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Monday, January 24, 2011

Twitter and transit: Selecting a new commissioner

Selecting a new commissioner takes almost as long a deciding on a new pope!

It was a wild ride at Council on Monday.

It started with a Committee of the Whole meeting at four o’clock. The only potentially controversial item on the agenda appeared to be the replacement appointment on the London Transit Commission (LTC). Some may recall that a previously appointed member tendered his resignation as a result of a complaint about an inappropriate Twitter posting by the said member.

The agenda listed 35 applicants. My favourite on the list was my former colleague, David Winninger, who had served on the LTC during the last term of Council, part of it as chair. He also served on the LTC Long-term Growth Committee during those four years and is very knowledgeable on transportation and transit issues.

When it comes to nominations, you have to be quick off the mark at City Hall if you want to have your candidate considered. Ward 12 Councillor Harold Usher tried to nominate Winninger but was told that Ward 11 Councillor Denise Brown was ahead of him. Brown nominated Dave Broostad, president of the Hamilton Road Business Association, and Mayor Fontana’s election campaign co-chair. After some stumping for the candidate by various supporters and calls for someone with experience by others, the vote was called.

Only 12 of the 15 Council members were eligible to vote. Ward 3 Councillor Joe Swan was absent, Ward 1 Councillor Bud Polhill declared a conflict since his son was on the list of applicants, and Ward 4 Councillor Steve Orser declared a conflict because the mother of his child, to whom he is paying support, was also on the list of applicants.

That meant that 7 votes were needed; a tie vote means the motion is lost. The motion lost.

Councillor Usher then nominated Winninger who was sitting in the public gallery watching the proceedings.

From her vantage point as a new member of LTC, Ward 14 Councillor Sandy White suggested that what people were telling her was really needed on LTC was not experience but more “fresh blood”. Although there were several speakers in support of Winninger, his nomination lost on a tie, with the Mayor being one of those who voted in opposition to his nomination.

Ward 8 Councillor Paul Hubert then put forward the name of Scott Courtice, someone with whom I had served on the Governance Task Force and who, as a fulltime employee of the UWO Student Union, could represent the concerns of a large segment of transit users. His nomination was opposed by the Mayor who, speaking from the chair, reminded the members that Courtice had already been appointed to the London Public Library Board. Councillor Denise Brown suggested incorrectly that a decision had been taken not to give double appointments. That nomination also failed. It was beginning to seem as if we would never get the smoke signal.

I had heard a rumour that some of the councillors were holding back their votes because they had another favourite in mind, 980 News Director Nathan Smith. That nomination was put forward by Ward 7 Councillor Matt Brown and quickly supported by Ward 10 Councillor Paul VanMeerbergen and Ward 9 Councillor Dale Henderson.

I was surprised to see the interest in this candidate since, if successful, he would be in the position of newsmaking and news reporting. As well, he tends to tweet somewhat indiscriminately, which I am well aware of having once been the target of his tweets and those of you who have followed all my blogs may have noticed a rather acrimonious posting on one of my blogs by this gentleman. Political neutrality is not one of his strong suits as his online communications will attest. As Ward 6 Councillor Nancy Branscombe pointed out, Twitter was what got us into this pickle in the first place.

However, Nathan Smith received sufficient votes to win the position on LTC. It only needed confirmation by Council. But first, the dinner break.

At some point over the dinner recess it was learned that the winner apparently had a change of heart. In any case, the word came (via Twitter?) that he had declined the appointment! It was back to the drawing boards.

In light of the new information, and with Councillor Swan in his seat and Councillor VanMeerbergen late in returning from dinner break, a motion to reconsider the appointment received the needed two-thirds support, followed by a successful motion to appoint David Winninger who neither twitters nor tweets.

What a night!

Congratulations, David. Congratulations LTC. Congratulations, City of London.


Anonymous said...

Finally, a good decision.

Not a lawyer ,but curious said...

How is it that Councillor Brown, who works for a transportation company (Aboutown), can vote on the appointment of a member of the Board of a competitor?

Anonymous said...

Excellent point about the conflict of interest.

Ward 11 Councilor Denise Brown, a longtime employee of Aboutown Transportation Limited, should not voting on anything to do with the LTC.

Further, which company currently holds the paratransit contract with the LTC/ City of London?

Is it Aboutown?

Anonymous said...

ORSER'S CONFLICT: I don't see Cynthia Etheridge's name as on the list of original applicants to sit on the LTC board:


Gina Barber said...

I believe Aboutown has the contract for Paratransit.