with him.
I hope my colleagues will not support humiliating a citizen who volunteers his time and expertise because they had the integrity to declare a conflict of interest. If my colleagues disagree with his politics, then they can replace him with someone more to their liking when his term expires.
So, beware Scottsdale. If this Commissioner is removed, be cautious about lending your time and professional expertise to help the city. If you do and you disagree with Ortega, you may also be called out by name at a televised City Council meeting.
Editor’s Note: Linda Milhaven is a Scottsdale City Council member.