Are City Council Meetings Too Long?

L-R: Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell, Councilor Justin Livingston, Mayor Casey Roats, Councilor Bruce Abernethy, Councilor Barb Campbell, Councilor Nathan Boddie, and Councilor Bill Moseley. Courtesy: City of Bend.

Originally published in the Bend Chamber Business Edition – January 13, 2017

Bend’s new Mayor, Casey Roats, wants City Council to get down to business. As his first comment to the new council at yesterday’s City Council Special Meeting at the Administration Building at Simpson Fire Station, the mayor laid down the framework for what will be the new norm for the council.

As the new city council takes up position on the dais at City Hall next Wednesday, Mayor Roats is all about making council meetings to stay on track.

“One of my main concerns is that we follow the council rules,” said Bend Mayor Roats.

The new suggestion laid out by the mayor to his fellow councilor is a stricter adherence to rules found in the Robert’s Rules & Order and general parliamentary procedure.

“I will give the floor to each councilor, especially during debates when we are scheduling action items and discussion the merits of the motions,” said Roats.

Probably the most significant departure from the recent past is the mayor will call and recognize council members during debates.

“I will make sure each person has an opportunity to speak and make sure no one speaks again until we have worked through all the people who want to speak,” said Roats.
But being realistic about the new framework, Mayor Roats acknowledged the council will keep on refining the approach as it moves forward.

Mayor Roats also recognized it is a challenge to find a style the council operates under. One point during his initial comments was a wish to make it easier for the audience and press to find out what is going on during the meeting. Adhering to his proposal, he asked City Recorder, Robyn Christie, to display information discussed on the screen so everyone can follow along.

Free form debates, long a part of Bend City Council meetings, are no longer going to be the norm.

New City Councilor Bill Mosley made clear his position.

“We should follow ordinances just like we expect our residents to follow ordinances,” said Moseley. “The purpose of council meetings is to be open and visible to the public. We have to be cognizant this is an open process.”

There was also contained a spirited discussion about the Visitor’s Section of the council meetings. A forum for the citizens of Bend to address the council on different topics, the three-minute “open mic” section has in the past generated lengthy council discussions in response to a visitor’s presentation.

Several council members noted there are no rules visitors should expect a response from the council. With that in mind, the mayor and the council decided to refrain from engaging visitors in lengthy discussion about the merits of their presentation. Instead, mechanism for follow-up will be put in place.

Mayor Roats and the council decided to reign in the visitor’s section and strictly enforce the 3-minute rule for the council to get down to council business sooner rather than later. As seen in the past, some of the actual business portion of the meeting would not start until after 9 p.m.

Noting he will be the human face in the process, Mayor Roats stressed he will make sure not to leave anyone hanging after a presentation by simply recognizing the council heard what was said. City recorder Robyn Christie will log visitor remarks, and if warranted, send them on to city staff for further investigation.