City Council – Standing Committee on Rules Liveblog – 5/17/10

5:55pm — There are already people setting up signs in Esther Howland Chamber (across the way) for the CSX hearing.

Ron Madnick just got here as well.

5:59: According to Ron M., who was talking to Jeremy, who was here just a minute ago and will be back again, you can re-file a petition in 90 days if they don’t respond to you.

6:00: And now Virginia Ryan and a friend.  There’s another gentleman here as well.

Mike Germain has been on a diet for three months, following to doctor’s orders, and has lost 25 pounds.  Blood pressure.  (I didn’t ask; Ms. Ryan did.)

6:03: And Eddy has come in…we’re all here.

6:06: called to order.  Lukes notes that we’re mostly here for items 2b, c, d, and e (Madnick’s items requesting public access open forum and allowing primary petitioner to speak on their petition on the day of the agenda.)

6:08: Madnick: City Council agenda is very interesting.  Starts with the pledge, star spangled banner, roll call…fourth item is items of citizens interest.  No one knows why it’s there.  We’re proposing that if there is someone who would like to speak about an item on the agenda, they be allowed to do so at that time.

Leominster & Fitchburg have this system already, as does Brookfield.  In Fitchburg, normally, there are quite a few people in the audience, but there are very few speakers.  “What I have noticed, in both places [Fitchburg & Brookfield] is that there are more people in attendance.”

An experiment that the American Civil Liberties Union recommends you try for a short time.

6:10: I’ve never been refused the right to speak in 30 or 40 years by those in the council.  There are people in the community that have told Madnick that they should have the right to do so, not ask permission to do so.

We don’t want to go back to going to meetings that last to midnight.  But perhaps we’ve been “too efficient.”

Lukes: confused about the process he’s suggesting.  Are you suggesting that they have the opportunity to speak twice, once at the citizen forum, and then when the item is brought up?

Madnick: In the ones he’s been to, “people could talk to any item on the agenda, and were allowed to address it again when it came up.  For the most part, they did not.”

Lukes feels that the open forum would be enough.

6:13: Eddy: This is our second term…can’t remember anyone being denied.  I get that the rules in place are to get the item discussed at committee.  I could support 2c.  I would offer an amendment to allow 5 minutes for all petitioners in their entirety. 

2b: he’s not sold on 2b.  When we’re doing final action on items, the mayor or the chair will ask for proponents if they choose to speak.  We set limits sometimes because of time constraints, but both sides are allowed to speak.

6:16: Germain supports 2b as well as 2c.  One thing he hears constantly from those who come as well as those who watch on TV is that discussion is limited.  “I sometimes feel that myself. … This person was shut off too soon.”  First 30 minutes, “I may come back and say this was a stupid vote, but I’ve done that … in the past few years.”

Lukes will support 2b but not 2c.  Half hour allows everyone to speak, including the petitioner.  Otherwise, petitioner could speak twice.  2b would amend to a six month period from June-November.

6:18: Eddy asks if an item before the council — the rules were written before the committee it’s going to; on council orders or items of the city manager, what’s the rule for public forum? 

Asst. City Clerk: resolutions: the Mayor can recognize any citizen to speak during the public meeting.

If it’s adopted on the floor, mayor can recognize any citizen to discuss.

Lukes: First mayor I saw allow wide latitude in public discussion was Jordan Levy (12:00, 1:00, 2:00 in the morning).  Mayor Mariano actually redefined the participation of the public.  Just referred to committee with no discussion.  She’s inclined to allow the public to come before us.  The Council needs to know when/how the discretion of the chair will be allotted.

6:22: Lukes, continued: so, if she were Mayor, and there was discussion at the beginning, probably wouldn’t allow discussion when the petition came up.

Madnick: to answer councilor Eddy, a person who has young children at home could speak at 7:05 as opposed to waiting hours for the item to come up on the agenda. “It’s a convenience thing also.”

6:24: filing 2b and 2c because they were re-filed. 

On 2d (public access forum) — Eddy: N; Germain: Y; Lukes: Y
On 2e (petitioner speaking) — Eddy: Y; Germain: Y; Lukes: N

Lukes points out again that the petitioner could technically speak twice on the same item.

Filing: 1a-1c.

1d (boards and commissions vacancies): Lukes recommend they ask administration for a report on City Councilors being ambassadors for vacancies that go for a long time unfilled.

6:28: Eddy: Are you aware of how many openings there are? 

Lukes: as of today, no.  We go through cycles of interest/lack of interest.  Maybe a report from Citizens Advisory Council to see if they have any concerns.

2a gets filed because petitioner wasn’t here (and was notified).  Of course, it was from three years ago…

2g on hold because Grace Ross wasn’t notified.

2j: “what particularly irks me is when councilors get up to articulate their position…after stating their position…[put it on personal privilege so that they have the final word].”  He feels that if you’re going to put it under personal privilege, — (using very strong language — pontificate!) — you should have to say it in the first sentence. 

Lukes: she checked on this item.  6:39: The approach of personal privilege is in the charter; we can as a council create some limitations.  If we’re going to adopt or consider, we should have City Solicitor review.

Eddy: move to amend rule 60 so that member either rise to debate or hold for personal privilege, if the member chooses to debate, he waives his right to hold.  If he’s rising to hold, must do it in first sentence.

Germain agrees that this has been abused.  If I intend to hold, I could get three people on my side to talk, and then I could put in the hold.  (good point, Germain!)

Eddy: could we get the Mayor to ask if anyone wants to hold?

Lukes: not sure it’s that cumbersome, if the Mayor still exercises discretion on when to ask.

OK — I guess they approved on roll call.  I just spaced. 🙂

6:39: Lukes is now discussing the twin/sister city thing.  International Center acts as an agent for the city because there is no money.  When she hosted visitors from other countries, they wanted to meet for economic purposes.  She would recommend Economic Development Committee get these requests, except they have a lot of other work. 

Education does culture, so perhaps them?

Germain asks if the next item, changing name of Education to Education, Arts & Culture, would address that.

(Sorry — I didn’t summarize this well.  Basically, Lukes says that these foreign groups are coming to create business ties with Worcester, and that the Mayor needs help.)

Refer to Economic Development to create protocol for these situations (developing economic ties with other communities).

2m: changing name of “Education” to “Education, Arts & Culture”.  Four years ago, the last part got dropped off the name.  Eddy points out that there’s overlap with Youth, Parks, etc; Lukes notes that there’s also overlap with Economic. 

Germain feels that the best interaction with Worcester Sports Council is with Youth, Parks…

2n: Filed.

6:46: adjourned.