Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Another New Council Calendar?

They tinkered with a decades-old meeting calendar earlier this year and now the City Council is ready to do it again.

In April, the council dropped the traditional schedule that called for regular meetings on the first and third Mondays of each month, with agenda sessions on preceding Mondays. The new plan called for agenda sessions on the first and third Mondays, with regular meetings on Wednesdays of the same week, giving a week off in between.

But City Clerk Laddie Wyatt said the quick turnaround from Monday to Wednesday strained her staff by allowing barely a day to prepare documents for the voting meeting.

In recent discussions of how to proceed in 2007, Councilman Rashid Burney suggested a “rolling” schedule with Wednesday agenda sessions followed by a week off, then a regular meeting on the following Monday. The next agenda session would be Wednesday of the same week. Burney and others said they liked having a week off and it would allow more time to get questions answered before having to vote on resolutions and ordinances.

Wyatt raised the same objections to having to deal with two meetings in one week.

On Wednesday (Dec. 27, 2006), the council pored over the three versions - traditional, current or rolling – in an effort to pick one for 2007. Nobody liked the current schedule, but due to the need to adopt a calendar at the Jan. 8 annual reorganization, the council will have to start the year with it and pass an ordinance to change it. Councilmen Don Davis and Harold Gibson sided with Wyatt, saying the traditional Mondays-only schedule was more manageable for her office.

But Councilwoman Linda Carter and Councilmen Cory Storch and Elliott Simmons favored the rolling Wednesday-Monday plan.

Burney and Council President Rayland Van Blake were absent Wednesday and even though Burney had suggested the rolling schedule, the council members decided to wait until all are present to decide on a calendar.

The new schedule in April caused an outcry from citizens who said it would make them choose between Wednesday Bible study and attending council meetings. The calendar also conflicted several times with planning and zoning board meetings, which had not been a problem with the traditional Monday schedule. The Zoning Board had to hold one meeting on the second floor landing of City Hall due to one conflict.

The proposed rolling calendar will clash five times with Zoning Board meetings in 2007, if adopted.

The calendar change will need votes at two regular meetings and 20 more days to take effect. If the council votes on Jan. 8 and 18 under the old schedule, the new one could begin Feb. 7, which also happens to be a Zoning Board date.

The last change caused so much confusion that Plaintalker developed a handy pocket chart for citizens who wanted to monitor the council meetings. Rest assured, once the council picks a calendar, a new chart will be made up to foster civic engagement. After all, as the saying goes, eighty percent of success is showing up.


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