Monday, April 13, 2009

All Together Now...

It's probably worth taking a quick look at where the new council stands on filling the vacancy. Here's what the NW put together on Thursday:
Esslinger said he would prefer to collect resumes from individuals who were interested in applying for the position. He said he believed collecting resumes would give the council a pool of qualified candidates to choose from.

However, Councilor Burke Tower said he thought the most logical option was to appoint the person who finished in fourth place during Tuesday's election.


Newly elected councilor Bob Poeschl said he prefers holding a special election but would like to see if there was a way to hold an election earlier than November.

Palmeri said he hopes the council can decide unanimously on how to fill the seat.

Palmeri has a post today that seems to suggest he's not much closer to decided how the council should proceed aside from the fact that it probably should not just appoint the runner-up ... I think.

That's four separate opinions in need of reconciliation and we haven't even gotten word on what King and McHugh are thinking yet. If you have some time to sift through the comment section of that particular article, it's one of the more commented NW pieces in a while. There's no clear consensus favorite among the masses either.

The only option that I think we can all safely remove from the table is the pre-November special election on account of cost. For as much support and attention as the "4th placer" scenario is getting, Steve Cummings probably doesn't have the four votes needed on the council to get approved. Kevin McGee talked a lot about precedent in the NW today, but we just don't see that making much of a difference given the personal politics of the situation.

So that leaves the council with some kind of appointment process. There will be a great deal of argument, from many corners, that this is the least "democratic" process. They will have a point, but will likely be the same folks who are unwilling to fork over the cash for a special election.

But there is a remedy, and that's transparency. The more transparent the appointment process is the more opportunity the public will have to offer their own advice and feedback and the harder it will be for council members to pull a fast one on the voters. If the council members screw the appointment up, then voters will know as the screw up is happening and will hopefully redirect the course of the appointment. If the council doesn't, then voters have the responsibility to hold them accountable next time they're up for re-election.

We suggested that Esslinger should select a possible appointment for the council to vote from the pool of applicants he plans on culling. If the people of Oshkosh are able to examine the applications just as he sees them (we've suggested they all be posted online), then he'll be under pressure to make a more enlightened decision, as opposed to just a political one. It really doesn't matter which member of the council gets the power to do this beacuse they'll all be subject to the same scrutiny. Choose an unqualified lackey over an extremely qualified candidate and people will notice. In this respect, it isn't just one person making the decision, but anyone who has an interest in the process get to lend their voice to it. We've settled on Esslinger for this responsibility because he's the mayor and someone's gotta do it.

We've outlined how this can all be done relativey quickly. Given the diversity of opinion among the incoming council over how to fill the seat, time will likely become a factor. If it's suddenly the middle of July and we're no closer to filling the seat than we are today -- which is entirely a possibility -- then we may as well just get a winner-take-all special election rolling for November.

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