In The News › Tweak in makeup of S&WB on ballot

Sep 28, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Governance, On the Ballot, Orleans Parish

Tweak in makeup of S&WB on ballot

Change would affect City Council’s picks

Tuesday, September 28, 2010
By Bruce Eggler
The Times-Picayune

New Orleans voters will decide Saturday whether to make a minor change in the membership of the Sewerage & Water Board.

The City Charter now specifies that both at-large City Council members and one district member chosen by the full council serve on the 13-member board. The proposed charter amendment would change that to one at-large member and two “other” council members. The council would decide which of its members to appoint.

Council President Arnie Fielkow, sponsor of the ordinance that put the measure on the ballot, said his idea is that the two “other” appointees would both be district members, but the amendment does not require that.

Fielkow said his intention also is that the council’s at-large seat on the board would be held by whichever at-large member is not serving as council president in a given year, but again, the proposed charter change does not specify that.

A couple of years ago, Fielkow suggested that council members should not sit on the water board at all because major issues that the board votes on, such as setting rates, also must come before the council for approval. That means some council members vote on them twice, wearing “different hats” that Fielkow said can present philosophical conflicts of interest. That idea gained no support from his colleagues.

The Sewerage & Water Board is responsible for building, operating and maintaining New Orleans’ sewerage and water systems and most of the drainage system.

Besides the three council members, the board consists of the mayor, two members of the Board of Liquidation-City Debt, and seven citizen members appointed by the mayor.

In an analysis of the charter amendment, the nonpartisan Bureau of Governmental Research said council members have “asserted that (the change) would allow for more informed representation.” The analysis went on to say that in their view, district members are more aware than at-large members of the challenges facing the S&WB, because constituents typically go to district council members with problems related to water and sewerage service.

On the other hand, the bureau said, “at-large members have the advantage of a citywide perspective and responsibility. They have less temptation than a district council member to focus disproportionately on, and give priority to, the needs of a specific geographic area.”

Counteracting the “risk of parochialism is the continuing presence of at least one at-large council member, along with the fact that the council’s three members are a small portion of the 13-member board,” the BGR report said.

The report also noted that giving the council more flexibility in choosing its representatives on the board could help ensure that the appointees are able and willing to fulfill “a time-consuming commitment.”

Sep 28, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Governance, On the Ballot, Orleans Parish

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