News

Council moves study sessions prior to its regular meetings

Weekly gatherings of the city council will become a thing of the past and so, too, could the four-hour-plus council meetings.

The council unanimously approved changes to its meeting schedule and procedures at Monday night's meeting.

Now the council will hold a one-hour study session prior to the regular council meetings held at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of the month.

The study sessions held on the first and third Mondays are canceled. If an issue requires a longer discussion than one hour, then a special meeting can be called.

No public comment will be taken during the one-hour study sessions, but anyone wishing to comment on a study session will be allowed to do so during the regular meeting.

The council will hold its study sessions sitting not in their usual chairs but at a round table, seated in a semi-circle so as not to block the audience's view.

The council's agenda packets will be available to them on the preceding Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning to allow more time for reviewing them.

Interim City Manager Linda Herzog told the council all that would be necessary for them to sit in the middle of the room would be reconfiguring the room's recording system.

Mayor Laura Dubois said the study session would include only "one or two topics for intense discussion."

Herzog said last week she got the idea for changing the council's schedule based upon her experience in other cities where she has worked.

The Renton City Council meets every week, but the councils in Redmond and Mercer Island don't, she said.

"It's kind of unusual to have meetings and study sessions (on alternating weeks). I saw that meeting schedule was hard on staff and council and this had worked with other cities," Herzog said.

"We're not cutting out study sessions. I proposed we put them on the front end then have special meetings for larger issues," she said.

The study sessions were instituted in early 2008 after four new councilors were elected to the seven-member council and wanted to get up to speed on numerous city issues.

Herzog also has changed the council's agenda to segregate those items that need council discussion and action from those provided just for the council's information.

The latter will include project updates and the initial presentation of items - "first touch" in council parlance - which previously could extend meetings as long as four hours.

"The point is, if there's items for councilors to know how something is going, then they don't have to discuss them," Herzog said.

"Certainly they can ask the questions but the staff may not be there. So I'll record it and get an answer when it comes up for discussion or I can get that information," she said.

This will allow councilors to read about items without talking about them or hearing a staff presentation, Herzog said.



Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.

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