The council managed to get through a full agenda at their meeting last night. The unfortunate thing for the public is that it ended around 12:30 midnight. One of the chief complaints of the citizenry is that meetings go on too late.
Back in February, newly-installed executive Davis Chamber of Commerce Director Kemble Pope proposed having the council meet only twice per month and adjourn no later than 11 pm.
The Vanguard has proposed a version of that which would be to hold meetings every week and only have one major item for consideration per meeting. We are concerned that, given the council’s plate, it would be difficult for the council to appropriately discuss all items on the agenda by 11 pm if they continue to meet twice a month.
Of the current members of council, only Councilmember Dan Wolk has supported any kind of motion for earlier meeting endings.
Last fall the council ran their critical water meeting until 3:30.
What made the September 6 meeting all the worse is that council knew that the water issue had brought out 50 to 75 people, they knew that people would make public comments, and they knew that process alone would take two to three hours.
And yet they scheduled three items before the water item. That included two appeals of Planning Commission rulings. The lengthy one was a home on Oceano Way in which the owner was attempting to expand from five to six bedrooms. It was an issue obviously important to the owner and some of their neighbors, but in the scheme of things, if it impacted the lives of 100 people that would be a high figure.
Nevertheless, the council spent over an hour on that item, as many neighbors came forward to offer their opinions. So while 50 to 75 people waited and many more waited at home, the owners who did not even make the meeting got a hearing on their issue.
More recently the issue of Crown Castle had lengthy public comment, and the micromanaging of tower locations by council monopolized three council meetings worth of time.
Last night it was simply stacking far too many items on a single agenda that contributed to that problem, but that was exacerbated because the council has often not had time to hear all items, and so, for instance, the Parks Masterplan Item on the agenda last night took several hours for discussion but it had been pushed back at least two from previous agendas that were too heavily stacked.
This was made worse by the fact that the council had its joint meeting with the Tree Commission run over, and they had a number of presentations that took up time, as well.
As I suggested last fall when this issue came up, there are several ways to deal with these issues.
First, do not have presentations in regular council meetings. I think they can be on a Thursday night, picking a date with no school board meeting. Once a month, they could have their presentations and awards, and have Davis businesses come in and sponsor the meeting and provide refreshments afterwards. That would prevent the use of 30 to 60 minutes of prime time for presentations.
Second, anticipate items that will bring in large groups of people. You cannot always do that. I understand. But it was obvious that Crown Castle would bring out people. It is obvious that issues involving water or development will bring up issues.
Third, the council has gotten better at this, but they need to adjust the schedule to deal with the public demand.
Fourth, the council needs a hard rule that, unless deadlines are upon them, only one major item per night. We have seen budget hearings that followed hearings on ConAgra, water that followed other lengthy discussions.
Unfortunately despite all of this, I have not seen the council make critical adjustments. We still have them with open Tuesdays. A number of these late night meetings would be shortened if the council had simply been able to spread the items out over more weeks.
The notion that staff needs to prepare is ludicrous. What they are essentially doing is cramming two meetings into one, but they could separate the weeks without overburdening staff.
What has become obvious is that the council is not wanting to fix this. The Vanguard proposes the following: (1) no item starts after 11 pm., and (2) no discussion continues on any item after midnight.
The Vanguard is considering possibly putting this matter to citizens for a vote if the council is unwilling to make these changes. We put the one hour time distance between when the last item can start and the item must finish because we are not going to allow for the council to vote to waive the rule. The simple reason is that the council currently has such a rule and if they simply waive it every single time – what is the point of having the rule? The hour gives a bit of flexibility, but it may be for urgent matters they have to take it up again the next day.
—David M. Greenwald reporting