It took a few hammer strokes, but the Bethany Beach Charter and Ordinance Review Committee (CORC), having studied underlying issues of mission, formation and composition, settled on some bedrock committee guidelines at the Aug. 18 CORC meeting.
Council members were slated to consider this list the following day, and then perhaps use to CORC’s recommendations in coming months (September or October, according to Mayor John “Jack” Walsh), as they move through all this year’s committee reorganizations.
Much of the discussion arose from the unique makeup of the CORC committee itself — it’s a popular committee, as Council Member Lew Killmer pointed out.
And recently, CORC has been a sort of feeder program for Town Council. Killmer was a member before his appointment to town council, and Council Member Jerry Dorfman also came up from CORC.
Dorfman remains a CORC member, alongside Council Members Tony McClenny and Wayne Fuller (committee chair).
There were actually six out of seven council members in attendance on Aug. 18 — McClenny, Fuller and Dorfman at the committee table, Walsh, Killmer and Vice-Mayor Carol Olmstead on the sidelines.
As Olmstead pointed out, there’d never be more than three council members on a committee — four would constitute a quorum, with the chartered ability to vote on public matters, enact ordinances, etc.
Simply not done — transparency issues and advertising requirements aside, a quorum on committee would rightly create a perception that the publicly-elected minority not sitting with the committee was being excluded from the political process.
The discussion at CORC was whether even three was too many. McClenny was emphatic on “no more than three,” Fuller and Dorfman seconded that, but suggested three wasn’t necessarily too many. There were some comments regarding the challenge of finding willing volunteers — as Dorfman pointed out, there’d been no candidates to contest any of the town council incumbents this year.
However, as Committee Member Kathleen Mink reminded, at least for CORC, there were people waiting in line to serve.
And according to Second Street resident Lois Lipsett, this year’s non-election didn’t indicate the public’s disinterest in getting involved. Rather, she said town residents already had a brand new council — there was little reason to vote for change.
(McClenny, Killmer and Dorfman are still working through first terms, Olmstead just finished her first term and Walsh his second term, and has served as mayor for less than a year.)
Mink noted the primary reason for having a committee in the first place — to do staff work for council, on matters where council members might not have time to devote their attention.
Lipsett said committees also encouraged, and provided an avenue for, increased public involvement in local governance — and she noted the corollary. “You’re cutting that out with every council member who fills a chair,” Lipsett said.
As Mink clarified, council members could certainly participate and offer input from the audience — the discussion was about how many should have a vote on committee.
Committee Member Jane Fowler suggested they lower the limit to two council members on any committee, and after McClenny offered some amendments to that suggestion, CORC reached unanimous agreement on:
• No more than two council members on any committee, unless the people forming the committee can’t find a sufficient number of “qualified voters” willing to serve (that is, either residents or non-resident property owners — anyone able to vote in town elections);
• If the people forming the committee (ultimately, the chairperson nominates, council approves and appoints) can’t find a sufficient number of private citizens willing to serve, no more than three council members on any committee;
• Odd number of voting members, to avoid deadlock, with a maximum of nine members per committee.
Mink broached discussion on a range of issues, from mission statements (should they come from the council member who asked that the committee be established, or from the committee) to sunsetting (should the committee disband automatically once the mission has been accomplished) to membership qualifications (in the end, they decided against them — anyone willing to volunteer could learn as they went). As the sole non-resident committee member, Mink also asked whether they might consider instituting accommodations for people traveling to attend (moving meetings to Fridays or Saturdays, perhaps an occasional conference call).
The committee reached consensus on all these issues that they’d be better handled internally, rather than instituted in guidelines. However, committee members and council members and residents in attendance closed the meeting with a round of applause for Mink, and the work she’d put into the project.