Saturday, February 17, 2007

Council Calendar Still Undecided

The City Council meets next week on Tuesday and Thursday.

Tuesday’s agenda session may include a discussion of the calendar for the rest of the year. As Plaintalker has previously noted, there are three proposed choices. The current schedule, adopted last April, calls for regular meetings on Wednesdays following the first and third Mondays of each month, with agenda sessions on preceding Mondays. During election seasons and summer months, there may be only one meeting per month.

That schedule replaced the traditional one that called for regular meetings on first and third Mondays, with agenda sessions on preceding Mondays. Reverting to that plan is one of the choices.

The third choice is a “rolling” schedule with agenda sessions on Wednesdays, then a week off, and regular meetings on the following Mondays.

For those who don’t follow council meetings, the agenda sessions are where the governing body discusses proposed resolutions and ordinances and decides whether or not to put them up for a vote at the next regular meeting. There are often general discussion matters as well. At regular meetings, the public may speak on resolutions and ordinances before the council votes on them. There are also public portions on any city topic at both agenda and regular meetings.

Agenda sessions are 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave., and regular meetings are 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

Council members say they don’t like the current schedule and City Clerk Laddie Wyatt opposes it, because it creates only a two-day turnaround time between the agenda session and the regular meeting. Her staff is overworked by the schedule, she told the council in asking for a return to the Mondays-only, traditional calendar.

But some council members like having a week off with no meetings, which the rolling schedule would afford.

The council has gone over the pros and cons at least twice without any agreement on a permanent schedule for 2007.

Councilman Rashid Burney favors the rolling schedule and rejects concerns that it would be hard for the public to follow. Burney notes that only a few people come out to council meetings anyway and the calendar must suit the legislators, who are making decisions affecting about 50,000 citizens.

Others including Councilmen Harold Gibson and Don Davis sympathize with the clerk, who is the official secretary to the governing body and must prepare all the paperwork for council meetings along with many other duties.

It will take four votes from the seven-member council to approve the calendar ordinance, which must be heard on two readings and will take effect 20 days after final passage. So it will most likely be April before a new schedule can start up.

The casual observer may well ask, if this is all about Mondays and Wednesdays, what’s up with Tuesday and Thursday next week?

Almost all federal holidays fall on Mondays, so that kicks the schedule over to Tuesday and Thursday. Happy Presidents’ Day!

--Bernice Paglia

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