Commentary: Being Available to Hold Council Meetings on Christmas

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I have thought about this issue at another time in a different context, but there is one thing that bothered me during the discussion of the issue of Atria Covell Gardens–and I’ll start by suggesting Councilmember Don Saylor was probably correct that there probably was little that the council could do in a week, under the existing law. However, my problem has to do with the very basics of the argument–the availability of council.

Now let us back up into a different time and a different argument. During the spring, Mayor Sue Greenwald, in my opinion, rightly complained about the length of agendas and the lack of meetings. Councilmember Saylor went to great lengths to try to demonstrate that the council had actually met around the same number of times–if not more–than it had previously.

From the perspective of the public, all of this is troublesome. Meetings are largely inaccessible to those who have to work early in the morning or those who have family commitments and cannot stay past 11, sometimes as late as 1 a.m.

The core of my argument here is that the public elects these individuals to serve as decisionmakers on the city council. When someone agrees to both run for office and serve if elected, I think to a large extent they have agreed to be available at all times for a meeting should the need arise.

That means you only miss meetings under extreme circumstances. We have seen a number of times in the last year where a particular councilmember has missed meetings and in some cases that has meant that we have had to revisit issues.

The council should meet every Tuesday and if they do not meet every Tuesday, they should be available to meet if the need arises.

Councilmember Saylor attempted to avoid this issue by arguing that there was nothing we could do even if three of the Councilmembers were available this coming week to have an emergency meeting. That misses the point. The council needs to be available should that need arise. His response should have been–allow the City Attorney to examine the issue and if there is anything we can do, I will cancel my plans and serve the public who has elected me.

For me it is unacceptable that three of the five councilmembers can ever be out of town. What if there really is an emergency? Of course we have a city manager, but there are some things that a city manager cannot do. And that raises the question–is the city manager going to be in town or will he too leave town for vacation?

I want to raise two quick issues or head them off. This is not a criticism of Councilmember Saylor or the other two who will be out of town. This is not a political argument. I do not think people should think less of a given councilmember because they are out of town. I do not think this is a reason to hate them, criticize them, vote against them, etc. There are many other reasons to vote for or against these individuals. The issue has not been raised in this manner anyway, it is unfair to criticize them. My purpose here is not criticism but rather to raise an issue of some import.

Secondly, the issue came up the other day and someone said, well they aren’t paid that much. That is irrelevant. It does not matter if they are paid $500 per month or $200,000 per year–they are public servants. The city council needs to be available should the need arise whether it is elderly people who may be priced out of their homes or a city-wide disaster that requires immediate action.

But the other point during all the weeks that are not between Christmas and New Year’s is that the council should meet virtually every week for less time. And there are many important reasons for that, the first which I already mentioned–convenience for the public.

The second which is just important and has been raised many times by many different people, I would prefer the council or any body of lawmakers not to make crucial decisions late at night when they are fatigued. It is one thing if you have a meeting that occasionally goes past 11 pm. It is quite another thing when you are scheduling meetings that you know will do so.

The last meeting went until 1 am, and they pulled an important item off the agenda for future discussion. Actually they pulled two items if you council the campaign finance issue.

I just do not believe that is good public policy. We have talked this year about Board of Supervisor Meetings being held during the day when many people work, but if you end up holding meetings until the wee hours of the morning, it does not seem much better.

That is food for thought as we approach the end of another year.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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40 thoughts on “Commentary: Being Available to Hold Council Meetings on Christmas”

  1. Anonymous

    And if they did hold meetings during Christmas, you’d complain that not enough members of the publc would be available, since the public would be out of town and the Council was trying to pull a fast one by scheduling meetings when people couldn’t attend.

  2. Anonymous

    And if they did hold meetings during Christmas, you’d complain that not enough members of the publc would be available, since the public would be out of town and the Council was trying to pull a fast one by scheduling meetings when people couldn’t attend.

  3. Anonymous

    And if they did hold meetings during Christmas, you’d complain that not enough members of the publc would be available, since the public would be out of town and the Council was trying to pull a fast one by scheduling meetings when people couldn’t attend.

  4. Anonymous

    And if they did hold meetings during Christmas, you’d complain that not enough members of the publc would be available, since the public would be out of town and the Council was trying to pull a fast one by scheduling meetings when people couldn’t attend.

  5. ddlp

    Our small city council compensation IS an issue worth discussing.

    Yes, these are public servants. But, I for one would not run for city council in Davis because (among other reasons) I could not afford to do so.

    Being a council member in Davis requires extraordinary commitment and sacrifice. Every member on the council should be thanked for taking that on.

    Not paying council members makes it difficult for them to reduce work hours and still get by. This discourages candidates of moderate financial means as well as parents. It encourages candidates who are wealthy, retired, or young without kids. These often make good council members, but they don’t represent our city’s demographics very well.

    We ask much more of our council than other cities our size. If we’re going to require more of their time, we should compensate them.

    I’ve been curious about council salaries in comparable cities. Does anyone have data on this? A quick google search revealed a few notables:

    Livermore $1000/mo
    Freemont $2000/mo
    Fontana $3,000/mo
    Richmond $1222/mo
    Pleasanton $1050/mo
    Dublin $758/mo
    San Ramon $700/mo

  6. ddlp

    Our small city council compensation IS an issue worth discussing.

    Yes, these are public servants. But, I for one would not run for city council in Davis because (among other reasons) I could not afford to do so.

    Being a council member in Davis requires extraordinary commitment and sacrifice. Every member on the council should be thanked for taking that on.

    Not paying council members makes it difficult for them to reduce work hours and still get by. This discourages candidates of moderate financial means as well as parents. It encourages candidates who are wealthy, retired, or young without kids. These often make good council members, but they don’t represent our city’s demographics very well.

    We ask much more of our council than other cities our size. If we’re going to require more of their time, we should compensate them.

    I’ve been curious about council salaries in comparable cities. Does anyone have data on this? A quick google search revealed a few notables:

    Livermore $1000/mo
    Freemont $2000/mo
    Fontana $3,000/mo
    Richmond $1222/mo
    Pleasanton $1050/mo
    Dublin $758/mo
    San Ramon $700/mo

  7. ddlp

    Our small city council compensation IS an issue worth discussing.

    Yes, these are public servants. But, I for one would not run for city council in Davis because (among other reasons) I could not afford to do so.

    Being a council member in Davis requires extraordinary commitment and sacrifice. Every member on the council should be thanked for taking that on.

    Not paying council members makes it difficult for them to reduce work hours and still get by. This discourages candidates of moderate financial means as well as parents. It encourages candidates who are wealthy, retired, or young without kids. These often make good council members, but they don’t represent our city’s demographics very well.

    We ask much more of our council than other cities our size. If we’re going to require more of their time, we should compensate them.

    I’ve been curious about council salaries in comparable cities. Does anyone have data on this? A quick google search revealed a few notables:

    Livermore $1000/mo
    Freemont $2000/mo
    Fontana $3,000/mo
    Richmond $1222/mo
    Pleasanton $1050/mo
    Dublin $758/mo
    San Ramon $700/mo

  8. ddlp

    Our small city council compensation IS an issue worth discussing.

    Yes, these are public servants. But, I for one would not run for city council in Davis because (among other reasons) I could not afford to do so.

    Being a council member in Davis requires extraordinary commitment and sacrifice. Every member on the council should be thanked for taking that on.

    Not paying council members makes it difficult for them to reduce work hours and still get by. This discourages candidates of moderate financial means as well as parents. It encourages candidates who are wealthy, retired, or young without kids. These often make good council members, but they don’t represent our city’s demographics very well.

    We ask much more of our council than other cities our size. If we’re going to require more of their time, we should compensate them.

    I’ve been curious about council salaries in comparable cities. Does anyone have data on this? A quick google search revealed a few notables:

    Livermore $1000/mo
    Freemont $2000/mo
    Fontana $3,000/mo
    Richmond $1222/mo
    Pleasanton $1050/mo
    Dublin $758/mo
    San Ramon $700/mo

  9. Anonymous

    I am not advocting that the council should be available during Christmas, but I do believe they should be meeting at least 4 Tuesdays each month. That is what the councils used to do for the most part, but in the last few years, with the current and previous council, we have seen meetings cut to two or three per month, and more and more decisions being made behind closed doors or very late at night or wee hours of the morning.

    This is not right. The council is elected to serve the public. SERVE. Not govern. And to properly serve the public, the meetings need to be frequent enough to cover the issues and end early enough to allow the public to fully participate.

    As to pay: They all recoginized what they were getting when they ran for office. The pay is a separate issue.

  10. Anonymous

    I am not advocting that the council should be available during Christmas, but I do believe they should be meeting at least 4 Tuesdays each month. That is what the councils used to do for the most part, but in the last few years, with the current and previous council, we have seen meetings cut to two or three per month, and more and more decisions being made behind closed doors or very late at night or wee hours of the morning.

    This is not right. The council is elected to serve the public. SERVE. Not govern. And to properly serve the public, the meetings need to be frequent enough to cover the issues and end early enough to allow the public to fully participate.

    As to pay: They all recoginized what they were getting when they ran for office. The pay is a separate issue.

  11. Anonymous

    I am not advocting that the council should be available during Christmas, but I do believe they should be meeting at least 4 Tuesdays each month. That is what the councils used to do for the most part, but in the last few years, with the current and previous council, we have seen meetings cut to two or three per month, and more and more decisions being made behind closed doors or very late at night or wee hours of the morning.

    This is not right. The council is elected to serve the public. SERVE. Not govern. And to properly serve the public, the meetings need to be frequent enough to cover the issues and end early enough to allow the public to fully participate.

    As to pay: They all recoginized what they were getting when they ran for office. The pay is a separate issue.

  12. Anonymous

    I am not advocting that the council should be available during Christmas, but I do believe they should be meeting at least 4 Tuesdays each month. That is what the councils used to do for the most part, but in the last few years, with the current and previous council, we have seen meetings cut to two or three per month, and more and more decisions being made behind closed doors or very late at night or wee hours of the morning.

    This is not right. The council is elected to serve the public. SERVE. Not govern. And to properly serve the public, the meetings need to be frequent enough to cover the issues and end early enough to allow the public to fully participate.

    As to pay: They all recoginized what they were getting when they ran for office. The pay is a separate issue.

  13. Doug Paul Davis

    To anon 10:06: No one shows up anyway, so that’s a moot point.

    To ddlp: Let me restate, I agree with you on the pay issue, I just don’t see it as a reason for them not to be available on a given day should the need arise.

  14. Doug Paul Davis

    To anon 10:06: No one shows up anyway, so that’s a moot point.

    To ddlp: Let me restate, I agree with you on the pay issue, I just don’t see it as a reason for them not to be available on a given day should the need arise.

  15. Doug Paul Davis

    To anon 10:06: No one shows up anyway, so that’s a moot point.

    To ddlp: Let me restate, I agree with you on the pay issue, I just don’t see it as a reason for them not to be available on a given day should the need arise.

  16. Doug Paul Davis

    To anon 10:06: No one shows up anyway, so that’s a moot point.

    To ddlp: Let me restate, I agree with you on the pay issue, I just don’t see it as a reason for them not to be available on a given day should the need arise.

  17. Sue Greenwald

    Does anyone know if any other California cities entirely close their main city offices for the winter holidays from Friday December 21, 2007 to Tuesday January 2, 2008?

    This Davis practice is not replicated in the few other cities that I just looked up.

    It presents problems for me, as I try to use many of the vacations to catch up on issues.

  18. Sue Greenwald

    Does anyone know if any other California cities entirely close their main city offices for the winter holidays from Friday December 21, 2007 to Tuesday January 2, 2008?

    This Davis practice is not replicated in the few other cities that I just looked up.

    It presents problems for me, as I try to use many of the vacations to catch up on issues.

  19. Sue Greenwald

    Does anyone know if any other California cities entirely close their main city offices for the winter holidays from Friday December 21, 2007 to Tuesday January 2, 2008?

    This Davis practice is not replicated in the few other cities that I just looked up.

    It presents problems for me, as I try to use many of the vacations to catch up on issues.

  20. Sue Greenwald

    Does anyone know if any other California cities entirely close their main city offices for the winter holidays from Friday December 21, 2007 to Tuesday January 2, 2008?

    This Davis practice is not replicated in the few other cities that I just looked up.

    It presents problems for me, as I try to use many of the vacations to catch up on issues.

  21. Anonymous

    So, DPD, are you saying that if no one shows up anyway, then it’s really that the Council should hold meetings when YOU think they should?

    It’s Christmas, everyone is off, give it a rest.

  22. Anonymous

    So, DPD, are you saying that if no one shows up anyway, then it’s really that the Council should hold meetings when YOU think they should?

    It’s Christmas, everyone is off, give it a rest.

  23. Anonymous

    So, DPD, are you saying that if no one shows up anyway, then it’s really that the Council should hold meetings when YOU think they should?

    It’s Christmas, everyone is off, give it a rest.

  24. Anonymous

    So, DPD, are you saying that if no one shows up anyway, then it’s really that the Council should hold meetings when YOU think they should?

    It’s Christmas, everyone is off, give it a rest.

  25. Anonymous

    David, this is another of your red herrings, if anything could be done for the residents of Covell Gardens before the end of the year, I am sure the Council would and could muster a majority through being in person and via electronic means. The same holds for an emergency. How about talking about Peace in Davis or Iraq.

  26. Anonymous

    David, this is another of your red herrings, if anything could be done for the residents of Covell Gardens before the end of the year, I am sure the Council would and could muster a majority through being in person and via electronic means. The same holds for an emergency. How about talking about Peace in Davis or Iraq.

  27. Anonymous

    David, this is another of your red herrings, if anything could be done for the residents of Covell Gardens before the end of the year, I am sure the Council would and could muster a majority through being in person and via electronic means. The same holds for an emergency. How about talking about Peace in Davis or Iraq.

  28. Anonymous

    David, this is another of your red herrings, if anything could be done for the residents of Covell Gardens before the end of the year, I am sure the Council would and could muster a majority through being in person and via electronic means. The same holds for an emergency. How about talking about Peace in Davis or Iraq.

  29. Anonymous

    ddlp wrote:
    “Yes, these are public servants. But, I for one would not run for city council in Davis because (among other reasons) I could not afford to do so.
    Being a council member in Davis requires extraordinary commitment and sacrifice. Every member on the council should be thanked for taking that on.”

    Oh c’mon, these dudes are fat cats playing lap dog for the time they spend as hogs wallowing in the trough supplied with goodies by developers…except for Lamar.

  30. Anonymous

    ddlp wrote:
    “Yes, these are public servants. But, I for one would not run for city council in Davis because (among other reasons) I could not afford to do so.
    Being a council member in Davis requires extraordinary commitment and sacrifice. Every member on the council should be thanked for taking that on.”

    Oh c’mon, these dudes are fat cats playing lap dog for the time they spend as hogs wallowing in the trough supplied with goodies by developers…except for Lamar.

  31. Anonymous

    ddlp wrote:
    “Yes, these are public servants. But, I for one would not run for city council in Davis because (among other reasons) I could not afford to do so.
    Being a council member in Davis requires extraordinary commitment and sacrifice. Every member on the council should be thanked for taking that on.”

    Oh c’mon, these dudes are fat cats playing lap dog for the time they spend as hogs wallowing in the trough supplied with goodies by developers…except for Lamar.

  32. Anonymous

    ddlp wrote:
    “Yes, these are public servants. But, I for one would not run for city council in Davis because (among other reasons) I could not afford to do so.
    Being a council member in Davis requires extraordinary commitment and sacrifice. Every member on the council should be thanked for taking that on.”

    Oh c’mon, these dudes are fat cats playing lap dog for the time they spend as hogs wallowing in the trough supplied with goodies by developers…except for Lamar.

  33. Christine

    I am glad you are raising the issue of the late night meetings. I worked for Yolo County for many years and the Board of Supes meetings were held in the morning, run according to the agenda and rarely, if ever, ran overtime. Meeting until 1:00 am is outrageous and unhealthy. Members of the Board of Supervisors usually had other jobs or obligations as well, so there really should be no reason for a city council member not to be available for morning meetings once a week. Vacations need to be scheduled, and I have never worked anywhere that allowed everyone to take off at the same time (with the exception of the last week of December/New Year’s). Happy to see that no one tried to turn this into a religious issue.

  34. Christine

    I am glad you are raising the issue of the late night meetings. I worked for Yolo County for many years and the Board of Supes meetings were held in the morning, run according to the agenda and rarely, if ever, ran overtime. Meeting until 1:00 am is outrageous and unhealthy. Members of the Board of Supervisors usually had other jobs or obligations as well, so there really should be no reason for a city council member not to be available for morning meetings once a week. Vacations need to be scheduled, and I have never worked anywhere that allowed everyone to take off at the same time (with the exception of the last week of December/New Year’s). Happy to see that no one tried to turn this into a religious issue.

  35. Christine

    I am glad you are raising the issue of the late night meetings. I worked for Yolo County for many years and the Board of Supes meetings were held in the morning, run according to the agenda and rarely, if ever, ran overtime. Meeting until 1:00 am is outrageous and unhealthy. Members of the Board of Supervisors usually had other jobs or obligations as well, so there really should be no reason for a city council member not to be available for morning meetings once a week. Vacations need to be scheduled, and I have never worked anywhere that allowed everyone to take off at the same time (with the exception of the last week of December/New Year’s). Happy to see that no one tried to turn this into a religious issue.

  36. Christine

    I am glad you are raising the issue of the late night meetings. I worked for Yolo County for many years and the Board of Supes meetings were held in the morning, run according to the agenda and rarely, if ever, ran overtime. Meeting until 1:00 am is outrageous and unhealthy. Members of the Board of Supervisors usually had other jobs or obligations as well, so there really should be no reason for a city council member not to be available for morning meetings once a week. Vacations need to be scheduled, and I have never worked anywhere that allowed everyone to take off at the same time (with the exception of the last week of December/New Year’s). Happy to see that no one tried to turn this into a religious issue.

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