Busy Week Ahead: City Council and School Board Meetings

At May’s School Board meeting, John Dryden did a good job of raising the issue of teacher pay increases. Teachers are paid according to a union-negotiated step-and-lane pay scale. For every year of employment they get a “step” raise, and for taking extra college classes they get “lane” increases. These can add up to as much as a 10.8% increase for a step+lane change. Dryden suggested making it more difficult to get the lane increases in order to slow down the rapidly escalating costs of salaries. He proposed limiting the courses that would qualify for lane increases to graduate level courses in the teacher’s field, involving significant amounts of work (example he gave: courses he took involved reading 12-15 books, while others’ classes may involve group projects with Play-Doh–both get equal credit in the current lane system). Board member Jon Gaspar objected that he had been a shop teacher and there were few graduate level courses in shop. Fair enough. So then the idea was brought up that perhaps they could limit the “accredited institutions” the credits could come from. Administration was directed to come up with some ideas, taking these and whatever else into consideration. But no ideas are on the agenda for Tuesday. Why not? It could also be interesting to see the documents the Tribune reporter FOIAd (the response letter, but not the documents, are there). And there is still no tentative budget for next year.

While we are searching for absent items on the School Board’s agenda, the City Council agenda has snuck in a surprise. Monday night is a special City Council meeting to continue last Monday night’s Council meeting, as many aldermen were absent due to the downpour and flooding. But there is something new on the agenda. (Well, really 2 new things, but one, item 9, is at least related to item 8, both dealing with 4th of July Fireworks.) The new item of concern is:

10.

ORDINANCE 15-25: Amend Portions of Chapter 5 of Title 1 of the Batavia Municipal
Code (WRM 6/11/15 COW 6/16/15)

What’s the big deal?

Late Tuesday night when this item was brought up at the COW meeting, Alderman Marty Callahan, on behalf of Kyle Hohmann who left around 10pm (the meeting ran to 10:55pm), began to make a request to put this item off till another meeting since it was already so late. Hohmann, Callahan, and others wanted to amend the ordinance to change the appointment criteria of committee chairs and vice chairs from seniority to attendance. Callahan explained that it doesn’t make sense to have a committee chair who is not often at the Council and COW meetings, and thus may not have a real sense of what is going on. Callahan and Hohmann thought an 85% attendance rate should be required. It sounded perfectly reasonable.

But Alderman Dave Brown, who normally does a good job of running COW meetings as Mayor Pro Tem, snapped. He cut off Callahan and shut down discussion by “calling the question”. What is “calling the question”? I had no idea, so I looked it up at home later. “Calling the question” is parliamentary procedure that basically means, “let’s vote,” and is meant to end discussion when they’ve gotten to the point that they’re beating a dead horse. Closing discussion like this requires a 2/3 vote. But it is often misapplied, as it was last Tuesday, to unilaterally shut down debate. There was no vote taken to end discussion, and instead Dave Brown demanded a vote (no public comment was allowed either, contrary to their usual procedure). Initially, I wasn’t even sure what they were voting on: putting it off till later, the proposed amendment, or the ordinance. I found out later that at least one of the aldermen was as confused as I. The vote was to accept the ordinance as written, with seniority the determinant of committee chairmanship. It passed by 1 vote. COW votes are recommendations that then go to the City Council meetings for formal vote and acceptance.

I thought maybe Alderman Brown was just grouchy because it was so late and he was tired and just wanted to go home………UNTIL I SAW THE AGENDA for Monday night. There is no reason this should be on the agenda for the special Council meeting. It is not a holdover from last Monday. None of the other items that were voted on at the COW are on the agenda. There is no reason this needs to be rushed, as the appointments have already been made for this year. So why is it there??? The City Administrator, Bill McGrath, typically sets the agendas for meetings.

The big topic of discussion for Monday is the proposed pedestrian island in the middle of Rt 31 on the south side of Houston St.

The special City Council meeting is Monday at 7:30pm, City Hall.
The School Board meeting is Tuesday at 7pm, District Administration Building.
Tuesday night, 7:30pm is the City Council COW meeting
(flooding issues will be discussed).

Please attend what you can. More citizens monitoring government is always a good thing.

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