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Thursday, January 5, 2006

Presidential Intrigue

Posted by on January 5 at 12:50 PM

City Council members have been on recess for two weeks, but the council’s two presidential contenders - Richard Conlin and Jean Godden - have been on the job, fearing, perhaps, the kind of fiasco that loosened Conlin’s lock on the position while he was on vacation in December. (Conlin, who had secured a 5-4 council majority for his presidential bid, left town just before Jim Compton - one of Conlin’s five votes - resigned, throwing the council into a 4-4 deadlock, where it remains today.)

Council business, scheduled to re-start in earnest next week, has been put more or less on hold while council members try to figure out what to do. The latest rumor is that Conlin has offered Godden the chairmanship of the coveted transportation committee (which Conlin heads) in exchange for the presidency. But that option would more or less screw Jan Drago, a Godden supporter (and the current council chair), who had hoped to chair transportation herself. (Under council custom, Conlin is expected to resign as transportation chair because he’s served four years in the position.)

On Tuesday, Drago said she “doubt[ed] that [Godden] would do that.” Assuming Drago’s right, another possible scenario is that Godden’s responsibilities as energy committee chair might be expanded, giving the rookie council member more authority over areas outside City Light, such as the city’s IT department.

In a completely different (and I think less likely) scenario, Conlin might agree to give up the presidency in exchange for a higher-profile committee like finance, which is in charge of the city’s budget. (The current budget chair, Richard McIver, supports Godden.)

All this intrigue is sort of comical when you consider what the job of council president really entails: making committee assignments every couple of years, controlling the flow of legislation into committees, and serving as the ceremonial and symbolic head of the council. Ironically, the council president traditionally controls the council’s lowest-profile committee (currently, Government Relations), giving the president less real power than he or she would have chairing a more influential committee like budget or transportation.

CommentsRSS icon

If being Council President had less real power there would not be so much interest in it.

Truth is there are some perks to the job. Such as more staff and ability to set the overall agenda. Having a less pressing committee allows them to,let's say, "organize" things.

It is also important to remember that the Council President is only heartbeat/scandal away from being Mayor.

For the record, the Council Prez does not get more staff.

The Prez also hires and fires (something the Stranger has reported on in the past), is in charge of the 70-person department, can stop legislation in it's tracks (as ECB noted) or route it to a like-minded Councilmember, etc, etc.

Council Prez is what you make it.

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