Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton appointed two new members this week to the Board of Adjustment, a body that weighs development-related cases with significant impact on neighborhoods and developers.
Stanton replaced Bob Ford and Alex Tauber, both serving on terms that had expired more than a year ago. In their stead, he appointed Joseph Larios and Pam Koester. Larios is a field coordinator for the Maricopa County Democratic Party, and Koester is president of Koester & Associates, a consulting company for boards of directors.
The agenda item flew past the City Council in mere seconds on Wednesday, with a unanimous vote and no discussion. A routine matter?
Maybe. But, it also seems like Stanton's way of chipping away at a political structure that he said -- on more than one occasion -- had the perception of being "a little too incestuous."
And, as it happens, Ford is a former Phoenix firefighter and union leader and is a business partner of lobbyist Billy Shields, also a former firefighter and union leader. Alex Tauber also runs in the same tight circles as Shields.
Stanton could have left both men on the board -- either by reappointing them or just not appointing anyone else to replace them.
Consider that Patrick Paul, one of the members, has been on the board since 2004, according to city records. And, those documents also show that his term expired on January 1, 2012.
Stanton tells New Times that replacing Ford and Tauber with two newcomers is his way of starting to make good on campaign promises about involving more residents in the city's decision-making process.
"I ran on a platform of casting a very wide net to find people to serve on boards and commission," he says. "I'm going to fulfill the promises I made."
While he doesn't mention it, Stanton also made clear during his campaign that he intended to reduce the influence of lobbyists on city boards and commissions.
The potential for abuse is rife when lobbyists are either serving on a board or commission, or have a too cozy relationship with individuals who are.
Consider the link between Ford and Shields when Ford voted in favor of allowing CBS Outdoor, which hired Shields as its lobbyists, to erect an electronic billboard where city rules clearly prohibited them. Read the story by the Republic's Michael Clancy here.