Who cares what motivates the proposed ordinance empowering the City Council to appoint members of the zoning and planning boards. It is a good ordinance that embodies a basic principle of good government.
The principle: we need checks and balances against power’s corrupting tendencies.
Planning and zoning board decisions effect whether or not developers make millions and millions of dollars. This is considerable power. Given the strictures placed on council action, such as open public meetings, advance notice, two readings, etc. – the council represents a safer place to store this power, rather than keeping it with one person – however admirable that one person might be.
Put more cynically, are we better off letting this power be held hostage to one politician’s agenda or are we better off letting these appointments result from a synthesis of nine politicians’ agendas (i.e. the Council)? No less a mind than James Madison – in his theory of overlapping interests –suggested that the latter was always preferable, so long as it was practical.
I have witnessed the current zoning board: disregard instructions from a Superior Court judge; hear an application in violation of Hoboken Ordinances; freely admit that they don’t check the accuracy of the information developers present in their applications – to name just a few of many irregularities. I have also witnessed the Planning Board hold a hearing to which they invited the applicant but did not notice the objector (myself) – even though the purpose of the hearing was to lift a stop work order brought about by my complaints. As I understand it, these are not isolated cases. [Fair disclosure: I have been involved in multiple litigations – all rulings in my favor to date – involving the zoning and planning boards, hence my familiarity with their foibles.]
I can’t imagine that the City Council could do a worse job of appointing members to these bodies. I can see only an upside to relocating this power of appointment to the Council.