Council to consider changes at Tuesday meeting
By Dolores Quintana
Santa Monica lawmakers are considering taking steps to shorten City Council meetings.
The biweekly meetings start on Tuesday evening and often last until the wee hours of the morning. At their meeting tonight, May 24, City Council will explore ways to shorten these meetings.
“While changes have been made to the Order of Business over the years, the overall structure of meetings has largely remained the same,” reads a staff report on the issue.
Staff has made the following recommendations to alleviate this ongoing problem.
- Starting meetings earlier
- Modifying public comment procedures
- Deadlines for placing items on the agenda
- Setting up separate meetings for appeals and study sessions
- Begin closed sessions earlier than 5:30 p.m. with a set ending time or arrange for a special
- meeting for closed session portions of the agenda.
Other recommendations involve enforcing the hard stop on all meetings at 11:00 p.m. This is already one of the rules, but City Council members chose to vote to stay in session later, thus ignoring the rule.
One other idea is holding public comment sessions, specifically for non-agenda items, at the start of meetings or holding public comments for closed sessions and items on the consent calendar before closed sessions take place.
A third monthly meeting could be held that would deal strictly with appeals or study sessions.
These recommendations could also make things easier for the Planning staff because they are involved in nearly every appeal and most of the study sessions.
The addition of 12 meetings would add $31,032 a year to the budget for two police officers to work overtime for each meeting ($1,016), overtime for City TV production employees ($1,057), overtime for City Clerk staff ($213) and for food purchases for the meeting ($300), as reported by the Santa Monica Lookout.
Another option would be to move deadlines for submitting Councilmember items to Thursday or Friday of the week before which would give staff more time to work on the agenda.
The City Clerk regularly has to add Councilmember items after posting and distributing the agenda via email even though the Council has already tried to discourage the practice of turning agenda items in late.
This newest agenda item meant to shorten meetings is being proposed three months after the last agenda item and attempt to shorten City Council meetings. It is also the fourth time in three years that the Council has attempted to make changes to shorten meetings.