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Casar proposes changes to committee rules

Monday, January 18, 2016 by Jo Clifton

City Council Member Greg Casar is proposing that most items go directly to the Council agenda, eliminating the assumption that items are discussed before a Council committee before being passed to the full Council for consideration.

This proposal is just one of several that the District 4 Council member has put forward to change the Council’s current committee structure. In addition, Casar is proposing to eliminate the assumption that items from Council members are inappropriately “leapfrogging” committees when they go straight to the Council agenda.

Casar said on Friday that he had laid out his proposals before the transition committee, which is an unofficial Council committee that’s working on changes to committee rules and procedures. Mayor Steve Adler, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and Council members Ann Kitchen and Leslie Pool sit on the committee. The group met last week, and Casar said it would meet again on Tuesday morning. He told the Austin Monitor that Adler and Tovo appeared to support his recommendations. Adler has said that Council will discuss changes to committee rules at its work session on Jan. 26.

Kitchen, who chairs the transition committee, had “some concerns,” Casar said. “I think she wanted more preference for committees over Council.” But, Casar added, “I feel pretty strongly about those two recommendations. … We should be using committees as a specialized place where we can get extra or better work done on a limited number of items rather than a place where lots of stuff goes – and not much is accomplished because there’s too much stuff.”

According to his written proposal, Casar believes that “it’s important to reform the current committee system to make more efficient use of time for Council members, city staff, and community members, and to make the policy-making process more transparent and predictable.”

Casar is also recommending that items be placed on committee agendas only if the majority of the committee members sponsor the item for committee consideration. He proposes that any item with four sponsors be posted directly to the Council agenda, allowing committees to decide if they wish to deliberate on items that are before Council.

Casar is also proposing that Council consider reducing the number of committee members on each committee and reducing or consolidating committees.

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