The issue of council liaison voting will likely come before the Mount Airy Town Council at its July meeting, led by the members of the Planning Commission.
While discussing the rules and procedures for the Planning Commission, the five members in attendance stumbled when reading about the voting powers of the council liaison in the event of a tie. The last council liaison, Bob King, did not seek re-election, and a new liaison has not yet been approved but will be at the council’s June meeting.
The Mount Airy Town Council voted in April to allow council liaisons to vote on commissions, such as the Planning Commission, only in the case of ties. The Planning Commission has six voting members, as well as the liaison and an alternate, which means there is a likelihood that contentious issues could end in a tie.
The Planning Commission members all expressed concern about the liaison voting in the case of ties, saying that it gave the liaison too much power, especially considering the liaison might be influenced by people or factors that the Planning Commission can’t be.
Chair Roxanne Hemphill said she does not believe the council liaison should be able to vote, an opinion she expressed to the council.
“When you’re voting as a council member, it’s a little different than voting as a commission member,” she said.
One suggestion from member Judi Olinger was to change the number of voting members to prevent the possibility of a tie vote, instead of trying to change an ordinance that has already gone through multiple rounds of rejection and revisions before the compromising tie-breaking language was approved.
But to do that, the Town Council will still need a new ordinance to change the town code. And so, the commission members plan to send a memo to the council requesting such an ordinance and will plan to speak during the public comment section of the Town Council meeting.
The Planning Commission plans to send a memo to the council about the issue, as well as speak during the public comment section of the July meeting.
Although the Town Council has discussed and voted on council liaison voting, there are two new members of the council, Karl Munder and Pamela Reed, who were elected in May.