There’s a new majority in town.
The Spokane City Council’s new, more conservative majority flexed its muscle in its first meeting of the year on Monday when it voted 4-2 to strip an automatic appointment of the Spokane City Council president to the Spokane Airport Board.
After the rule was changed, the council voted for a slate of appointments to about 25 boards and commissions that named Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin to the Airport Board seat instead of Council President Ben Stuckart.
Supporters of the change stress that the rule giving the seat to the council president was only a few years old and was part of a revamping of various rules governing the council that angered then-President Joe Shogan. Shogan at the time succeeded, however, in persuading the council to add the rule guaranteeing the airport appointment for the president. He argued that the board is important enough to be served by the only council member elected citywide.
On Monday, Councilman Mike Allen pointed to a meeting about the council rules when Shogan was out of town and participated by phone, promising to come back to Spokane “bringing hell” with him. Allen said the Airport Board rule was “bad legislation that was done to appease a particular person.”
Other supporters of the change said there was a long history of the council selecting an Airport Board member by vote and noted that McLaughlin has, by far, the most seniority among the city’s elected leaders.
“I believe the process that will lead to the best possible board service for now and the future is a democratic majority vote,” said Councilman Steve Salvatori. “Some may see this as a political issue, but I do not. It’s simply selecting a process to give the public the best possible board representation for today and tomorrow.”
Stuckart called the proposal a “regretful act” and noted that before the rules were changed in 2009, the council president had the authority to appoint council members to boards.
“When you keep stripping power from a position, it’s bad for the institution,” he said. “This resolution does make me worried about collaboration and cooperation moving forward.”
Former Councilman Dean Lynch criticized the council for rearranging board membership based on politics not only this year but in 2010 when a newly elected council booted McLaughlin from two transportation boards in favor of Councilman Jon Snyder. Snyder was stripped of one of those spots last year and lost the other one on Monday.
“If there are grudges, please put the grudges aside,” Lynch told the council. After the next city election, “will it be payback time again or will the cycle have been broken?”