[Full disclosure: As this article was going to publication, the author was applying for employment with the incoming mayor's administration. -- eds.]
What a week for Commissioner Dan Saltzman. Just moments into an afternoon city council session about controversial cell phone tower legislation last Thursday, December 4, Saltzman's fellow commissioners jumped all over staffers from his bureau who were giving a presentation.
Basically, the new city rules—a year and a half in the making—aimed to strike a delicate balance between wireless companies' legal right to put equipment on utility poles, and neighbors' disdain for that ugly, noisy equipment.
But Commissioners Randy Leonard, Nick Fish, and Sam Adams sank their teeth into the issue, peppering the staff with technical questions the city doesn't—for lack of resources—have answers to. Example: How many cell antennas does a wireless company need to install to have adequate coverage? "I feel outgunned," Adams said, in comparison to the wireless industry's glut of resources.
Saltzman, meanwhile, looked ready to explode. "Can we just get through the presentation?" he asked through what sounded like gritted teeth.
It took a few dozen more questions from his colleagues before the presentation wrapped up—but the drama was just getting started. Leonard asked if the legislation could be held for a few months, so they could get answers to their questions. On cue, Saltzman's chief of staff, Brendan Finn, burst into council chambers, furiously texting his commissioner to find out what, exactly, was the problem. At the last minute, however, Saltzman averted the crisis: He asked his colleagues to pass the imperfect legislation they had in front of them—which neighborhood folks noted in testimony was better than the current rules—and consider revisions down the road. The council bit. Crisis averted.
On an up note, Saltzman also snagged some good press for the latest iteration of his green building "feebate" program—an idea that was announced a year ago, before it was fully baked. Now, it's been baked—kinda. The proposal, which would offer incentives to developers for going above and beyond the city's current environmental standards—and pay for those incentives via a fee on those who simply meet city code—are on hold a bit, thanks to the crappy economy. No one likes to pass something that looks like a tax during a down economy.
Saltzman may have gotten his mug on the front page of the daily paper, but Leonard one-upped him, big time, a few days later. Unveiling his new public restroom in Old Town on Monday, December 8, Leonard not only convinced Adams to make the ceremonial "first flush," he also received a "golden plunger" from Sisters of the Road's Civic Action Group. Leonard noted that some politicians have libraries or public buildings named after them, but "I'm going to have to settle for a restroom."