With the relationship between the City Council and the Planning and Transportation Commission hitting a low in recent months, the council on Monday night appointed a new member that it hopes will help restore cooperation between the two bodies.
Asher Waldfogel, a high-tech entrepreneur and former member of the city's Utilities Advisory Commission (UAC), was selected by the council to fill a seat on the Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC). He will replace outgoing commissioner Mark Michael on the city's most prominent land-use board.
Waldfogel was one of four candidates who was considered for the open seat. He won an appointment by an 8-1 vote, with Councilman Cory Wolbach supporting John Hamilton. Waldfogel had spent six years on the UAC, completing his final term earlier this year. He also took part in the city's Library Technology Advisory Commission.
In his application, Waldfogel cited the recent battle between the council and the commission over "policy ownership" and said that he believes it's "important for the PTC to operate within its statutory boundaries." The planning commission was recently criticized by several council members, who at the Oct. 19 meeting said that the panel is ignoring the council's direction and (in the words of Councilman Tom DuBois) trying to set its own policies.
The topic also came up during Waldfogel's interview for the commission seat. At the interview Waldfogel argued that while there's nothing wrong with commissioners writing memos and presenting unsolicited advice, the commission should not be flat-out rejecting policy direction.
"I think it's fine to present things outside of that, but I don't think it's appropriate to say, 'Look, we reject the policy direction that was sent down to us from the council. We'll just ignore it and move on from there.'"
The city's Architectural Review Board will also be seating a new member -- architect Peter Baltay. On Monday night, Baltay won the unanimous support from the council for the appointment. Incumbent board members Robert Gooyer, who chairs the ARB, and Alexander Lew were also reappointed with seven and eight votes, respectively.