Correction and apology

In an earlier post I said that Donna Bell had missed more council meetings than anyone on the dais. But I received the official attendance record today from the town, and Gene Pease won the contest by a long shot. Since January 2010, when Pease and Bell joined the council, through June 27 of this year, Pease has missed 13 meetings; Bell has missed only four and left early due to illness on two other meetings.

My sincere apologies to Donna Bell.

And Gene, what’s up, dude?
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Mark Marcoplos

     /  July 20, 2011

    More to the point, what’s up Chapel Hill Watch for missing, not by a whisker, but by a country mile? By the way, Gene had surgery which added to his missed time. Accuracy matters. Mainly because it translates to credibility.

  2. Nancy Oates

     /  July 20, 2011

    I have long pushed for the mayor to announce why council members are absent (work, medical, personal), but the mayor only occasionally says why someone is not there. Thus, voters must rely on the haphazard method of hearing from insiders such as yourself. The mayor has not mentioned why Pease has been out. Thanks for sharing what you know.

  3. Terri Buckner

     /  July 20, 2011

    Gene may have missed meetings for surgery but he’s also missed several while he traveled, sometimes for business and sometimes for fun. How do I know? He tweets about it.

  4. John Kramer

     /  July 20, 2011

    Shame on you Nancy, you know that your paid subscriptions will suffer for this.

  5. Fred Black

     /  July 20, 2011

    If we want a Council that is not comprised of all retirees and we don’t want those who have jobs to miss meetings, we should probably pay them more than $13,015 per year. I guess the same goes for members with young children and other family obligations; absences happen. I still believe that there are good reasons to not announce where an absent member is.

  6. Fred, have to disagree with your assessment.

    Gene and Donna both were aware of the time obligations before taking on the position yet still accepted or ran for a seat.

    I’ve made it a point to discuss the time issue with each non-incumbent candidate over the last several cycles because I felt I had a fairly decent grasp of what the commitment was and how it might affect their daily lives.

    If you want to do a good job on behalf of the community, being on Council is not a job you can simply “phone in”. It takes time to prepare, time to understand, time to touchbase with the community and time (often a lot of time) to sit behind the dais and sort through the issues.

  7. Fred Black

     /  July 21, 2011

    The flaw Will, is to assume that the only “work” as a council member that matters is attending the Monday night meetings. Of course they are important, but they are only part of the job.

    So only people with no jobs or “certain” jobs that don’t require travel should apply?

  8. George C

     /  July 21, 2011

    The numbers Nancy gave would be more meaningful if we knew what the denominator is and we had more information about the meetings. How many meetings were there in total? Does that include work sessions, retreats, etc.? What was on the agendas for the meetings? Were there significant issues to be voted on? Were they concept plan presentations? Do we know whether the council members who were absent watched the live broadcasts or the taped meetings? Do we know whether the absentees might have given one of their colleagues questions to be asked or issues to be raised?

    I’d like to think that a council member’s contribution should be measured in its entirety – not just by a number.

  9. Runner

     /  July 21, 2011


    Are you saying that locally elected positions (county commissioners and town councils) should be professional positions?

  10. Nancy Oates

     /  July 21, 2011

    48 meetings since January 2010. I did not include retreats and planning sessions in my attendance total, nor attendance at any meetings where they serve as liaisons. I asked the town only for attendance at regular council meetings and public hearings. Watching the meeting on TV keeps members on top of what’s going on, but a member who is not at the meeting can’t contribute to the dynamic discussion or vote. Being on council is very time-consuming. I feel certain no one on the dais is doing it for the money. More likely, they want to shape the town they live in. But if they don’t have the time or flexibility to be present at meetings, they should find another way to contribute.

  11. Gene Pease

     /  July 21, 2011

    Since I’m at the center of this discussion I feel I need to respond. I don’t know where you are getting your numbers. The official record of Council attendance in a worksheet provided from the Managers office shows my attendance as follows:
    23 Council meetings from January 18 through June 27.
    I missed 8 of those meetings.
    4 due to recovery from my May 2 lower back surgery May 9, 10, 16 & June 13(had a relapse) – I tried to delay the surgery to the summer break, but the condition escalated and I couldn’t wait.
    3 due to national speaking commitments March 21, 28, and April 7
    1 due to client meeting in DC (June 21 which was an unscheduled meeting that was scheduled at the last minute)
    If one tuned into the TV they might not have caught me at my seat, as I spent some part of the meetings standing on the side wall during the meetings giving my backside relief prior to my surgery. Every meeting I attended I was part of the discussion and votes.
    Gene Pease

  12. Fred Black

     /  July 21, 2011

    Not professional, so tou get what we get.

  13. Linda Convissor

     /  July 21, 2011

    Perhaps the conversation could be framed around why are there so many meetings and why do they run so long? Is there a way for the Council to do their business in a more citizen and Council (and staff etc) friendly way than happens now?

  14. Joe Capowski

     /  July 21, 2011

    Linda, this problem has been around as long as I can remember. In the early 90’s, the
    council meetings started at 7:30 and we advanced it to 7 because meetings always ran late.
    Then we added a Philadelphia Phillies-like rule that no agenda
    item could start after 10:30 unless the council voted unanimously to do so. (Anyone understand the link to Philly baseball?) But even this caused problems, because the citizens who were involved in the items did not enjoy waiting through a three-hour meeting only to find that they would have to come back for the next meeting. Sometimes, about 9pm, the mayor would announce that certain items would not be dealt with that evening for reasons of time. It is often impossible to predict how long an agenda item will take. I had a lot of “tired Tuesdays” at work.

  15. Linda Convissor

     /  July 21, 2011

    It is exactly those “tired Tuesdays” I was thinking of. I worry that the time commitment is the biggest roadblock to Council service. I was thinking less of how to manage the late hours, but more of how to manage the work load. I think Council is putting more things on the consent agenda which has the potential of helping. I have some, but limited, experience with other jurisdictions but I’m sure there are others much more knowledgeable of other models. For ex, the Durham City Council has work sessions prior to meetings. Not saying that’s a solution, just another model. And I’m sure there are others.

  16. Linda, some of the items that have been moved to the consent agendas of late are quite troubling. We really don’t need more of the same….

  17. Ph. Johnson-Sledge

     /  July 22, 2011

    Thanks to Councilmember Pease for accounting for his time spent in and out of council meetings. In order to avoid the continuance of ugly rumours that abound regarding such absences, records for council should be made public –along with reasons for absences. We expect this same accountability from other elected officials, why should our town council be any different? I agree with Nancy’s push for the Mayor to make this information available at the start of sessions. It would allow for another deperately needed level of transparency and keep councilmembers from being maligned. Something I would think they’d want to avoid.