Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How many commissioners?

In a new twist in the mayor's scheme to gut city civil service protections, a group of city employees is suing.   Their argument is kind of unusual.
Concerned Classified City Employees, a group that has for years opposed Landrieu’s proposal to change how employees are hired, promoted and evaluated, says that the city’s charter calls for the Civil Service Commission to have seven members, not the five it has. The Commission’s three-to-one vote in favor of Landrieu’s plan was therefore not a legal majority, the suit alleges.

The group’s argument stems from inconsistent language on the Civil Service Commission in the city charter and the Louisiana State Constitution.

The charter does, in fact, mandate a seven-member commission, with nominees selected by local universities and city employees and appointed by a City Council vote. However, that was trumped by a section of the 1974 state constitution — clearly designed to apply only to New Orleans when it was written – that calls for a five-member Commission.

The problem, however, is the language in the constitution applies to “each city having a population exceeding four hundred thousand” or in smaller cities provided a local option election has been held. Without an election, the constitution says, municipalities with populations between 10,000 and 400,000 can opt create their own civil service systems through state statute or local law.

The city’s official 2010 Census population was about 344,000, down from 484,000 in 2000. And New Orleans residents have not voted on the issue since the city’s population went below the 400,000 mark post-Katrina.
That's a tricky argument to make. Especially so since the city's population is estimated to have risen past 400,000 again.  [CORRECTION: No it hasn't!  I could have sworn it had but the latest estimate says 378,715]

On the other hand, I could argue that the entire commission is illegitimate since the employees are represented by a token minority and since this is yet another of several commissions in the city where university presidents are given undue deference.

University administrators are some of the worst people on the planet. I'll never understand why we give them so much power over our civic institutions.

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