The Greensboro City Council expects the residents of Greensboro to obey city ordinances, but it doesn’t hold itself to the same standard.
For example, in the current budget the City Council added a $25 fine for people who did not roll their garbage cans back from the street in accordance with the city ordinance.
However, the City Council is currently ignoring an ordinance on how it will conduct business, but there is no fine for violating this ordinance.
Sec. 2-42 of the City Code of Ordinances states, “Standing committees designated; composition; voting.
“(a) There shall be elected by the city council standing committees of the council as follows:
“(1) Community services committee
“(2) General government committee
“(3) Infrastructure committee
“(4) Public safety committee …”
Sec. 2-43 covers the “Duties and procedures of standing committees.”
The first legal definition of “shall” according to USLegal.com is, “An imperative command; has a duty to or is required to.”
So “shall” in an ordinance means it is something that is required, not an action that is optional. The ordinance states that the City Council is required to have standing committees as designated.
However, the Greensboro City Council doesn’t have community services, general government, infrastructure or public safety committees.
The City Council did have these committees. Former City Councilmember Jamal Fox, who served from 2013 to 2017, pushed hard for the City Council to change the way it did business from having work sessions where all city councilmembers attend on equal footing, to having committees comprised of four city councilmembers that basically did the work that was formerly done in work sessions.
The attempt to operate by committee was a dismal failure. City councilmembers who weren’t on a particular committee often felt the need to attend the committee meetings in order to get the background information on items that would be placed on the agenda and it took much longer to get an item on the agenda since the committee had to consider each item first.
With four committees holding meetings, there were a lot more meetings to attend and it didn’t appear that the committee meetings accomplished much because presentations still had to be made at City Council meetings so that councilmembers who didn’t attend the committee meeting would have the necessary background to vote on the items that had theoretically been vetted by the committees.
So, the City Council decided to stop using committees and go back to the way it had done business for years, in work sessions and full meetings of the City Council.
However, the current “Greensboro – Code of Ordinances” as updated on Nov. 23, 2022, requires the City Council to have committees.
The City Council could at any time rescind Sec. 2-42 and Sec. 2-43 of the Greensboro – Code of Ordinances, but so far the City Council has decided to simply ignore the ordinances, which for good reason it doesn’t like.