Mayor Nancy Vaughan has instituted a new unwritten policy concerning appointments to boards and commissions.

Councilmember Sharon Hightower has been complaining for years that the boards and commissions appointed by the City Council don’t have enough “diversity.”

But in discussions, the call for diversity becomes a demand that more black members be appointed to the boards and commissions.

The City Council held a long work session in December that was supposed to be about the racial and gender makeup of each board and commission, but it turned out what Hightower was concerned about, and as a result what was discussed, was the racial make up of the Minimum Housing Standards Commission and the fact that the board reelected its chair for a second term.

But Vaughan has found a solution to the constant harping by Hightower about boards and commissions. As Councilmember Tammi Thurm discovered at the Tuesday, Jan. 19 City Council meeting, Hightower now has to approve anyone nominated for a board or commission.

In the past, a councilmember has made a nomination, said a few words about the person, and then the council has voted unanimously to approve the appointment.

However, what Thurm learned at the meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19 is that process has changed. 

Hightower challenged Thurm’s appointment of Catherine Magid, a white woman to the Zoning Commission.

Thurm said that she and Vaughan had gone over the racial and gender makeup of the board and said, “We particularly needed a white woman, I believe.”

Vaughan said, “We did take a look at the demographics and it appears that Catherine helps balance that.”

Hightower said, “You’ve got Zac Engle already.  You got a white male,” and she asked Councilmember Goldie Wells who her appointment was.

Thurm said, “Can you take the mayor’s and my word that we went through the list?”

Hightower said, “That sounds kind of lopsided.”

Thurm offered to pull up the list and go through it for Hightower and then did so.

Thurm said, “You’ve got Hugh Holston, a black male; Richard Bryson, a black male; Zac Engle, white male; Tony Collins, white male. Ray Trapp is coming off. Vernal Alford, black male; Michael Jones, black male; Sandra O’Connor, white female; and James Rosa is a male Hispanic.”

Hightower said, “OK, all right.”

Vaughan asked Hightower, “Sharon is that a yes.”

Hightower gave her approval and the appointment was made.

Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter then had to get Hightower’s approval to make an appointment to the Minimum Housing Standards Commission.  Hightower initially was concerned that the appointment was a white male but when she was told he was a black male, Hightower gave her approval and the appointment was made.