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    Commentary: A City Council of One

    Albany resident Mac McCurdy wrote an opinion article on the City Council leadership and the election:

    “Let’s start with a look back at the last election:

    In 2006 the Atkinson/Wile team received 6538 votes while O’keefe and Papalia received 4774. That’s roughly a 58% to 42% split and represented a clear rejection of the Caruso development proposal by the majority of Albany voters. But it also showed that a substantial minority of voters had an interest in seeing a development plan make it as far as a measure C vote, where all the voters in Albany could express their sentiments on a complete and detailed proposal. Caruso’s last proposal did include 17 acres of park along the waterfront (roughly 17 football fields in size).

    Based on the campaign it was clear where Atkinson and Wile stood on waterfront issues. But by electing them the people of Albany got more than just temporary relief from the development controversy. What couldn’t be foreseen on election day was that the two:

    Must surely have known that a move would be made to scrap Albany’s established rotational approach for choosing it’s mayor.
    Would without question support the Council Member Robert Lieber as the new mayor; and
    Were inclined to vote with him right down the line, whatever the issue under consideration.

    With the support of Atkinson and Wile, Council Member Lieber was quickly able to elect himself Mayor Lieber. And since he has become mayor, these two council members have voted with him right at 100% of the time-with maybe one or two minor exceptions. In the face of strong and well-framed opposing views on important and controversial issues by council members Farid Javandel and Jewel Okawachi (as well as committee members and thoughtful citizens) , Atkinson and Wile have come through for the mayor every time, often with minimal comment, as if on cue. They support any motion he chooses to make, and oppose any he opposes.

    Upon assuming his new office, Mayor Lieber could have expressed an intention to become the mayor for all the people of Albany; and to respect and consider the views of all our citizens. Instead he announced that, in electing Atkinson and Wile, “the people of Albany had spoken”, and had in fact, given him a personal mandate which justified his self-appointment as mayor and indicated approval and support, in advance, of all his views on how to move the City forward. He has since exercised that mandate vigorously and pushed through ordinances, and governmental changes, a number of which were clearly not supported by all “the people of Albany”. And a few of these moves, I think many will agree, appear to have been motivated more by political ambition and self interest than the good of the city. With the unwavering help of his support group he has also passed a number of resolutions in the name of Albany, that were not directly related to the business of the city, but (as he himself points out) were based simply on his strong personal need to “speak out” about what “we know is right.”. And perhaps build a record for a broader audience?

    Since we now understand that time at Council meetings is clearly precious and not to be wasted, we would suggest a method for saving it. The city clerk can dispense with polling the full council on each motion and simply poll Mayor Lieber. With two council members in his pocket on virtually every vote, conclusions are foregone. Opposing votes by the remaining two council members may be of interest and have merit, but can never prevail. In the present circumstances, polling the full council can only achieve the same result as polling the mayor alone, so why bother?

    If Mayor Lieber is re-elected to the council, he’ll surely appoint himself mayor for a third (and most likely a fourth) term. With council members Atkinson and Wile still in place, this will mean that for the next two years we will continue to have an Albany City Council Of One.”

    *Editor’s Note: Albany Today encourages open and constructive discussion on the current election and other issues of public concern in the community. All voices of reason from Albany residents are welcome. You can post your opinions under the articles or send them to me through email linjun9913@berkeley.edu.

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