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Transition group will begin posting meetings

Wednesday, June 17, 2015 by Jo Clifton

It was never intended to be a committee. But the City Council committee on committees, also known as the transition committee and the Transition Work Group, has met at least twice without the usual notice to the public, video recording or broadcast on ATXN. What at first seemed like just an informal gathering of four Council members to work out rules for Council committees has turned into a committee itself.

In response to a question on Tuesday, Mayor Steve Adler said of the committee, “We’ve met twice, and when we noticed that it was going to be meeting regularly, we decided we would post it.” Adler said he did not know whether the committee would be broadcast or recorded.

He added that the committee started as something informal, just a conversation really. “And as soon as it began to look like more than just people passing each other in the hall and saying, ‘Hey, we should try to do this’ … we’re now moving to a more formal” structure, Adler said.

In addition to Adler, the committee includes Council members Ann Kitchen and Greg Casar, and Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo.

“It was just a work group,” Tovo said. “It was just a couple of us getting together to do some thinking through those issues.”

She added, “My assumption when I volunteered to be part of that was that it would be a very temporary group — looking at the ordinance, looking at our processes and trying to come up with some consistent practices.

“I think that there was just a sense that there was a need for standardization across the committees, just in terms of language, process, how many speakers during citizens communications, how many slots there are. … But I think one or two other people have expressed an interest in attending. The meetings will be posted.”

Tovo said the committee has met three times, possibly four, and that she sees it as a “temporary assignment.” She added that the real work will be done at Council work sessions. At Tuesday’s work session, Kitchen briefed her colleagues on ideas the committee had come up with to standardize procedures for other committees.

For example, there is a complicated section concerning the process of committee referral, which includes items referred to the committee by Council vote, items referred by the mayor or two Council members, items referred by a board or commission action, and referring items back to full Council from a committee.

Another section addresses public testimony at committee meetings. It includes ensuring that “public comment” is not confused with “public hearing.” The transition committee suggested a general policy of five speakers at three minutes each for general citizens communication, “with exceptions granted by (the) chair as deemed appropriate.”

Adler said he expects each work session agenda to include an item allowing for a report from the transition committee. He also said the committee should focus on ideas for reducing the use of staff time.

Although there have been some tangential comments about the additional burden the committee structure places on department directors, assistant directors and other key members of city staff, there has not yet been a robust discussion of the problem. Adler seemed to be pointing to the problem during his comments.

Other items that were listed on the committee report for future discussion included: coordination with boards and commissions, tracking boards and commissions to a primary relational committee, standardization of committee documentation, tracking notice requirements and the mayor’s participation in committee meetings.

By Luis Argerich from Buenos Aires, Argentina (Meeting room Uploaded by guillom) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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