After much discussion, the City Council – by a 7-2 vote at the Tuesday, Nov. 19 council meeting – decided it was going to stay home in 2020.
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter made a motion that the City Council meet in the Council Chamber at city hall unless there is a special reason to meet somewhere else.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Councilmember Justin Outling voted against the motion.
The discussion on where to meet was wide ranging and overlapped the discussion on when to meet.
In July, with no public discussion or vote, the City Council started holding its first meeting of the month, the town hall meeting, in each of the five City Council districts in order.
The offsite meetings met with mixed success and councilmembers had widely different opinions of the offsite meetings.
Abuzuaiter said, “I’ve had complaints from community members who attended but who couldn’t hear and I’ve heard from staff members that it was very difficult for them to go out in the community for meetings.”
Abuzuaiter said that it was hard for people to understand where and when they were going to meet.
Outling had the opposite view. He said it was important to get out in the community and noted, “at the town hall meetings we heard from different voices.”
He also said that in 2019 he was certain the staff could provide the technology necessary to amplify the voices of the councilmembers so they could be heard.
Several councilmembers disagreed with Outling’s characterization of the people who spoke at offsite council meetings.
Councilmember Michelle Kennedy said, “I have loved that we have seen people that we don’t normally see, but I have not loved that you can’t hear what people are saying.”
Vaughan said that she liked the casualness of the offsite meetings and found that people were more willing to come up and talk to councilmembers before and after the meetings than they were in the Council Chamber.
Of course, if city councilmembers didn’t dash out the back door to the Council Chamber the moment the meetings are over and walked out onto the floor where people are, they could have conversations at city hall.
Abuzuaiter said, “I think we all can agree that, at most of the town forums, it was the same 10 or 15 people that come to all the town hall meetings.”
She also noted that it was more difficult for SCAT riders to get to some of the offsite meetings.
Councilmember Sharon Hightower said that the lighting was better at city hall, the access was better and the meetings could be seen live on GTN. She said she heard a lot of complaints from people who found they couldn’t watch the offsite meetings live.
The meetings were video taped and broadcast later, but several councilmembers agreed they had heard complaints about the meetings not being broadcast live.
Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann said, “This chamber was created to handle the business of the city.”
She added that some people found it difficult to find and get to a recreation center in District 5 or other locations with which they weren’t familiar.