Wednesday, May 3, 2023

My 5.2.23 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council met and discussed a few significant topics:

- Both Councilmember Cloven and Tillman asked that Council guidelines be brought back for discussion specifically around how items are placed on the agenda, and how the Mayor is selected.  In response to this request, I drafted updates to the existing Council guidelines which were discussed during the meeting.  Other than non-substantive changes for formatting and wordsmithing, several redundant items and items that may present Brown Act challenges were removed.

Councilmember Cloven expressed a desire to require that prior to anything being added to the agenda it must be raised at a public meeting in order to inform the public on what is coming in the future.  While this idea may seem reasonable in concept, this adds additional bureaucracy and constrains efficient operation of the City.  The City complies with the requirement to have agendas publicly posted at least 72 hours prior to any meeting.  In addition, I post an update on this website, as well as other social media forums, previews of what will be discussed before each meeting so the public may be informed.  

It has always been the case that agenda items can be added at the discretion of the City Manager and the Mayor.  All past Mayors have been able to utilize this ability to facilitate the smooth operations of the city, including Councilmember Cloven.  For example, at my request for this meeting, we discussed the status of prior requests for future items (Agenda item 8. (b)).  This was thematically consistent with the guidelines discussion, and since some of the requests for future meetings had to do with guidelines, it made sense to revisit those at this meeting.  Through discussion with the City manager in the planning for this meeting, we realized that having this placed alongside the other items being discussed made sense so we did so.  I did not announce that we would be doing this at a prior meeting and there was no issue raised regarding it.  If we followed Cloven's desired rule, we would not have been allowed to do so and that is less efficient.

Councilmember Cloven also wanted the guidelines to be changed such that a Councilmember who is absent during a regularly scheduled meeting would have the power to table an item scheduled for discussion.  This approach is unrealistic and unworkable.  The development of an agenda item is a process that could involve several members of City staff  and may take a significant amount of time to prepare for.  Having a single Councilmember able to table an item because they are absent is contrary to the Rules of Order that we follow, and would allow items to be pushed from discussion all together.  Requests to table items can always be made and can be accommodated if appropriate, which is the status quo. 

Councilmember Cloven expressed an interest in restricting the possession of personal devices during meetings and suggested the City could provide laptops or other electronic devices in their stead.  We already have in our guidelines restrictions on use or receipt of digital communication regarding an agenda item during meetings.  The ability to refer to informational resources, personal notes, as well as being reachable by family regarding other real life events is far more important than the nannyism reflected in this request.  It is incumbent upon each Councilmember to comport themselves in a way that is consistent with what they believe is right.

Councilmember Tillman had previously asked that a discussion of how the Mayor is selected be had.  We went over the current practice and all were comfortable with what was in place already.

Ultimately the only substantive change that was made to Council guidelines was regarding future agenda requests.  In the updated guidelines, I made clear that staff does not prepare a detailed report until directed by the City Manager or the Council as a whole.  In the past, there may have been confusion regarding what actions are taken as a result of Council requests so this addition clarifies what should already be done in practice.  I also included in the guideline the requirement that a brief written summary of a request be provided to reduce the burden on staff preparing the agenda reports.

The guidelines were updated on a vote of 3-2 with Councilmembers Cloven and Tillman voting no.

- We then discussed the outstanding Council request items and pulled various items that had already been discussed, been mooted, or were not deemed a priority from the original requestor.

- We then talked about the need to do an overall evaluation of existing contracts the City has with various groups and directed this review be performed in conjunction with the work being done by the Budget/Audit Committee.

- There was a closed session discussing our Miscellaneous employees with no reportable action.

This was our last meeting with Ron Bernal as our Interim City Manager and I want to thank him for his willingness to step up and help the city while we have been searching for a full time replacement.  His knowledge and experience have made the transition much smoother than it could have been, and he has added a great deal of value to the city in the time that he has been here.