Council members Laurin Easthom and Penny Rich were chatting at the snack table in council chambers Monday night when, at 7 p.m. sharp, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt shooed them to their seats. “We want to end on time tonight,” he said, making a veiled reference to a petition Easthom put on the agenda.
With two council meetings of late not winding up until close to 1 a.m., Easthom wanted to nip the problem in the bud. She petitioned for council to follow its own rule that “the council not begin discussion of an agenda item after 10:30 p.m. without the affirmative vote of two-thirds of those members present.”
Kleinschmidt reminded his colleagues that at both late meetings he suggested removing some items from the agenda but was out-voted by council members who thought that citizens and presenters who had already sat through three and a half hours of discussion on other topics shouldn’t be told to come back another time. But Gene Pease pointed out that it was equally unfair to citizens to have the weary council consider issues at such a late hour. “We don’t do good work after about 10 or 10:30,” he said.
Though Easthom moved that her petition be referred to staff to fix the problem, Kleinschmidt added that the petition should also be referred to council itself. For his part, he will let the staff know of topics that are likely to spark a large turnout of citizens wanting to speak, so that the agenda won’t be overloaded. (Town staff sets the agenda, but the mayor can remove items from it.) He urged council members to let him know when comments they receive from citizens indicate a large turnout for a topic. “We can predict better than staff how full the moon is going to be that night,” Kleinschmidt said.
He also suggested that consent agenda items pulled be discussed at the end of the night, if time allows; however, Jim Ward cautioned that that might put a hardship on staff members who would have to stay until the end of the meeting to answer questions.
Donna Bell recommended that council members shave minutes off the meeting by not reiterating what their colleagues have said on a topic. Along those lines, we might suggest that members quell any tendency toward self-aggrandizement (you know who you are, and if you don’t, rest assured your colleagues and constituents do).
Items pulled from the agenda would be put on the agenda for the following meeting, or council could recess and resume the following night. Some on the dais seemed momentarily disappointed to learn that items pulled from the agenda wouldn’t just disappear. That won’t be the solution to the urban archery issue.
The meeting adjourned at 9:25 p.m.
— Nancy Oates