The Greensboro Zoning Commission in revolt over a bunch of rules is a little hard to imagine. But that’s what Greensboro Planning Administrator Mike Kirkman had on his hands when he tried to explain that the zoning commissioners would have to sign an agreement stating they would comply with all the new rules and regulations in the new City of Greensboro Boards and Commissions Handbook.
The requirements to get an “excused absence” from a meeting was what commissioners objected to the most. The new handbook and city ordinance governing boards and commissioners was passed by the City Council on April 16, 2019.
City Councilmember Justin Outling cast the lone no vote and he said that, while the goals were laudable, he couldn’t vote to hold volunteer appointees to standards that the City Council wasn’t willing to apply to themselves.
About absences the ordinance states, “Excused absences are granted by the board or commission based only on (1) written medical justification signed by a duly authorized Doctor of Medicine or (2) due to a family death, emergency, or illness.”
Zoning Commissioner Janet Mazzurco said, “This is not school, we are volunteers.”
Zoning Commissioner Hugh Holston said, “It should be enough that I’m ill and that I went to the doctor, but to have to have a not saying here are his symptoms and here is his illness. What happens to this note? Does it go in a file somewhere? So I’m going to have two medical files one at the doctor’s office and one in some file here at city hall.”
Zoning Commissioner Marion Dansby-Byrd said, “It’s none of the city’s business why you went to the doctor.”
Holston also pointed out that if he is sick he has to bring a note from his doctor that includes information about his illness, but if a member of his family is sick, he doesn’t have to have any proof at all. Holston said that it seemed to him that since he was a member of his family, he shouldn’t have to bring a note for himself.
Mazzurco said, “I’m not going to my doctor and pay my copay just to get a note.”
Dansby-Byrd said, “I really don’t think the City Council has seen this. I don’t think they would approve this. I’m going to call three of them tonight.”
Zoning Commissioner Zac Engle tried to explain that this was an effort by the City Council to establish some ground rules for serving on boards and commissions. He said some boards month after month couldn’t get enough members for a quorum, so the meetings had to be canceled. Engle, however, was fighting a losing battle. His fellow zoning commissioners didn’t like the idea of being treated like school children.
They also trashed another part of the agreement that tells them what they cannot do. “The use of cell phones and electronic devices such as iPods and MP3 players for personal use during meetings is not permitted.”
Mazzurco asked who was going to police the use of electronic devices and how would it be done.
If members of boards and commissions are not allowed to use electronic devices for personal use during meetings, then the members of the City Council in particular Mayor Nancy Vaughan should hold themselves to the same standard. Vaughan can often be seen scrolling through items on her iPad or texting on her cell phone during meetings and it’s not all city business.
The only member of the City Council who never texts or uses electronic devices during meetings is City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson who doesn’t text or email.
The zoning commissioners also didn’t like the idea of having a dress code which is described as “business casual.” Former City Councilmember Mike Barber often showed up for untelevised meetings in shorts and flip flops. It’s certainly casual attire, but is that business casual? If City Councilmembers can dress however they like for meetings shouldn’t the volunteers they appoint to boards and commissions have the same right?
Engle who works for Wrangler was in blue jeans and a flannel shirt. He said that was business attire at his office.
About the agreement Kirkman said, “To serve you have to sign.”
Mazzurco responded, “You may have just lost your Zoning Commission.”
At least three of the zoning commissioners left the meeting without signing the agreement and it may have been more.
Since the meeting that began at 5:30 p.m. didn’t end until about 8:30 p.m. the zoning commissioners didn’t hang around after the meeting.
According to an unreliable source, the zoning commissioners all ran off to buy new clothe and line up friendly doctors to write undated notes for them.