The simple confirmation of an appointment to the CPS Energy Board of Directors turned into a three hour plus City Council debate over sexism in government and the proper role of city government in managing institutions like CPS, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran said the appointment of former Judson ISD superintendent Willis Mackey to the open board seat would mean that the entire CPS Energy board would be male.
"In a city of 1.4 million people, I find it unfathomable that there is not a woman who is qualified to serve on the CPS Energy Board," Viagran said. "Now is an opportunity for us to start making real change, because I know there were qualified women in this pool of candidates."
In fact, the person first nominated for the CPS Energy board seat was a woman, but she bowed out to take an opening on another local board. And CPS Energy's President and CEO, Paula Gold-Williams, is female.
But west side Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales picked up on Viagran's concerns about a lack of women on the city's boards and commissions.
"The City’s boards and commissions cannot continue to be filled without due consideration to women, who shouldn’t be asked to wait their turn," said Gonzales, who says she will submit a proposal to City Council to require that all city boards and commissions be 50-50 male and female.
"It’s not smart to allow five men to make the critical decisions of the CPS board without the wisdom of women as policy makers."
That prompted other Council members to unleash their concerns about city board appointments.
Manny Pelaez said he is concerned that the City Council only has the authority to appoint five members of the board of the largest publicly owned utility in the country.
"Animal Care Services has eleven," he said. "Our arts commission has 15 on it. The municipal golf commission has more city appointed people than CPS Energy."
Councilman Greg Brockhouse said he is less concerned about the gender makeup of the CPS Board, and more concerned that it look out for the ratepayers.
"How do we protect that person who is paying those bills because it can be scary," he said. "The number one most fluctuating bill you have in your life is your CPS Energy bill."
And Councilman John Courage said he is worried that the board and CPS Energy executives are too chummy with each other and not concerned about the needs of the ratepayer.
He cited a conversation he recently had with some CPS Energy executives. "A couple leaders of CPS Energy told me (of Mackey) 'he's a good fit, he's gonna fit right in with us, he's going to be a good part of the team'," Courage said. "We don't need that."
And Councilwoman Ana Sandoval asked why Gonzales' proposal stops short at just 50-50 representation of women.
"I would like to see a day when we have all women on this Council, and all women on the CPS Board."
After the smoke cleared, Mackey's nomination was approved, with three Council members voting against it.
Ironically, the man whose nomination sparked three hours of debate over a lack of diversity on City appointed boards is African American.