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New Council Meeting Rules Could be Tested for Extra 3 Months

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By Jorge Casuso

September 22, 2022 -- A test program to shorten City Council meetings and allow most public speakers to leave early could be extended an extra three months.

The Council on Tuesday will take up a staff recommendation to extend the pilot program set to expire December 31 that consolidates public comments at the start of meetings.

"Since the implementation of the pilot, staff has been diligently working to make adjustments to the process as incidents arise," staff wrote in a report to the Council.

The adjustments include "managing the nuances of the meeting management system to correlate with the rule changes."

But with upcoming meetings canceled or rescheduled on Election Day and the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, staff will have less time "ensure the process is effective and efficient."

"Furthermore," staff wrote, "at least two new Councilmembers will be elected at the 2022 General Election who will not have the benefit of becoming familiar with the pilot" before voting on whether to extend it.

Under the new rules approved by the Council on June 21, public input on non-agenda items -- as well as public comment on special items, closed session and the consent calendar -- are heard at 5:30 p.m., before the Council meets in private.

Proclamations and other special items also are heard before closed session, while all remaining public comment on agenda items, except public hearings, are after the Council returns to the chamber at 7 p.m.

Public comment for public hearings (items that require public notice such as appeals, zoning changes and other items required by law) are heard when the items are called ("Council Approves Hybrid Meetings, Rule Changes," June 22, 2022).

On and off for two decades the Council has entertained ways to wrap up its meetings -- which often last well past midnight -- at an earlier hour ("Council Takes Yet Another Stab at Shortening Meetings," May 20, 2022).

Proposed solutions have included limiting the amount of time Councilmembers have to discuss an item and placing a five-minute limit on oral staff reports.

It is likely too early to tell if the latest changes will result in shorter meetings.

Of the eight Council meetings before the changes were implemented on June 28, four lasted longer than 7 hours, with the longest running for about 8 1/2 hours, according to an analysis by The Lookout.

After the rules were implemented, three of the eight meetings that have been held have lasted more than 7 hours, with the longest running about 10 1/2 hours.

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