Monday, January 12, 2009

Thrills, spill ahead for City Council?

A retreat is a euphemistic word for a public board getting together in an informal setting where the prying eyes of the citizens aren't quite as apt to follow. It means lots of talk about priorities, food, drink, and occasionally, some leisure activities (think golf).
On the City Council's agenda tonight is the issue of its annual retreat, always a source of intense public interest because (1) Councilmembers frequently head away from constituents to an out-of-town resort (think Pinehurst and Grandover) and (2) The tab can get a little pricey (last year at Grandover, near Greensboro, the bill came to a swanky $34,000.
This year City Council is out to the National Whitewater Center for two days of hashing out budget priorities, among other things.
Council members get brownie points for staying in town. This is a public meeting for the purpose of holding public discussion of public business, and having it in Mecklenburg County is the right thing to do. In the spirit of openness, it ought to be accessible to the people the council is elected to serve.
The cost is also less. It appears the city won't have to pay to use the Whitewater Center's meeting room. (That's good, since public dollars have helped this unique resource get up and running - and stay running.) Nor will taxpayers have to put council members and staff up for a couple of nights. City administrators say the cost of catered meals is still being worked out.
Yet the location prompts this question: Do council members expect rough water ahead? After all, the Whitewater Center is all about teaching people to navigate rapids, paddle together and stay in the boat …
This is an election year, and a wide-open one at that. Mayor Pat McCrory's bowing out and two solid contenders (Democrat Anthony Foxx and Republican John Lassiter) sit on City Council.
The official line from city staff is that no paddling sessions have been scheduled as part of the retreat.
But that's not to say there won’t be spills or chills or thrills ahead for City Council … or that somebody won’t somehow find themselves up the creek …. Well, you know how that saying goes.

Wonder who will it be?
- posted by Mary Schulken