Left-wing activist Duane Roberts, in particular, has been riding this hobby horse at the CAC meetings. CAC member and two-time former council candidate Bill Dalati has responded by having the topic placed on the agenda for tonight’s meeting.
The rationale usually advanced for moving the start time is that it makes it easier for the average citizen to attend council meetings — and that would seem to be true, at first glance. This is one of those well-intentioned ideas that makes less sense the more you think about, especially given how Anaheim City Council meetings generally progress.
True, they officially start at 5:00 p.m. and public hearings are supposed to start at 5:30 p.m. However, once the preliminaries and presentations and recognitions are wrapped up, it’s not unusual for it to past 6:00 p.m. before public comments on non-agenda items even begin. And let’s be honest — that segment of the council meeting goes on for quite a long time and has taken on aspects of a circus atmosphere. And when the average citizen does come to a council meeting to speak, it is usually on an agenda item, not for public comments about non-agenda items.
In reality, much, if not most, of the time the clock is approaching the 7:00 o’clock hour be the time the council gets to the actual business of the night — which is what most people in attendance are there for.
Moving the council start time to 7:00 p.m. means, in reality, that the average citizen on whose theoretical behalf this change is being pushed will have to stay at the council meeting even longer. And that is especially burdensome to people with families who have to arrange for someone to watch their children . And if that entails a babysitter, then that is money out-of-pocket, as well.
Furthermore, moving the start time to 7:00 p.m. is no guarantee of increased public participation at council meetings. Case in point: last week’s CAC meeting. It started at 6:30 p.m. — a full 90 minutes later than the city council start time — and most of the members of the general public who came had left by 7:30 p.m.
I understand that reformers suffer from a never-ending need to find things to reform — whether needed or not. But this is an area in which the case is more imagined than real, and — as with most reforms — will end up creating more problems than it solves.