Why you should care about city council committee meetings

council committees agendas file graphic
Ferndale City Council committees meeting agendas for September 12, 2018 - MFN file graphic - source: City of Ferndale

Citizens often say they are put off by political processes. Since most only infrequently participate or get involved, this is understandable. As a result, citizens will show up at city council meetings and wonder why they were not permitted to speak to an item on the agenda or, if they do speak, why were their questions or concerns not immediately addressed.

Items that have made it to a Ferndale City Council regular meeting agendas have done so after a long process of discussion and decision-making in the days or weeks before the council meeting. As a result, accepting public comments for items on the regular meeting agenda at that point is typically not allowed unless the item requires a public hearing.

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The discussions and decision-making processes often occur during Wednesday mornings prior to the regular City Council meetings during city council committee meetings.

Councilmembers and city staff, sometimes with some prompting from citizens, decide what items will be included on council committee agendas.

There are currently 3 city council committees; Public Works & Utilities (PWU), Planning and Land Use (PLU) and Finance and Administration (FA). Each meets in the main conference room at City Hall for an hour beginning with PWU at 8am, PLU at 9am and FA at 10am. The public is welcome to attend these meetings.

Each committee is made up of 3 different councilmembers and one is chosen to be the chairperson who runs that committee’s meetings. Committee meetings are also attended by city staff who provide explanations about items on the committees agendas and other information as requested by committee members.

During the meetings, it is determined whether agenda items are to be tabled (not acted on), continued to be worked on by city staff to be presented to committee again in the future or included on the agenda of the next regular city council meeting.

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Committee agenda items can be forwarded to the full council either on the consent agenda or the regular agenda.

Items on the consent agenda are expected to be approved without needing any further discussion. These are typically routine items such as approving payroll or small expenditures.

Assembling routine items as a single item on the agenda means they can be approved by a single vote of the council instead of requiring separate votes. This is intended to speed up council meetings and is a common practice used by other councils and boards around the world.

COF meetings flowchart
City of Ferndale council meetings simplified flowchart. Created by My Ferndale News

Committees can also forward items to the city council regular meeting agendas. When this is done, city staff typically will present the staff report about the item during the regular meeting. This is followed by questions and discussion among the councilmembers. If required, a public hearing may be held allowing for public comment on the item.

Councilmembers can make decisions regarding regular meeting agenda items include tabling the item (often due to the councilmembers not making a motion to do anything), sending it back to committee for changes or putting it to vote by the council.

Members of the public who would like to attend any of the Ferndale City Council committee meetings are welcome to do so. Committee meeting agendas are posted online a few days prior along with supporting documents when available. The main conference room can be accessed via an unmarked door on the southwest corner of the City Hall building located at 2095 Main Street (note: City staff today said a sign would soon be installed by the door identifying it as the entrance to the main conference room).

Council committee meeting decorum is relatively informal and allows for questions and input from attendees as long as that person has raised their hand, so the committee chair can recognize them before speaking.

 

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