Publisher’s Notebook: Open Letter to Council on Filling the Vacancy

The November 21, 2016, resignation of Council Member Danny Meeks presents an opportunity. Under the provisions of our city charter (see Chapter 3 Section 3.04), when a vacancy on that body occurs, the remaining members can appoint someone to fill the seat temporarily. As CM Meeks’s term of office will expire on January 1, 2017, the amount of time the temporary appointee will hold the position is relatively brief. Nonetheless, were council to appoint one of the Council Members-Elect chosen by the voters earlier this month, that person could get her/his feet wet a bit early. In my view, getting a head start on a new job has benefits to both the job holder and her/his constituents.Although City Council has only one more regular meeting on its calendar for this year, we have no idea what will appear on the agenda. If any contentious issues arise, having a full complement of council members in the chamber could be important in achieving a desirable resolution. As many matters decided by sitting members have repercussions for their successors, being involved on the front end of the process could be most advantageous. Additionally, if something completely unanticipated arises that necessitates a special meeting in mid- or late December, having one more council member available could mean the difference between having a quorum or not being able to conduct business.

Choosing the recently elected member to appoint should not be difficult if logic prevails. Council should offer the first right of refusal to the non-incumbent member-elect who received the greater number of votes. According to the official results provided by the Registrar of Voters, that would be Ms. Lisa Lucas-Burke. If she were unable to assume the office prior to January 1, then council should offer the position to Mr. Nathan Clark. In either event, bringing on board someone who has qualified to hold the office for the subsequent term transforms a vacancy into an opportunity.

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