City Councilman Jim Kraft has moved to further define what he will accept as valid when it comes to community organization meetings and decisions.
Proxy votes don’t make the cut.
“As all of you are aware, I have a long history of acting based upon votes taken by local community associations,” he wrote in an Aug. 11 email which could be taken as his statement regarding proxies.
“I have attempted to follow the positions adopted by our local associations,” he continued. “In almost all instances, those positions have been adopted by the Association after their meetings at which the members have had the opportunity to get together, hear presentations, learn about, discuss and debate proposals and issues facing their community prior to voting on them.”
Kraft then went on to highlight a couple problems that according to him are inherent in proxy voting, including the fact that the proxy voter does not attend or participate in the meeting at which the issue at hand is probed and debated.
He also said that people who bring others’ votes to meeting may be abusing the process, and specifically soliciting votes that support their own positions. Such a situation, Kraft argued, “may well defeat the purpose of having a meeting in the first place…prior to the meeting having been held or the presentation having been made, the proxy holder(s) will have already been in possession of a sufficient number of votes to secure passage of the vote supporting the holder’s position, whether that be in support or in opposition to the topic of the presentation.”
Faced with a community organization asking for his support or action, then, Kraft wrote, “I do not intend to take into account votes that include proxies.”
In a later interview, Kraft clarified that he was referring to individual proxy votes; he wasn’t stating that the presence of some proxy votes would necessarily invalidate the overall vote of a community organization.
A couple weeks ago, the Butchers Hill Association voted 55-26 against expanding residential permit parking in City Council District 13, and one proxy vote was in that mix. Kraft indicated that, had the vote applied to his District 1, he would have considered it valid except for the one proxy. (It’s not the best example, because Kraft has also stated that he is generally against residential permit parking, regardless of how a community organization votes.)
Kraft also said that he was most concerned with votes which contain a high percentage of proxies in a relatively small number of total votes.
“We really need to have our associations doing more outreach, trying to get members,” he said.
Turning back to Kraft’s email statement, it requests that community organizations’ decisions be made “by those who have taken the time to come to the meeting, who have given the presenter the courtesy to hear the presentation with an open mind and who have made the commitment to think about it all fairly before casting their vote.”
“Those who cannot get there can still let us know how they feel by letter, e-mail, phone, text or other communication,” Kraft added.
In July, Kraft announced his intent to take such communications into account when he is asked by communities to support a certain position.
“I said that such garnered information would not necessarily supercede that provided by the votes of an Association on a particular matter, but it would be taken into account,” he said in the Aug. 11 email.
by Erik Zygmont