Mayor talks about JPA jam
Mayor Chris Beutler was on Jack-n-John today, and addressed an issue I blogged about last week: How the three-member arena joint public agency has difficulty communicating without violating the open meetings law.
The law prohibits a quorum of the board from talking business outside of public meetings, and since there are only three people on the arena board, any time two of them talk business, they’re violating the law.
“It is a very practical communication problem,” Beutler told J&J.
It’s a problem, he said, because normally they’d “try to work out problems”privately ahead of meetings to avoid a lot of “fuss” in public. That sounds like the school board’s modus operandi, doesn’t it?
Of course, reporters are usually more partial to boards that work out problems in public, like the City Council (although the council seems to be getting better at avoiding public rows). Gives them something to report.
Even though the City Council gets dinged for being dysfunctional, I like the transparency of debating issues in public rather than taking care of problems in closed-door subcommittees or private meetings and e-mails. Otherwise the formal meetings feel like a farce.
But back to Beutler.
To get around this problem, he said the JPA board has been communicating through third parties — which he’s been told is legal. But he said “some thought” has been given to adding another member to the board (as I reported). He gave a hint as to the dilemma though when he noted all JPA votes must be unanimous to pass, and “the university and city have slightly diffferent interests.”
The JPA board is comprised of Beutler, Councilwoman Jayne Snyder and UNL Regent Tim Clare. It would seem obvious that if a fourth member were added (by a JPA vote), it would probably be another UNL representative. However, that unanimous vote requirement quickly led to a tenuous situation early in the JPA’s life, when Clare darn near held up everything with his insistence that the city not use union-favoring contracts.
Adding another UNL member would only make it more difficult for the city to ensure it’s in the driver’s seat on this $340 million project.
Which is probably why Beutler said “at the moment,” he’s content to leave things alone.