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Move To Pick Commissioners May Be Power Grab, Opponents Say

The proposal could give the council more power over the commissions' actions, according to commissioners.

Commissioners appointed to the city of Lake Forest's two advisory commissions could soon be appointed directly by a council member, rather than voted in by a majority—a move that opponents say constitutes a power grab.

Lake Forest's mayor, Kathryn McCullough, brought up the idea of changing the appointment process at the council's Tuesday evening meeting. Her colleagues agreed to discuss the proposal at a future meeting.

That move would turn the clock back to the early years of the city, when each council member selected his or her appointee for a commission.

McCullough did not explain why she wanted to return to the direct appointment process at the meeting where she introduced the topic.

Today individuals interested in filling a spot on either the city's Planning or Parks and Recreation commissions are interviewed, then voted on by the entire council. It's been that way for more than a decade, according to city staffers.

According to Tim Hughes, the longest-standing member of the city's Planning Commission, the council years ago changed the commission appointment process after it became clear that certain members of the council at the time had a "propensity for trying to influence the opinion" of their direct appointee.

"Therein lies the primary reason that they tried to change it," Hughes said.

Concerns about commissioners making decisions based on "lobbying" from the council member who appointed them spurred the switch, he said.

"I prefer the election process myself ... I think it's a more balanced approach," the longtime commissioner said.

The mayor and council members interested in switching to the original method "probably would like to have more influence on some of the planning commissioners," Hughes asserted.

Attempts to reach McCullough for comment on the proposal by phone were unsuccessful.

Another member of the city's Planning Commission also expressed concern about the potential change.

"I would be concerned about that kind of change. It gives the appearance of undue control by individual City Council [members], down to the Planning Commission level," said Terry Anderson, a planning commissioner who . "It's all about the appearance of independence. While individual people appointing individual commissioners may in fact be completedly unbiased, it gives the appearance that there could be collusion."

Tensions have risen recently between some members of the commission and council after the elected body rejected two Planning Commission recommendations.

Recently, the council voted against commission recommendations to allow an  and .

BOOMFREAKAinLF May 04, 2012 at 12:24 PM
When you leave the democratic process out of the picture, only the few at the top will benefit, period. How is this progress? And no explanation? C'mon now Mayor Kathryn McCullough!
Tim May 04, 2012 at 03:28 PM
The direct appointment process was already proven at least suspect if not corrupt and this suggestion would be a return to that. LEAVE the voting process in place it is the most balanced and least controversial approach! This proposal by the mayor leaves me very suspect of her intentions.
MFriedrich May 04, 2012 at 08:53 PM
So let me get this straight. Right now all 5 LF council members have to agree on each appointee added to a commission (by vote) as opposed to each of the 5 LF council members individually appointing their own preferred appointees to commissions. Frankly, I don't see much of a difference. If for example the mayor makes her 1 appointment to the Planning Commission, the other 4 council members can still make their own appointments of individuals to that commission who might counter or hold contrary views to the mayor's commission appointee. Tomayto. Tomahto.
Sarah de Crescenzo (Editor) May 04, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Mfriedrich, that's not quite it. Right now anyone can submit an application asking to serve as a commissioner. Each applicant then gets a public interview. Finally, there's a vote as to whether he or she should be appointed. A candidate needs the support of three members of the council to get the spot. Under this method, there aren't any direct links between specific council members and appointees as there would be with the other method.

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