Friday, May 29, 2009

Committed Volunteers

Sorry for the hiatus, I've been packing up everything I own to get a better tan 3,000 miles away. Luckily, I'm done with that now.

This week's Village Board Meeting, the last for The Gatekeeper and The Renegade, was a disaster. Because there was no meeting. See, The Mayor and The Gatekeeper showed up, but The Renegade, The Butterfly and The Financier were all absent. Apparently The Financier's absence was excused (this time) due to a personal issue. No one seems to know where The Butterfly was, although her husband was present for the first time in anyone's memory. The Renegade was simply out, due to personal obligations and priorities that may or may not have been communicated or excused. So, without a quorum, the meeting was never called to order and business in the VoNP is stalled, yet again.

In the wake of The Butterfly's unjustified and unprofessional tirade against the NPFD, many of her defenders are pointing to the meager stipend and supreme level of commitment that she has demonstrated in her capacity as Trustee. So, as is my way, I did some data entry and found even my overly cynical self disappointed by the results.

Instead of dealing with the personal qualities of The Butterfly as Trustee, and without even attempting to tackle the subjective issue of voting record, let's stick to something we can all agree is a requirement of office: attendance. We all know that Trustees should show up and participation is apparently a bonus. But I've been stating that The Butterfly and The Financier fall far short of even this basic obligation and we don't need to have a philosophical debate about positions or abilities; the facts back this one up.

Section 31-5 of the Village Code outlines that "Any person appointed to a board, commission or committee of the Village shall be expected to attend at least 75% in number of the regular and special meetings of such board, commission or committee during a period of 12 consecutive months." There does not appear to be an attendance policy for elected board members, but I think it is reasonable to assume that these officers should be held to this standard at a minimum. I'm assuming the absence of this specification is for this exact reason; we shouldn't have to hold elected officials to an attendance policy. After all, they're the ones who chose to seek public office!

Of the 54 available meetings for all of 2008 and 2009 (38 available meetings for The Renegade), who actually shows up?

For the purpose of my averages, "attendance" is considered complete attendance. You show up to the meeting, on time, and stay until the meeting is adjourned. I did not count instances where someone leaves the meeting for a few minutes, as these are expected to occur. Also, as a courtesy to The Butterfly, I did not count instances where she left for significant blocks of time, as it would be nearly impossible to calculate due to the frequency and duration of such "emergency" phone calls, snacking, socializing and web surfing. Each instance of arriving late and leaving early, even from the same meeting, is counted as a separate, distinct violation. I could've weighted lates and earlys as being less offensive than full absences, and also could've formed penalties based on the extent of lateness or leaving-earlyness, but I didn't. They're all equally offensive as far as I'm concerned, plus it's early and I'm not that big into math. I'll gladly email my spreadsheet to anyone who would like to tackle it.

- 100% Attendance Record. The Mayor has attended all joint, special, and regular meetings of the Village Board. He has not been late, nor left early, for any of these meetings. This isn't surprising; The Mayor strikes me as exactly the type of person who would graduate High School with the prestigious K-12 Perfect Attendance Award. Plus, they're his meetings and his agenda and clearly nobody else is going to run them, so it makes sense that he would have to be present in order for business to be conducted.

- 87% Attendance Record. The Renegade, with fewer meetings being counted since he did not take office until June 1, 2008, has missed 1 regular meeting and was late to 1 regular meeting (although, at the request of the VB, was present at a School Board meeting as the Village representative on the evening in question). He was present at both joint meetings and missed 3 special meetings, one of which he would've been late to had it lasted longer than 10 minutes.

- 83% Attendance Record. The Gatekeeper is in third place, being absent from 2 regular meetings, late to 1 regular meeting and leaving early for 4 regular meetings. The Gatekeeper has faced a tremendous loss in his family in 2009, thus excusing one of these absences. He was absent from 1 special meeting and 1 joint meeting.

- 65% Attendance Record. The Financier, in a dead heat with The Butterfly, has an abysmal attendance record. She has been absent from 7 regular meetings, late to 5 regular meetings, and left early for 3 regular meetings. She has also been absent from 3 special meetings.

- 54% Attendance Record. The Butterfly comes in last, being absent from 6 regular meetings, late to 12 regular meetings and leaving early for 5 regular meetings. She has also been absent from 2 special meetings.

Now I know there will still be some who are uppity and defensive about the attendance record.

"But the meetings run so LATE!" Well, shorten the agenda or your soliloquies. Either way.

"But they can't be expected to be at everything, all the time!" I agree. But Village Board meetings are a basic requirement of their office. Showing up occasionally is disrespectful to the voters, the community and the other officials.

"Well, The Financier CALLED into a meeting, shouldn't that count?!" No, it shouldn't. If you're not present to vote, you're not there. For all we know, Scott Schulte could've taken the called-in Trustee hostage, forcing them to make comments at gunpoint.

I am sure there are plenty more pathetic excuses for why Trustees shouldn't be expected to participate in their own meetings. Please, let me know. Especially The Butterfly and Financier. I think an explanation is long overdue.

Also, I think it's worth pointing out that the two Trustee-Elects, Patrick O'Donnell and Brian Kimbiz, have been showing up to meetings for a few weeks. Kudos. Sadly, no one has ever seen their faces at a meeting until recently. We can only hope that they follow the example of The Mayor, The Renegade and The Gatekeeper when it comes to attendance. Actually, we can hope O'Donnell does. We might be better off if Kimbiz just stays home.