[updated 4/8/2016 12:44 pm]

The meeting is over.  In the proposed revised bylaws, Section 8.9 was amended to meet the recommendations of the Township Attorney.  The Bylaws revision passed by a 4:3 margin.  Chockley, Cousino, and Chick opposed.   The Township Master Plan may now be changed by a simple majority vote of the seven seated Planning Commissioners followed by a simple majority vote of the Township Board.  (If you've read this far, you now see the problem.)

What else happened at this meeting?  The "church" conditional zoning issue passed.  The PC's 2016 Goals were briefly discussed.  The meeting adjourned relatively early.  After all, the real work of the year had been successfully completed.  The supermajority vote required by the 2014 bylaws (yes, the bylaws were less than two years old) has been removed as an obstacle to upending the Township Master Plan. 

Because the Bylaws revision was approved, most of the meeting preview has become irrelevant, so I've spiked it.  The fact remains that only four votes are now necessary to change the Master Plan.  Because the Planning Commission is no longer trusted with independent authority, its vote must be ratified by the Township Board. 

That brings us back to square one.  A simple majority of the Township Board is not the majority of seated Trustees.  It's a majority of those Trustees present at a meeting.  That is as few as three when only four or five Board Trustees are attending.

Who do we have to thank for this?  Good question.

The idea to reduce the number of votes was raised by Township Manager Howard Fink at the October 7, 2015 PC meeting.  He dangled the possibility not once, but twice in front of the PC.  That was a meeting in which Fink's pugnacity overcame his politesse.  Passions flared to the point that found Fink (and some Commissioners) apologizing at the final call to the public.  But the seeds had been planted. 

We've seen cases in the past where Boards of Trustees refrained from voting on important, impactful decisions when members were missing.  Case in point, Supervisor Engstrom's deferral of the confirmation vote of her reappointment of Planning Commissioners while trusted anti-Neighbors voter Trustee Wayne Dockett wintered in Florida. 

Nowhere is it required that the Board cannot act with only the minimum quorum, even in the case of the Master Plan.   The bottom line is that a majority of four or five Board members is only three votes.   On the right day, three votes can change the Master Plan. 

They will tell you to "Trust Them," that Board tradition or Policy would preclude taking advantage of circumstances, that Board Policy or tradition would preclude an important vote while Trustees were absent. But the illusion of urgency can always be summoned up.  Board policy is not law.  It is as changeable as the membership of the Board and the day of the week.  All depends on the priorities and loyalties of those four or five Trustees. 

Were this the best of all possible worlds, we would not worry, but in the real world, this becomes the problem Washington calls Regulatory Capture.  Rules and regulations are created not by lawmakers accountable to voters, but by political appointees.  Control of appointments becomes control of the rules and regulating power.


PC Meetings in which Bylaws were discussed: