Council Adopts New Standard For Placing Items On Council Agenda

In an effort to streamline often clogged council agendas and long meetings, on December 18 the Anaheim City Council voted to change how councilmembers agendize items for consideration.

Under the new policy, a councilmember will need the assent of at least two colleagues to agendize an item for council consideration; previously, council policy allowed for any councilmember to direct staff to prepare anything for council consideration, simply by making their request during the councilmember comments portion of the meeting.  The mayor will retain the power to unilaterally place items on the council agenda.

The reform was brought requested by Mayor Harry Sidhu. Whenever councilmembers direct an item to be agendized, city staff  devote time and resources to preparing the item for council consideration. The concern has been staff resources being consumed on behalf of items that have little or no chance of council adoption.  Earlier in 2018, Councilman James Vanderbilt made a similar attempt to raise the threshold for placing matters on the council agenda.

“At issue is how we conduct the people’s business in the most efficient manner, while still allowing robust debate and allocating staff time in the most efficient manner in order to get done all that we need to do,” said Sidhu.

“If an item is suggested to the agenda that not even two councilmembers believes warrants discussion, then we ought to keep our time and our city staff focused on items that will have an impact and move the city forward.”

“Mr. Mayor, like you I am committed to giving deference to individuals who may have a district-specific issue,” said District 6 Councilman Trevor O’Neil, who mentioned an initial concern about the potential for limiting the ability of councilmembers to bring items for council consideration.  However, O’Neil also noted that councilmembers have the ability, within the confines of  the Brown Act, to talk to their colleagues in order to secure support for full council discussion of an issue. He also pointed out councilmembers have plenty of avenues for airing public discussion of issues of interest.

“What we’re talking about here is not just limiting discussion,” said O’Neil. “It’s about limiting discussion and resources on issues that may potentially be dead on arrival.”

“We’re a big city, and we’re a busy city. And we all know that our agendas are often packed with items and our meetings can go wel into the night,. And I don’t think that is simply the democratic process at work – it’s a drain on staff resources and a drain on the public’s time.

“I think, Mr. Mayor that this is smart and efficient, and the right thing to do in order to streamline our meetings and make the best use of staff’s time and move forward with the city’s business,” said O’Neil.

Councilmembers Denise Barnes and Moreno both objected to Sidhu’s proposal.

“I can see allowing a need for a second in the interests of saving staff time,” said Barnes. “Needing three votes to get an idea on the agenda seems oppressive to members of the minority. ”

As an alternative, Moreno suggested that councilmembers “police themselves” and expressed concern about the number of times the agendizing policy had been changed during the last several years.

“I think in a district environment, I was elected to represent an area, and I don’t think it would be appropriate for councilmembers to suppress the voice of a geography of the city,” said Moreno, who supported Barnes’ suggestion of a simple second to agendize an item for council consideration.

Moreno’s and Barnes’s comments were an interesting contrast to their action while members of the council majority.  When District 5 Councilman Steve Faessel offered a carefully constructed plan for transitioning city commission’s to district-based appointments without sacrificing the institutional knowledge of existing commissioners, Moreno and Barnes opted instead to fire every city commissioner and start them over from scratch.

Neither Barnes nor Moreno objected when Mayor Tom Tait tabled an SB 54-related time agendized by Councilwoman Lucille Kring, in order to suppress any discussion of it.

Ultimately, the council voted 4-3 to approve the policy change, with Sidhu, Kring, O’Neil and Fassell voting “Yes” and District 2 Councilman Jordan Brandman joining Barnes and Moreno in opposition.

10 comments

  1. More swift action and change for the better from Mayor Sidhu and this new council majority. Thank you.

  2. David Michael Klawe

    I know Mayor Sidhu wants to address the Public Comments and taking up so much time, so he is looking at how the Orange County Board of Supervisors and other cities handle them. Only those comments directly related to items on the agenda will be allowed at the beginning of the meeting. Then after all items are discussed by the council, and the city staff can leave the meeting, since they won’t need to address the council, will general comments be allowed.

    I know this will disappoint Cecil, but it will speed up the meetings.

    • David Michael Klawe

      And here is the staff report on item# 28 on the January 15th Council Agenda

      SUBJECT: RULES AND PROCEDURES

      RECOMMENDATION: That the City Council, by Resolution, amend and restate the Council Rules of Order for the Conduct of Meetings to help Council meetings run more efficiently and effectively while providing the public meaningful opportunities to address the Council on matters of concern by, among other things, eliminating the first “Council Communications” item from agendas; dividing public comments into comments related to agenda items (beginning of meeting) and those related to non-agenda items (end of meeting); adding language limiting disruptive clapping, booing, or hissing; requiring speaker cards which must be submitted within one hour after the meeting’s scheduled start time; and reducing the speaker times for public hearings

      DISCUSSION: Mayor Sidhu has requested that the Council Rules of Order for the Conduct of Meetings be revised to help streamline meetings, making them more efficient and effective, while still providing the public meaningful opportunities to address the Council on matters of concern. Based on this direction, Staff has proposed revisions to the Rules of Procedure to address the Mayor’s concerns, which are summarized as follows:

      1. Section 1.07: In an effort to ensure all persons wishing to attend and participate in Council meetings not be deterred from doing so, language is added instructing persons in the audience to refrain from behavior which will disrupt the public meeting, including “making loud noises, clapping, booing, hissing or engaging in any other activity in a manner that disturbs, disrupts or impedes the orderly conduct of the meeting.”

      2. Section 1.08: Adds the requirement of speaker cards, which must be submitted within an hour of the scheduled start time, and must indicate the item on the agenda that the speaker wishes to address, or indicate that he or she wishes to speak on a general item of interest not on the agenda, but within the City Council’s subject matter jurisdiction. This new section also allows for anonymous speakers, but a card must still be submitted.

      3. Section 2.01: With regard to the order of business, public comment is divided into agenda item comments (near beginning of meeting) and non-agenda item comments (end of meeting), and the first Council Communications section is eliminated.

      4. Section 4.03.050: Times to speak for public hearings is reduced (twenty minutes reduced to fifteen minutes, ten minutes reduced to five minutes, and five minutes reduced to three minutes).

      If passed, the new rules of procedure would be in place before the next scheduled Council meeting on January 29, 2019. However, staff would recommend that the Mayor and Council exercise flexibility in enforcing any new rules until at least the first meeting in March to allow the public to adjust and be informed and educated on the new procedures that must be followed.

  3. Good for the Mayor, I hope he is successful in reigning in the clown show that Tait allowed public comments to become. Jordan Brandman sides with Moreno and Barnes again, I guess he wants to be a one termer again. Barnes is getting bounced in 2020, she is a mess.

  4. “…the council voted 4-3 …, with Sidhu, Kring, O’Neil and Fassell voting “Yes” and District 2 Councilman Jordan Brandman joining Barnes and Moreno in opposition.”

    Let’s count how many times that statement is made over the next 2 years.

    • David Michael Klawe

      Keith, will that be Higher or Lower than the 4-3 votes over the last two years, With Tait, Moreno, Brandman and Barnes voting “Yes”?

      But in these next two years, I see a lot of 5-2 votes with Moreno and Barnes on the losing end.

      • One your first question I would guess it will be proportional to what we saw during the previous 2 years.

        I agree we’ll see significant 5-2 votes as you describe (insert applause here), but I would bet the 4-3 configuration will top them, particularly on the high profile issues like homelessness and anything relating to the resort.

        • David Michael Klawe

          Check who was supported by SOAR in the last two elections…. Brandman, Kring, Faessel, O’Neil and Sidhu.

          So on the Resort/Disney issues, it looks like 5-2 votes for the most part…

          As for Homelessness, we just had a series of 7-0 votes that build and fund shelters for the next two years. I don’t see the need for any new votes for awhile. The city staff has done an excellent job dealing with Judge Carter to get the settlement, and following up on things that need to be done.

          There is an excellent update as part of the January 15th Agenda. Read the Staff Report on Item 2. Here is one part of it.

          >>At the December 4, 2018 City Council meeting, Council Member Barnes requested staff provide an update at each council meeting relating directly to the temporary homeless shelters being constructed in the City of Anaheim.

          On December 20, 2018, the Interim Emergency Shelter opened for services and the city began efforts to safely and compassionately place homeless individuals into the shelter. In conjunction with the opening of the interim shelter, city teams also conducted extensive cleaning and restoration of our public parks and spaces. The focus of our efforts during this timeframe were on the most impacted parks and public spaces:

          Maxwell Park,
          La Palma Park,
          Schweitzer Park,
          Santa Cruz Street,
          corner of Magnolia and La Palma, and
          Cerritos and the Douglass railroad area.

          Three dedicated days of outreach occurred on December 21, 22 and January 3 with outreach services from Illumination Foundation, Orange County Healthcare Agency and City Net. Participating city teams included staff from Public Works, Parks, Police, Fire, City Attorney, City Communications and Code Enforcement. The three day effort was one of the largest collaborations the city has ever performed related to helping our homeless and restoring our public spaces.

          As a result of the extensive outreach and cleanup efforts, the city:

           Is housing approximately 150 homeless individuals daily;
           Booked and stored over 12 truckloads of property;
           Picked up over 18 tons of debris and cleaned sidewalks, curbs, gutters, etc.;
           Disposed of more than 115 needles;
           Arrested less than five individuals for warrants.

          City staff and outreach workers will continue to help relocate homeless individuals and restore public spaces with smaller operations citywide. <<

          The report also contains financial reports, which is available at the city's website. (Can't post a link),

  5. You are correct Vern, my bad

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