Planning commissioners question Assembly action on appointees

Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2003

Questions arose at Tuesday's Juneau Planning Commission meeting about why the Assembly did not endorse three of the commission's nine members this week.

Commissioner Mike Bavard said he is curious about more than the Assembly's decision to not approve its recommendation to reappoint the three commissioners after their terms expired last month. He said he couldn't remember sitting commissioners being required to interview to keep their seats, as they had to do this year.

Monday, the Assembly voted 5-4 to send the planning commission appointment recommendations back to the Human Resources Committee for discussion. The committee, which has the same membership as the assembly, had recommended the three incumbents - Jim Scholz, Jacquelyn Fowler and Mark Pusich - be appointed to new three-year terms.

In committee, there was no opposition to the recommendation, although assembly member Dan Peterson was absent from the interviews.

"I find it awfully strange," Planning Commission Chairman Johan Dybdahl said of this year's commission appointment process.

Assembly member Marc Wheeler told the Empire he made the motion to seek more committee discussion because he could see there would have been a big debate Monday night. He didn't think that would be appropriate for the assembly, he said.

He said he did not know when that discussion will take place.

"It's not like we threw anybody off," he said, pointing out that commissioners remain seated even after their terms expire, if no one has been appointed to replace them. He declined to say if any particular commissioners were under scrutiny.

Two people addressed the assembly Monday, specifically questioning the recommendation to reappoint Scholz.

Scholz said he didn't attend Monday's meeting but is familiar with the people who made the comments. He has heard virtually the same complaints from anti-business, anti-development people addressing the commission, he added.

"I've lived here my whole life," he said. "I care about the environment. I was a commercial fisherman."

He said he also cares about business. He now works for Northland Services, which brings consumable products such as groceries into Juneau.

Assembly member Randy Wanamaker told the Empire on Tuesday he didn't believe Monday's action was proper after the membership interviewed everyone and recommended reappointment.

"We need to respect and honor our process," he said. "Plus, they're qualified."

Wheeler said the decision to reappoint is important. He described planning commissioners as "quasi-judicial." He compared the appointments to the U.S. Senate confirming appointees to the Supreme Court.

"We need to get it right," he said. At the committee level, there will be more opportunity for discussion.

Scholz said he hopes if the committee listens to those who oppose him that it also takes the time to hear what he has to say in response.

He said he wants to continue on the commission, but not because he believes it's a fun job. He said he looks at it as a civic duty.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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