City Council axes temporary commission liaison

April 3, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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Despite pleas from Community Activities commissioners, the advisory board no longer has a council member liaison after the Newcastle City Council decided against renewing the position at its March 18 meeting.

The council voted down a motion, 4-3, seeking to extend the liaison through the end of the year.

A council liaison was appointed last year to help the volunteer board as it transitioned from the Parks Commission to the Community Activities Commission.

Councilman Rich Crispo, who led the changes to the commission, was chosen to serve as the liaison. The council representative acted as a nonvoting member of the advisory board; the position was set to expire at the end of March.

Prior to the vote, Linda Newing, vice chairwoman of the Community Activities Commission, addressed the City Council, speaking on behalf of the board in saying that the liaison was an appreciated addition.

“We feel an extension of this position is value added and it’s not an expenditure to the city,” she said. “It’s just another communication tool that really helps in getting our progress moving.”

The commissioners’ own desire to keep the position was the main reason Councilman Gordon Bisset and Councilwoman Lisa Jensen said they supported an extension for the liaison.

“I believe the Community Activities Commission has requested this just about every meeting that I’ve gone to. They’re in agreement 7-0 that they need this position and it’s really helped,” Bisset said.

After a year of transition, though, and with the new addition of a city staff member whose responsibilities include working with the Community Activities Commission, the majority of the council felt it was time to let the council member liaison position expire.

The city staff welcomed new addition Wendy Kirchner in February. Kirchner’s official title is community activities liaison. She works closely with the Community Activities Commission.

“It’s important to learn that the staff person is there to assist the Community Activities Commission and to support the commission and to report back to council on what the commission’s recommendations are,” Councilwoman Carol Simpson said. “At this time, I’d like to see our staff person be given a chance to take that role.”

Deputy Mayor John Drescher also added that with the progress the commissioners had made since the board’s shakeup, the extra crutch of the council member liaison wasn’t really necessary.

“They were crawling and walking, and now I think with Wendy in place, and with the quality of people on the Community Activities Commission, they’re ready to run on their own,” he said.

The decision to axe the council member liaison, though, was another example of the City Council ignoring a commission recommendation, a disturbing trend, according to Crispo, who supported extending the position.

Earlier this year, the council decided against the commission’s proposition to extend Newcastle Days to two days and change the date, due to a lack of time to acquire sponsors and manage logistics. Newcastle Days 2014 will occur the first Saturday of September, as it has in the past.

“You have the right to make this call, make the call,” Crispo said, “but just recognize that you’ve got volunteers out there that are trying to do the best they can for the city, and when they’re asking for something, they probably should be respected.”


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