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ZAP approves Robert’s Rules training

Friday, November 18, 2016 by Joseph Caterine

A resolution to provide city staff and assistant city attorneys with training on Robert’s Rules of Order – and to make that training available to all members of boards and commissions – met with animosity from Commissioner Susan Harris at Tuesday’s meeting of the Zoning and Platting Commission.

The resolution, sponsored by Commissioner Betsy Greenberg and co-sponsored by commissioners Ana Aguirre and Jolene Kiolbassa, claimed that ignorance about the rules of order has resulted in misinformation that may have affected the deliberations and decisions of the city’s boards and commissions.

“I think it’s terribly presumptuous that we should be telling the City Council and city attorney what type of training should be in order,” Harris said. “The absence of proof that misinformation has affected deliberations is glaring.”

At the last Zoning and Platting meeting on Nov. 1, Harris made a substitute motion in regard to the Austin Oaks planned unit development, a major rezoning case that covers 31.4 acres. During that meeting, Andrew Rivera of the Planning and Zoning Department called the motion into question as possibly violating Robert’s Rules of Order. City Attorney David Sorola also weighed in, remarking that in his observation of Council meetings, substitute motions had been made in similar instances. Harris’ motion eventually passed, and the commission approved the rezoning.

“I wouldn’t say we’re telling them what to do,” Greenberg said in response at this week’s meeting. “We’re asking.”

Greenberg made a motion to approve the resolution as written, and Aguirre seconded. The motion passed 6-3, with Harris, Chair Thomas Weber and Commissioner Bruce Evans opposed. Vice Chair Gabriel Rojas and Commissioner Dustin Breithaupt were absent.

Clarification: Following publication of this story, Rivera contacted the Monitor to explain the issue. He wrote, “The issue was not Commissioner Harris’s substitute motion, but rather the issue focused on how amendments are adopted (or lost) as part of a pending motion. Previously, Zoning and Platting Commission customarily practiced a method of ‘friendly amendments.’ While the process has been widely utilized and accepted, it is not in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order.

“The Zoning and Platting Commission has made it abundantly clear they desire to adhere to Robert’s Rules of Order. This means treating all amendments in the same manner regardless of the maker’s denial or acceptance of an amendment. Once a motion is made for debate it belongs to the assembly and the assembly may adopt an amendment to the pending motion. This is the practice the Zoning and Platting Commission used during the public hearing of (7901 Ranch Road 2222)… and will continue to be their practice in the future.”

Photo by M. Fitzsimmons made available through GNU Free Documentation and Creative Commons licenses.

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