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Considering changes to Agenda and Meeting Format....

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  • Considering changes to Agenda and Meeting Format....

    At our 21 Feb 2023 meeting while discussing possible changes to the way the council conducts its meetings and how citizen comments are structured, Evie Anderson (Councilman Anderson's wife) presented a proposal document she put together restructuring the Council's agenda. We agreed in the meeting to post this document here for our consideration and comments.

    Citizens with input are encouraged to contact members of the council and give them their thoughts.

    Let the discussion begin!


    Attached Files

  • #2
    Due to attachment size limits of this format, here is the back page of Evie's document which shows how other local Council's handle citizen input...
    Attached Files


    • #3
      Thank you Mike. Evie has spent quite a lot of time researching how other towns do their agendas and meetings and I appreciate all her work! We had 3 ideas with the goal to make the meetings shorter because they currently are very long and it is wearing out both council AND citizens. We also have many citizens who are "disenfranchised" because they cant for a variety of reasons wait through a 4 hour meeting!

      1) To limit expert to 15 minutes on Regular meetings
      2) Allow public comments at beginning of meeting for 4 minutes on ANY topic general or from agenda {eliminating it at EACH agenda item}
      3) Having a cut off time of 9:30 pm for EACH meeting.

      It WAS interesting to me, that we had very few public comments last meeting (a fraction of the usual) and we finished at 9:43 pm which was the EARLIEST in quite a while for a Regular meeting.
      I am not opposed to a cut-off time. I would make it 9:45 pm for last item. Immediately go to public comments (if it remains at the end.) Then we can all get out of there by 10 or 1o:15 pm.
      Making it too much earlier, might get us "stacked up" with items.
      I also have learned to very much try to limit the agenda to 12 or fewer items. We DO have a very detailed group of council members! { A City secretary from another town has watched our meetings and reported this back}. I do believe we have a group who tries to be thorough.


      • #4
        I've had a few citizens reach out to me stating that we should wait until the next election before considering any change to the rules or procedures. I've responded to them individually. So that others can understand my thoughts, I'll recap them here:

        1. The current council is the sworn to do what we feel is correct for the Town. Side-stepping difficult issues and pushing them off to the next council is not what I feel is in line with that duty.
        2. The next council will have the ability to change the rules and procedures as they feel is necessary, if they feel it is necessary.
        3. There are those of us on the council (myself included) who do not agree with some of the propositions and it would be a disservice to withhold those objections just as it would be a disservice not endorse the proposals with which we agree.
        4. A pending election does not negate the responsibilities of those already elected.
        5. There is a possibility that up to four of the current council members could be reelected and waiting could be seen as an undue waste of time.

        Either way, to me, we have a responsibility to the Town while we are in office and shouldn't simply accept that we're 'lame ducks' and wait months for the new council to be sworn in.


        • #5
          I agree that if public comments are at the beginning of the meeting, the time for each public speaker should be four minutes, since public speakers are addressing all agenda and non-agenda concerns. Public hearing items should be addressed when they appear on the agenda, with three minutes for each public speaker. There should be no general public comments at the end of the meeting.


          • #6
            I just want to be clear on what I think I’m reading. Are you in favor of citizens speaking on every agenda item (max 3 minutes each) throughout the meeting but merely moving public comment to the beginning of the meeting? Or only allowing comments during an agenda item that requires a public hearing?


            • #7
              I’m suggesting that addressing public hearing items remain the same as we have always done with three minutes for each speaker on each public hearing item as they appear in the agenda. For example, if we have four different public hearing items each speaker may speak for three minutes on each item.

              Regular agenda items would be addressed at the beginning of the meeting during a time called Public Comments. Each speaker would have four minutes to address any and all regular agenda items. Also during the Public Comments, non-agenda items may be addressed during the speaker’s four minute time.

              Other councils that follow this format only allow three minutes for each speaker in Public Comments, but I’m open to allowing four minutes for each speaker.

              Regular agenda items would not have speakers addressing each individual item as they appear
              on the agenda. They are welcome to share their comments and suggestions during their four minutes allowed during the Public Comments at the beginning of the meeting.

              There would be no need for general public comments at the end of the meeting because speakers would have the opportunity to make general public comments at beginning of the meeting.


              • #8
                I was sent an email about this topic by Ms. Evie. I’m not saying I agree/disagree with what’s written, but she has done more research on the topic then I have, and I wanted to make sure all the members of the council, and anyone reading this forum, had access to her research conclusions.

                I have Ms. Evie permissions to post this and use her name.

                Dear Councilman White,

                First of all, I would like to thank Councilman Jaffe for posting my suggested new agenda for Poetry Town Council meetings on the Forum. When I presented it to the council at the last meeting, I did not expect it to be considered that night. I am pleased it it “out there” for you to consider. As I stated in my presentation, I think we all agree our meetings need to be more organized and productive.

                House Bill 2840 states that “A governmental body shall allow each member of the public who desires to address the body regarding an item on an agenda for an open meeting of the body to address the body regarding the item at the meeting BEFORE or DURING the body's consideration of the item”. Also, the governmental body is allowed to decide at which point in the meeting a member of the public addresses them. “A governmental body may satisfy subsection 551.007(b)'s requirements by holding a single public comment period at the beginning of an open meeting to address all items on the agenda.” House Bill 2840 also states at various times about how the “council” can limit the time allowed to address them. It is also mentioned that “the governmental body retains control of its meeting”.

                I actually enjoyed learning how other councils organize their meetings. Why did I do this? Even though I wanted to go to all of the meetings, I dreaded them. It seemed to me that the public that attended our meetings were more in control of the meetings than the council. Don't misunderstand me, I firmly believe that the public have the right to attend and speak on agenda and non-agenda items. However, signing up to speak on EVERYTHING or almost every agenda item, in my opinion, got out of hand. Some of our public signed up “just in case” they wanted to respond to the council's discussion of an agenda item.
                This is backwards to me. I believe the public should share their ideas, suggestions and concerns BEFORE the council holds discussions on an item. The council should take into consideration the comments they heard from the public...not the other way around. The council should be in control of the meetings!

                Most of the councils I studied either by written communication or watching their meetings online, have a SINGLE time allotted at the beginning of the meeting for “Public Comments”. This is a win-win arrangement. The public has their opportunity that is legally required to speak to the council and the council has the opportunity to hear their opinions and comments before they consider an item on the agenda. Every council I studied allows 3 minutes but I know since we have very interested public we should allow at least 4 minutes.

                In my opinion, if a member of the public is truly concerned about an agenda item or non-agenda item they should know before the meeting and prepare their presentation. Also, in my opinion, if a person addresses the council at every meeting and on almost every item, their voice and comments may not be “listened to” as carefully. Sometimes “less” can be stronger than “more”.

                In conclusion, this is me speaking and these opinions are mine. Tom supports my opinions but has not helped me create the suggested agenda, sign up forms or guidelines. I appreciate Tom's hard work for our town. He has enough to do without hanging over my shoulder. I also appreciate all members of the council. I know you have put in a lot of time and effort to help our new town get started. I, also, thank you for considering the new agenda. I believe it will make the meetings more productive and organized. If many other councils have similar can't be that bad.

                Evie Anderson


                • #9
                  Thank you for posting this Simeon. At the end of the day I believe the goal of government should be, but often isn't, to stay connected to the hearts, minds and desires of those they serve. In my opinion far too often the moment someone is elected to serve they see it as an opportunity to implement their will over some or all of the people they are charged with representing. Our little town is no exception. Legal compliance should always be paramount in how we proceed with any action. But right after that should be an honest gut check to make sure we aren't violating our commitment to represent all of our citizens to the best of our ability. For no other reason than that I know what it feels like to be outside the will of leadership, we should always give serious consideration to the messages being directed at us. Whatever we choose to do, it must lead us to better connectivity to and relationship with, our citizens, not less. They are not the reason we can't accomplish things. Rather, they are the reason we sit in the chairs that we do.