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Mayor Seeks to Speed up Councilmember Items


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By Jorge Casuso

April 22, 2024 -- Two and a half years ago, the City Council took steps to stem the flood of items its members place on the agenda.

After hearing 16 during the past two meetings, Mayor Phil Brock has placed a Councilmember item on Tuesday's agenda that will slightly shorten the time it takes to go through the often lengthy list.

Brock's proposal would amend the Council rules that allow the items -- which include everything from funding events to far-reaching policy decisions -- to be voted on "as one item."

Brock's proposal would exempt "certain items that may be pulled for discussion" at the meeting," as well as Council appointments to boards and commissions, which are placed on the Councilmember agenda by staff.

"It may save time on some items," Brock said, adding that a lot of Councilmember requests are "about giving money to organizations."

On Tuesday's agenda, Councilmember Oscar de la Torre is asking the Council to allocate $5,000 to support the Samohi Latino Graduation, while Councilmembers Lana Negrete and Christine Parrra are requesting $4,681.72 for the Memorial Day event at Woodlawn Cemetery.

De la Torre also is requesting authorization to use existing travel funds to attend the 41st Annual Conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) in Las Vegas in June.

While such items are routinely approved, they have also been the subject of controversy on the deeply divided Council.

Requests by Councilmembers Gleam Davis and Caroline Torosis to each use their $8,400 travel funds to help cover the costs of an affordable housing program in Vienna, Austria led to a sometimes tense debate ("Council Authorizes Funds for Trip to Vienna," February 15, 2024).

While Tuesday's Councilmember discussion items should go quickly, recent meetings have seen proposed policy changes that have led to lenthy discussions.

One of the eight items placed by Councilmembers on the March 22 agenda called for a resolution expressing disapproval of the County's outdoor needle exchange program; another called for an ordinance prohibiting the "harassment of cyclists."

Other Councilmember items discussed in the past two meetings included rival items addressing a Black family's efforts to regain a piece of City-owned Civic Center land taken by eminent domain in 1958, and the creation of a Youth Commission.

Brock believes that at least half of the Councilmember discussion items should be placed on the Council's regular agenda. "A lot of times, there's a long jam," he said.

The policy change approved unanimously in September 2021 requires Council members to consult with the City Manager before placing staff administrative items on the agenda ("Council Takes Steps to Curb Own Agenda Items," September 17, 2021).

Eight months later, the Council stemmed last-minute items by moving up the submission deadline.

Over the past two decades, the Council has grappled with ways to shorten its meetings, which have often run long past midnight.

Proposals have included everything from placing a five-minute limit on oral staff reports to filing a lawsuit claiming that holding meetings after 11 p.m. violates the Brown Act.

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