(Warning: What follows is inside baseball of dubious interest to all but the most wonkish City Hall watcher.)
The Atlanta City Council committee process is a largely overlooked and often mind-numbing aspect of city government, but it's also one of its most defining features. Apart from the fact that nearly all legislation passes through one committee or another before it's voted on by the full Council, the committee process actually helps determine who runs for Council.
Don't believe me? Take a look at the committee schedule. Depending on whether a Council member serves on three committees or four — there are seven in total — it's quite possible that he or she could end up spending 20 daytime hours a month or more in committee. That's in addition to twice-monthly Council meetings, office hours and various community engagements. Given this kind of time commitment, it's no surprise that about half the Council members have traditionally been retirees, housewives (and husbands) and other folk without outside day jobs.
Anyway, the news here is that Council President Ceasar Mitchell last night named the new 2011 committee appointments. Did I say "new?" It would be more accurate to call them "renewed." With a few very minor exceptions, the committees remain largely unchanged. All the committee chairmen and women kept their seats despite some uneven performances this past year.
For instance, Joyce Sheperd, who chairs the Community Development Committee, was embarrassed last month by revelations that she accepted a hefty campaign donation from a developer PAC while her committee considered the proposed Sustainable Building Ordinance, which the PAC opposed. The legislation eventually was shelved by the Council.
Also, Yolanda Adrean, a Council newcomer in 2010, had a rocky freshman year chairing the important Finance/Executive Committee, often having trouble reining in her long-winded and off-topic colleagues.
But Mitchell says he recognizes that it can take a while to find one's footing as a committee chairman.
"I wanted to keep a level continuity going into next year," he says. "Especially if you're new to the Council, you might need some time to gain experience with some of the issues."
Monday's full Council meeting was the last for this year. After next week's committee meetings, the Council will go on winter recess until Jan. 3.
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