Your faithful blogger struggled through the half hour of video during which the city council discussed delaying action on the affordable housing proposal put forward by Sustainable Saratoga. The wandering discussion was impenetrable to this otherwise self described well informed observer. I called on Chris Mathiesen who asked for the delay to write something explaining what happened. The phrase transparency is currently the most abused word in the U.S. lexicon but in the case of Commissioner Mathiesen it is fully appropriate. Here is his brief response:
I decided to delay the vote on the Inclusionary Zoning Amendment to our Zoning Ordinance after consulting with our City attorney, Vince DeLeonardis and our land use attorney Mark Schachner. The referral to the County Planning Board, a requirement for an amendment to our zoning ordinance, has been unusually troublesome. Their most recent response, communicated to us on Friday, June 2, stated that we had submitted an incomplete application. We feel that the application is fully complete. To clear up any confusion or miscommunication, I decided that the County Planning Board should be made aware of our determination to go forward with a vote at the next City Council meeting (scheduled for Monday, June 19). Our City attorney will be sending a letter stating this so that the County Planning Board will be aware when they meet again on Thursday, June 15.
In the mean time, two Council members have stated that they would like to have another workshop before voting on this matter. This special Council meeting will take place on Tuesday, June 13 at 1:30. We will have the opportunity to speak again with both developers and lenders.
One disturbing aspect to this was the Council decision, initiated by Commissioners Franck and Madigan, to have the developers and bankers sit at the table with the Council for the upcoming workshop.
There was at least one public hearing at which many people both pro and con turned out to address the Council on this matter. I understand Commissioner Mathiesen’s decision to extend the process to insure full community involvement in light of the County Planning Board’s allegation that the economic analysis was incomplete. Let’s understand, though, that the County Planning Board is a kind of “subcommittee” of the real estate industry. It suffers from the same cronyism which is the hallmark of our county government. Still, to protect the city I can understand Commissioner Mathiesen’s decision.
What I have difficulty with is why the bankers and developers should be granted the privilege to sit at the Council table with the elected officials. Regrettably this is symbolic of the power and influence exerted by these very special interests. Friends, it makes a big difference in a discussion when you sit at the table. It would have been far better had the Council decided to extend the hearing and had these players address the Council from the public gallery like the rest of the citizens of this city.