Don’t fear trying something new

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, June 3, 2009

At the last Demopolis City Council meeting on May 26, the council was to hear the results of its audit for Fiscal Year 2007-08. Since it was expected to be a long meeting, the usually open-forum mayor and council discussions at the end of the meeting were instead listed as agenda items.

For example, if a council member wanted to talk about something in his district, it would be listed on the agenda, rather than come up as part of each council member’s open discussion time.

This is a good idea to have in all Demopolis City Council meetings since, lately, that discussion time has been used for topics that could be settled more with department heads or other council members out of chambers instead of being brought forward at the council meeting.

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Through this new agenda style, council members can tell city clerk Paula Bird what they would like to discuss during the given discussion period, and that topic would be added to the agenda.

One council member protested because he said that, very often, people meet him at the Rooster Hall door with something that needs to be discussed. Even so, when the time to approve the agenda rolls around, that council member can add that topic to the agenda.

Needless to say, the change brought forth objection, although no one could come up with a good reason not to give this change a try.

One council member said it violated his free-speech rights, and another gave my all-time favorite reason (not): “We’ve never done this before.”

Another council member grudgingly approved the agenda for that meeting only, saying he understood that it would be a long meeting, and he would want to expedite things for that meeting, implying that he didn’t care that other meetings drag on with needless discussion.

If council members didn’t prattle on and on or talk about things that could be better resolved through other channels, there wouldn’t be a need to try a different approach.

While this doesn’t necessarily guarantee shorter meetings – since some of the long discussions happen during the body of the meeting – it would better organize the open discussion time and give other council members a chance to see the topics of discussion ahead of time instead of having their first notice be when the discussion begins.