After hearing a bevy of complaints from the public and the press about the length of council meetings and the deferral of issues until later dates, City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan and Councilmember Margaret Breland have recommended methods to control the madness in which the City Council conducts business.
But Mayor Shirley Dean opposes Breland’s strategy, noting “critical differences” in their approaches. Dean has proposed a few amendments to complement Hogan’s plan, which may delay hopes to streamline the city government, adding to the irony.
Hogan’s plan calls for items that are primarily ceremonial or advisory to be consent calendar items and all other council-initiated items to be placed on the action calendar. It also asks for action calendar items to be sent to staff 20 days before a council meeting for review.
Herein lies the disagreement.
Dean says that it would be “wasteful” for all action calendar items to be reviewed and suggests that council use a two-vote system to implement action items.
The first vote would be preliminary and signify the council’s interest in an analysis of the item, which would be returned to council by staff within 30 days. Then the item would be up for the second and final vote.
Both hope the recommendation, its amendments by Dean, and Breland’s proposal to limit the agenda items get addressed tonight on an agenda.
Tonight’s agenda currently has 85 items on it. Dean said getting to the discussion “doesn’t seem likely.”
“I hope they make these items a priority,” Hogan said. She wants the council to vote tonight so the rules would be implemented on Sept. 19, the first meeting after the council’s summer break.
Breland’s recommendation, the first of the three, suggests that the council adopt a policy limiting the number of items each member is allowed to three. The recommendation would also mandate that no further items be allowed onto the agenda until the original items have been addressed.
The current system allows members to put an unlimited number of items on the agenda.
Breland said that Hogan’s plan “is more complicated and takes more action to implement.”
She said, however, that the council can take from Hogan’s plan and add to hers.
Hogan said that most councilmembers are in favor of Breland’s proposal, but Dean is opposed.
“This is a way that the majority could control what the minority does,” Dean said.
“If someone submitted three items, they could be removed and held on the calendar,” she said. “And they couldn’t submit any more until those were addressed. It can be used to stop people who are not part of the so-called council majority.”
Despite all the differences, all three agree something should be done. Dean suggests a “clean-up meeting” some time during the month where the agenda can be completed, though there isn’t much support, she said.
Dean and Hogan are also in agreement that it is important not to send the proposal to the Council Rules Subcommittee. Hogan’s report calls this “unrealistic” because the City Council is essentially a two-party system and the rules committee is divided between the two factions.