Tomorrow evening at 5pm at City Hall, the City Council subcommittee for Rules and Legislative Affairs will meet to discuss a bunch of items of interest to those who care about open meetings and government transparency.
There are two related issues I think many folks care about, and if you can’t make the meeting, I recommend you write an email to the councilors on this subcommittee (Russell, Eddy, and O’Brien) to let them know how you feel.
Agenda item 3a reminds us that the home rule charter says that “Whenever possible, the body or individual to whom the petition was referred will make every reasonable effort to complete its work on the petition within sixty (60) days.”
As many of us know, a petition that’s referred to a subcommittee may languish not just for months but sometimes for years, and that a chair may never have the petition brought before the subcommittee.
And since the lists of items pending before each subcommittee are not easily accessible, many residents don’t know that there are dozens upon dozens of items pending for certain subcommittees.
Each city councilor has sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of our Commonwealth. That includes Article XIX:
The people have a right, in an orderly and peaceable manner, to assemble to consult upon the common good; give instructions to their representatives; and to request of the legislative body, by the way of addresses, petitions, or remonstrances, redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer.
For many of us, the City Council is our legislative body. We have the right to petition that body, and — more importantly — we have the right for that petition to be heard in a reasonable timeframe.
Also of interest on tomorrow’s agenda is item 3b:
Order Councilor Konstantina B. Lukes – Request City Council amend City Council’s Rule 53 to allow the petitioner the right to speak for no more than 2 minutes whether or not an item appears for the first or last time on an agenda.
Rule 53 currently states:
On any matter being considered for final disposition by the City Council, any citizen shall have the opportunity to address the City Council consistent with other Council rules. The time for that presentation shall not exceed five (5) minutes. When speaking, a citizen shall address all his or her remarks to the chair. He or she shall be requested to state his or her full name and the municipality in which he or she resides prior to addressing the issue under consideration.
So the upshot of this is that Councilor Lukes would like Rule 53 amended so that a citizen (Jo Hart would prefer we say “resident”) could speak for three fewer minutes before the Council takes a final vote on an item.
We can talk all we want about the reasons why no one shows up to vote.
But when you have City Councilors saying they want to hear less from their constituents, when you have meetings where councilors spend just as much time in the hallway as in the meeting, and when it takes years for petitions to be heard, is it any wonder people are apathetic?