Worthington, Mayor Collide Over Appointment

By Judith Scherr
Thursday September 11, 2008 - 09:42:00 AM

Councilmember Kriss Worthington and Mayor Tom Bates clashed Monday afternoon at an obscure but powerful city committee meeting over an appointment to a county commission. 

The question before the Agenda Committee, which generally meets eight days before every council meeting to decide what items will be brought to council, was the appointment to the Alameda County Waste Management Authority, which coordinates efforts for waste reduction, recycling and composting within the county. 

Dona Spring, the councilmember who died in July, had served on the authority. Worthington is the alternate and was expected to be named to the seat.  

A recommendation by Bates to appoint Councilmember Gordon Wozniak to the Waste Management Authority, however, was among the items before the committee, as part of the agenda proposed for the council meeting of Sept. 16. 

Bates chairs the Agenda Committee. Wozniak and Councilmember Linda Maio are members. 

The Agenda Committee meetings are always noticed as City Council meetings so that councilmembers who are not members of the committee can participate in discussions. Only committee members vote, however. Worthington came to the session to plead his case, arguing that he should be allowed to complete the work he began, substituting for the deceased councilmember. 

While under the City Charter the mayor’s power is little more than that of a councilmember, he is able to make appointments to committees, subject to council approval.  

Bates told Worthington he wasn’t prepared to alter his recommendation. “You can raise it at the [Sept. 16 City Council] meeting,” Bates said. 

Worthington then asked if he could add wording to the item, giving the council the option to vote for either him or Wozniak. Bates declined, but checked with the city attorney. 

“It’s your item,” responded City Attorney Zach Cowan, giving the mayor the green light to turn down Worthington’s request.  

In a phone interview after the meeting, Worthington said he thought he should be appointed to the post, since he had not only worked in the position since Spring’s death and earlier as the alternate, but was the councilmember who brought items to the council on zero waste, biodiesel and the precautionary principle.  

The council resolution on the precautionary principle says, “Where threats of serious or irreversible damage to people or nature exist, lack of full scientific certainty about cause and effect shall not be viewed as sufficient reason for the city to postpone measures to prevent the degradation of the environment or protect human health.”  

In fact, Worthington said, “Gordon Wozniak is the principal opponent of the precautionary principle. To replace me with the most outspoken opponent is outrageous.” 

In a separate interview, Wozniak responded to the charges, saying that Worthington was making a “holier than thou” argument.  

Wozniak said he has worked with sororities, fraternities and the student co-ops on recycling programs and had an intern in his office that worked specifically on that issue. 

He said he voted for the precautionary principle resolution but had worked to temper it because he didn’t want it to “be carried to the extreme, so that one is afraid of stepping on an ant.” 

He added that “some people want to use it as a weapon against innovation.” 

In an interview after the meeting, the Planet asked Bates why he chose Wozniak.  

“Kriss is on the committee now—I thought Gordon should have an opportunity to serve. He’s retired and has the time,” Bates said, adding that Wozniak is “interested in recycling.” 

Worthington, who does not work outside his council position, said he will bring his qualifications to the full council on Sept. 16 and thought others in the community would do so as well.