When I wrote my post about last week’s cable TV gathering of City Manager Bernie Lynch and members of the local media (new and old), I omitted this exchange:
Chris Scott (Lowell Sun) to Lynch: “Would you ask for the resignation [of the members of the License Commission]?”
City Manager Lynch: “Everything is on the table.”
That was Tuesday, August 7. By the end of the week, Lynch had indeed requested the resignation of two-thirds of the Commission (Walter Bayliss and Ray Weicker) and had put forth in the City Council’s Friday night info packet the names of two individuals (Dennis Teague and Deborah Finch) as temporary commissioners to fill the – anticipated? – vacancies.
As I get older, I often (as in whenever I’m cutting the grass on a hot summer night) think there might be advantages to living downtown. Then I think of two things – loud music and obnoxious drunks – and my residential restlessness abates. There’s a constant tension between a district that mixes personal residences and late night entertainment and socializing. That was the case back in 1984 when elderly residents in the Father John’s Medicine building were introduced to Rodney’s, a very active nightclub that went in next door, and it continues to be the case nearly thirty years later.
The only way this type of mix can work is for everyone to be at the top of their games. Residents have to be tolerant of some late night noise, patrons have to be respectful of residents’ desires not to be awakened at 2 am by loud sidewalk conversations, business owners have to be conservative in their dispensing of adult beverages and the decibel level of their entertainers, and city officials have to be very aggressive in suppressing and punishing any breakdown of the rules.
Without assessing blame or responsibility, it seems like that last item hasn’t been happening as well as it should so it’s wise for the city to alter its approach. That said, forcing out sitting members of a board or commission is a very serious move. I suspect many who are praising this effort have long disagreed with the actions of the License Commission. But just to be balanced, think of an action by some other board or commission that you strongly agreed with. What if the city manager felt differently, so differently that he demanded their resignation. You would probably be outraged at such interference with the actions of an independent board.
I’m not saying that there are no circumstances under which a commission or board member could be removed prior to the expiration of an appointed term; I’m just saying that the reasons for such early removal should be particularly compelling and publicly stated with a full opportunity for the subject board member to present the other side of the story. That’s what due process is all about. How this plays out will have obvious repercussions of the downtown but will also have far-reaching implications for all boards and commissions in the city.