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Council goal is shorter meetings

By Josh Parr Daily Planet Staff
Monday October 02, 2000

Even City Council members agree their meetings are too long. Agenda items get pulled for a variety of reasons and end up stuck in what seems a permanent backlog.  

So the council has agreed that for three hours – and no longer – members will meet to revise their procedures. The goal is shorter and more efficient meetings. 

“We stay so long every meeting. We talk too long, have too many items on the agenda,” Councilmember Margaret Breland told the Daily Planet. “People are pulling items for political reasons, for more information, because they don’t want to vote on it at the time, or to add one or two words to an item and then get credit for it.” 

Such machinations create left over agenda items that “just keep getting rolled over from one meeting to the next,” Breland said. 

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Mayor Shirley Dean asked City Manager Weldon Rucker to review three proposals for new procedures. Rucker will recommend which suggestions might help the council run more smoothly at a meeting this month. 

Breland, Dean and City Auditor Anne Marie Hogan have all recommended changes.  

The reform process began in June, Breland’s aide Calvin Fong said, when Hogan asked councilmembers to meet the same requirements as city staff: that their proposals be submitted one month in advance, accompanied by relevant financial analysis and logistical information. 

“My proposal was aimed at making the process more efficient, enabling everyone to know what kinds of decisions they will have to make and have the information they need,” Hogan said.  

But Dean said Hogan’s idea would create other backlogs. She wants councilmembers to take a “vote of interest” before asking staff to research an issue. 

“Staff time wouldn’t be wasted examining one person’s project that has very little chance of passing,” Dean said. “Then if the item passes the vote of interest, the staff could evaluate it.” 

At that same June meeting, Breland had proposed that the nine council members limit themselves to proposing three items at a time. 

“People had too many items on the agenda,” Breland said. “Don’t add another until one has been dealt with. That’s still 27 every meeting, and that’s a lot to plow through.”