Make Plan Commission smaller, independent, better paid

ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” story. It is an editorial by the editor.

‘Twas a year ago that I sugPlan commissiongested in this very space that The Wayland City Planning Commission membership be reduced from nine to seven. ‘Twas six months ago that I came out strongly against any suggestion the mayor have an automatic seat on the commission.

But those stubborn rascals on the City Council still haven’t budged an inch from where we were a year ago. To be sure, they’ve had conversations, but talk gets rather cheap when it gets in the way of progress.

Now comes part three of just one man’s opinion:

I resolutely urge city officials to reduce the Planning Commission’s numbers from nine to seven, insure that it is fiercely independent of the City Council by seating only a non-voting (ex-officio) council representative, and to increase the pay of each commission member to $50 per meeting, with the chairman getting $60.

The reasons for reducing the membership were outlined six months ago:

  • It’s too doggone hard to find nine qualified people willing to serve.
  • There is no reason the number should be nine except that the city charter said so almost 50 years ago.
  • Most other planning commissions in this area have seven or five members, and they’re doing just fine.
  • A nine-member public body needs five for a quorum in order to meet. The commission now numbers just seven members actually serving, so two absences could cancel a meeting for lack of quorum. With a seven-member commission, the magic number for a quorum would be four, much more manageable in case two people get sick during notorious cold and flu season.

Reducing the members from nine to seven would save the city $912 a year. That’s two members at $38 per meeting for 12 meetings in a year. So I say let’s take that $912 savings and invest it in the people who serve.

The city, under current charter rules, is authorized to pay $4,104 for Planning Commission meetings. That’s $38 for nine members and 12 meetings annually. Raising the stipend would up the ante to $4,200 a year, a mere $96 more. Add the $120 more the chairman and you would have $216, a very modest increase in city expenses annually, but a really nice result in making public service a little more attractive.

Virtually everyone agrees it’s difficult to find people willing to serve, and that paltry paycheck of $38 per meeting doesn’t make things any easier. Throw in the fact that some neighboring places, such as Wayland Township, are willing to cough up as much as $80 a meeting to get people to serve on their planning commissions.

So I propose three things to happen, but I’m not so naïve as to believe the city will jump when I say, jump.” The big three are:

  • Reduce the number of Planning Commission members from nine to seven ASAP.
  • Keep the City Council and Planning Commission independent from one another except for the ex-officio representative from the council on the commission.
  • Raise the per meeting pay of commissioners from $38 to $50 per meeting so as not to appear to be chincey and to keep these public servants healthy and happy. And don’t forget to toss in the extra $10 per meeting for the chairman.

Sincerely, yours for better local government,

David T. Young of the pesky press

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