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Trio proposes earlier publishing of City Council agenda

Friday, November 13, 2009 by Austin Monitor

Council watchers will soon have more time to peruse the Council agenda before deciding if a particular item warrants either opposition or support.


Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez and Council Member Randi Shade are sponsoring an item on next week’s agenda asking City Manager Marc Ott to begin publishing a draft agenda 13 days before the Council meeting. Members of the Council would be asked to submit their items 8 days before the meeting.


Under current procedures, the public does not get to see the agenda until it is finalized, generally on the Monday before a Thursday City Council meeting.


“For those who regularly participate, I think they’re going to appreciate this in that they’re going to get information much sooner now,” said Martinez. “It will give them time to email us and call us and meet with us.”


“Folks are feeling frustrated by having such an intense agenda,” that can only be seen a few days in advance, Martinez said, noting frustration over the fusion center and the texting ban as two recent examples.


Asked whether the change would put an additional burden on city staff, Martinez said, “I think that that is a fair question to ask. We obviously don’t want to unduly burden staff but we are asking them to make every attempt possible to get the agenda ready as soon as possible so that the public can see it. You still have the option legally to place something on the agenda 72 hours in advance. This is simply a goal we are establishing.”


“This falls into the category of campaign promises fulfilled,” said Mark Nathan, the Mayor’s chief of staff, noting that both Leffingwell and Martinez had made pledges about making the agenda more accessible during their campaigns. He served as a campaign consultant to both Leffingwell and Martinez last spring and to Shade last year.


“You’ll be able to sign up on the city’s web site to receive email notification of the posting of that agenda,” said Nathan. He said the resolution would call on Ott to make the changes beginning with Council meetings in January 2010.


“So, basically, the whole idea is to give everybody more time and more information about what’s on the agenda. We want the manager to post as much backup as possible for each agenda item and to supplement that backup as it becomes available,” Nathan said.

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