Under fire from a loose coalition of citizens, city commissioners, and councilmembers, Mayor Tom Bates presented a newly toothless version of his control-of-City-Commission-items proposal to the City Council Agenda Committee last week. Since the proposal seems to rise like Dracula from its grave every few weeks, it remains to be seen whether this will be the final stake to the heart.
In a report on recommended revisions to the city council’s rules of procedures, Bates asked that the Agenda Committee be given the authority “to move commission items between the Consent and Action calendar” on the city council’s weekly agenda. The effect of moving an item in such a manner means that rather than being passed with the rest of the consent items en masse and without discussion, the item would receive discussion and separate vote. Since the mayor or any individual councilmember now has the ability to move an item from “Consent” to “Action,” giving them exactly the same power as members of the Agenda Committee hardly seems worth the effort.
Agenda Committee members have always insisted that the commission proposal never amounted to anything more than delaying commission-generated items for one week “for scheduling purposes.” Last November, councilmember and Agenda Committee member Linda Maio told the Daily Planet “I don’t think anyone [on the Agenda Committee] has any plans—I certainly don’t—to hold any reports back from the council.”
But some citizens had voiced suspicions that the real purpose of the proposal was to censor, alter, or indefinitely delay controversial commission items. Those suspicions got new life when a Feb. 9 memo from City Clerk Sherry Kelly to the Agenda Committee concerning proposed changes in council rules included a recommendation that the council “[c]onsider revising the exception that commission items are not subject to review by the Agenda Committee and give authority to the Agenda Committee to schedule commission reports on an appropriate agenda and if necessary, to request additional information from the commission or staff before placing the matter before the council.”
Professing confusion over how the commission proposal ended up being written that way, Bates asked for the matter to be put over, telling Agenda Committee members at the Feb. 9 meeting that “the only discretion I was looking for was to put off commission reports for one week only.”
But when the proposal came back to the Agenda Committee at last week’s meeting, even the week’s delay portion had been removed from the mayor’s recommendations.
In another city council reorganization proposal, Bates is asking that public comment be set at 30 minutes for regular council meetings and 20 minutes for subcommittee meetings, with each speaker limited to two minutes each. Speakers at such meetings are currently allotted three minutes. Bates said that limiting the time for each speaker would allow for more voices to be heard.
Once the Agenda Committee votes on the proposals, the full city council will have final approval over any recommended changes.›