Council accountability

All too often it seems that important decisions concerning our city are made before the matters ever reach public awareness. Some decisions are essentially handed off to paid consultants or boards and commissions—not that they have the actual power to enact, but in that by the time the issue arrives before Council it has become accepted wisdom.

Just recently I learned that the Planning Department had decided to grant big developers extensions on their building permits due to the purported financial hardship they faced during the current recession. They weren’t even required to pay a fee for the extension. Projects including the Ellington Hotel, which was approved despite widespread citizen opposition and which might not be legal under the forthcoming Downtown Master Plan, were thereby “grandfathered” without any public discussion or input.

Further back the Planning Department decided to permit illegal development by interpreting the Unified Development Ordinance in ways convenient to developers: hence the continuing code violation by Walgreens, Staples and Greenlife, to name just the most notorious. Many of us hoped that replacement of the Planning Director would end such practices. We need to do better.


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