I'm not sure what I can say to light a fire under any of you and get you out to tomorrow night's Council Meeting (7:30 pm Tuesday, Municipal Hall). Or at least get you to write to your council people. I just know, if you live in Norristown, you've got neighbors who need you to do something NOW. If you don't, you could very well find a mess of "stacked townhomes" next door to you in the near future, zoning rules or no zoning rules. But more than that, our local government is now ignoring democratic procedure.
Yesterday, the Times Herald reported on last Tuesday's Planning Commission Meeting, saying the 1202 DeKalb development had been approved 2-1, with one abstention. However, if the vote was reported correctly, the project could NOT have been approved.
Quick lesson Robert's Rules of Order--the parliamentary procedures used to run government meetings in the US: For a vote to be valid, you have to have a quorum in the room--that is, a majority of the total members who can vote must be present. That way, a couple people can't take advantage of low attendance to push through their own agenda. The winning side of the vote MUST be a majority of the quorum.
The rest is math. Our Planning Commission has 7 members (Matt Edmond, Hugh McGhee, Arlene Gordon, Michael Davis, LeTonya Clark, Hakim Jones, and Jean Holland). For a quorum, 4 of them have to show up to a meeting. For a valid vote, a majority--at least 3 of the 4--have to vote the same way.
In August, only 3 members attended the Planning meeting, so a vote couldn't be taken. Last Tuesday, 4 attended, however, Michael Davis reclused himself due to a conflict of interest. That meant only 3 people were able to vote, so a quorum was NOT present. The matter should have ended there. The vote should have been put off another month.
But that didn't happen. The vote was taken anyway. Matt Edmond and Hugh McGhee voted yes. Hakim Jones voted no. Remember, there MUST be 3 yes votes for a motion to pass. Yet, Chairman Edmond said it passed with 2.
The Times Herald reported Michael Davis's "vote" as an abstention. It doesn't matter. Call it a reclusal or an abstention, it still means that Mr. Davis didn't vote. Or, according to Robert's Rules, by-laws may be set up to consider an abstention a "no" vote. If that's the case, the vote was valid, but was a tie.
As stated above, these procedures are in place (and have been in place over 120 years) to keep a small minority from taking advantage of absences to push their agenda through. With 7 Planning Commissioners, there's NO WAY, in a democratic government, that 2 can approve anything on their own.
So this needs to be brought up tomorrow night. If Council acts correctly, 1202 DeKalb will be sent back to the Planning Commission until a valid vote can be taken.
We also need to ask Council to replace those members of the Planning Commission who haven't been showing up for their monthly meetings. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm fed up with a government that's being run so poorly.
If you're as angry about this as I am, write to your councilpeople now.
Linda Christian: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gary Simpson: email@example.com
William Caldwell: firstname.lastname@example.org
Marlon Millner: email@example.com
Mary DiSouza: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cyril Burke: email@example.com
Cathy Lawrence: firstname.lastname@example.org