Santa Monica City Council
Santa Monica City Council

CITY HALL — Who doesn’t want to spend Saturday morning discussing protocol regarding the second reading of an ordinance?

While the rest of Santa Monica is watching cartoons or eating a leisurely breakfast, City Council will be discussing the commissioner selection process, rules for public speakers and agenda management.

One item up for debate is whether or not members of the public should be allowed to donate time to an individual speaker. The Planning Commission has practiced this for many years and during one meeting in August Councilman Ted Winterer suggested allowing it.

Council agreed and a handful of members of the public donated their time on that night, City Clerk Sarah Gorman said.

City officials are recommending council retain its current practice of having speakers speak for themselves.

Time delays at council meetings, which often attract many speakers, is one concern mentioned in the staff report. Council meetings have been known to last several hours, some spilling over into the early morning. Residents and council members have complained in the past about the length of the meetings affecting decision making.

“Council doesn’t usually make good decisions after 11:30 at night,” City Manager Rod Gould said.

One alternative suggested in the report is to have speakers express agreement with another speaker by waving their hands silently from the audience.

“Councilmembers have mentioned seeing that in other contexts and in other cities,” Gorman said. “It’s essentially a way to allow people that come to the meeting to show their support without having issues with clapping or loud noises, but they can say, ‘I’m here for this,’ without having to take the time.”

Another issue is the way that agendas are formed, created and discussed.

“We’re having a little more trouble than we’ve had in the past because we don’t always have seven council members present,” Gould said. “Sometimes we have a split vote on a first reading and then a different vote for the second reading of the ordinance. We’re suggesting they discuss how they would like us to handle agenda management accordingly.”

Gould meets regularly with Mayor Pam O’Connor and Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day to set the agendas.

Some alterations to that section could give city staff more authority when setting an agenda.

“Probably the best way to assure residents are fully represented by their elected officials on major issues is to avoid scheduling such matters during predictable vacation and holiday periods,” Councilmember Kevin McKeown said. “Not only are councilmembers sometimes unable to attend meetings at such times of the year, but the ability of members of the public to come and testify is compromised as well.”

Council will discuss a pilot program that would designate 6:40 p.m. as the time to discuss agenda management. This will allow council to run the meeting in a timely manner. Also being considered is the way in which council votes to extend a meeting beyond 11 p.m.

Finally, council will discuss the way in which it selects commissioners and also consider eliminating unnecessary commissions.

Council will advise city officials as to how it would like to receive information about commission candidates. Some commissions, which have been around for many years, may no longer be necessary or may overlap with other commissions, according to the report.

No specific commission is on the chopping block, but the possibility of a reduction is set to be discussed.

“I welcome information and evaluation, but hope the intent here isn’t to reduce the opportunity for appointed residents to advise the council on policy matters,” McKeown said. “We enjoy the assistance of dozens of volunteers who serve on our boards and commissions, and I appreciate their help.”

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