February 1, 2011

Public Works Shake-Up Raises Questions

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Mayor Carolyn Peterson’s decision not to reappoint Board of Public Works Commissioner Cynthia Brock on Jan. 4 raised questions about the mayor’s political motivations.

Brock said she objected to Peterson’s desire for a closed-door review of the BPW’s part of the city’s charter last year and Wade Wykstra, former BPW commissioner who vacated his seat last year, expressed concerns that the decision not to reappoint Brock was made in response to her opposition. “I believe that it was removing what [the mayor] considered to be political opposition and also I believe that in my view as a commissioner, Ms. Brock was a perfectly viable commissioner,” Wykstra said. “I believe under the terms of the charter, the mayor’s responsibility is to strive to keep a full commission and a full board. Ditching a viable commissioner is going against that charge.”“I do believe the charter would benefit from a comprehensive and open review,” Brock said. “I was not in support of the process that the mayor was undertaking in terms of reviewing the charter. I repeatedly objected to the process.” Peterson created the Public Works Governance Working Group in 2010 to evaluate the responsibilities of the BPW. The primary goal of PWGWG is to look at the BPW’s structure and to streamline and make the board more efficient, said Councilman Daniel Cogan M.S. ’95 (D-5th Ward), the head of PWGWG.Brock’s three-year term on the board expired on Jan. 5, 2011. Though Brock expressed interest in being reappointed to her seat, Peterson nominated Govind Acharya to fill Brock’s position, despite having additional openings on the board. Acharya was approved by an 8-2 vote by the Common Council, the Ithaca Times reported.  Peterson said her decision to not reappoint Brock was not politically motivated. “Board appointments are generally not looked at politically, at least not by me,” Peterson said. “They are looked at via the individual’s resume. No questions are asked regarding positions on issues.”Peterson said her intent for taking a look at BPW’s part of the city charter and creating PWGWG was to minimize bureaucratic overlaps. “I am most interested in [BPW’s] areas of overlapping responsibilities with Common Council and in reviewing those responsibilities and where they are best assigned,” Peterson said. The mayor also cited the New York State Department of State booklet, which says “a good charter should provide a clear distribution of the powers of city government and clear descriptions of the duties and powers of municipal officials.”

Original Author: Hank Bao