(This was originally published in my Jan 20, 2019 newsletter)
For anyone who might be curious about how City Council prepares for a meeting, the following is a timeline:
Thursday, late afternoon: City Council receives an agenda and packet of supporting documents, with all the items set to be discussed or voted on the following Monday.
Friday (sometimes): City Council might be emailed updates and additions to the agenda. (Members of council might have added items to the agenda or city staff might have added to it.)
Monday, before 10 a.m.: Members of Council email “questions to the agenda” to the city administrator or city attorney, about issues up for discussion at that evening’s meeting.
Monday, 4:30 p.m.: Members of council receive responses to their questions, for reference before the 7 p.m. meeting. (Note: these questions/responses are available to be viewed on Legistar.)
These “questions to the agenda” are important. Sometimes, we ask fewer questions in a meeting simply because our questions were already answered in writing. Sometimes, there are so many written questions that the responses are quite long, and we receive them just a couple hours before the meeting. Sometimes, our discussion at the Council table is long and tedious, because it is our only opportunity to exchange all perspectives at once— the Open Meetings Act prevents us from having group discussions on these topics outside of the public meeting.