The new Galveston City Council is heading in a different direction.

You can tell by its discussion about the city’s Finance Committee.

Some people think the new council wants to dismantle the Finance Committee.

As with everything in Galveston, there’s some politics behind that story.

The chair of the Finance Committee, Don Mafrige, was one of four candidates for mayor.

Jim Yarbrough won that race.

And so when Mafrige, acting as chair of the Finance Committee, sent a lengthy request for information to City Hall and received a reply that suggested it was a bit much, the news spread quickly.

Actually, if you put the politics aside, you’d have to agree that the new council is right.

With new leadership in place, this is the time to discuss the proper role of this committee — and the legion of other committees the city has formed.

The Finance Committee has a place in the city’s charter.

But its role, as described in the charter, is a bit vague and can therefore be construed broadly.

At times, the Finance Committee has played a watchdog role, protecting the public’s interest.

When the voters authorized a fee to charge for parking on the seawall with the promise that the money would be used for amenities, the Finance Committee fought — for months — to get a clear accounting of revenues and expenses.

The Finance Committee, rather than the council or the city administration, gave the public a clear view of the problem.

But critics contend the Finance Committee has operated at times almost as a shadow council, using its influence over the city’s money to influence its policy.

It’s right for the new council to try to define the role of this committee.

If there was a message in the new council’s orientation session, it’s that the council is going to be more insistent on its right to set the agenda, not only for itself but for all the other committees it appoints.

(4) comments

Jarvis Buckley

What Galveston now has is a strong mayor form of government, which our liberal newspaper
Probably favors. Brian is going to be little more than a figure head "Big Jim" and his contributors
Are going to run the show from here on out for at least 6 yrs.

George Croix

"The Finance Committee, rather than the council or the city administration, gave the public a clear view of the problem."
Isn't that the 'proper role' for the committee...?
It's understandable for any new administration to want to surround itself with friendly faces, but we've seen in Technicolor what happens when fresh new faces are little more than hand puppets for their boss.
Get new people? OK.
Make sure they understand who they are actually working for? Absolutely
Nothing is more useless than a toothless, silent watchdog...

Michael Culpepper

What's unclear to me here is whether we are talking about the city council having power over the boards' and commissions' agendas (which I could accept) or the city administrators having such power (which isuch harder for me to accept)

GW Cornelius

It is about time the council did what it is suppose to and then get out of the way and let the city manager do his job.

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