The Greensboro City Council’s annual two-day retreat appropriately began on Groundhog Day with an exercise that has been repeated too many times to mention.

However, Bill Murray was not in attendance.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan explained that Councilmember Yvonne Johnson was out of the country and not able to participate, while City Councilmember Zack Matheny, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, was participating remotely.

It wasn’t exactly like Groundhog Day, because the retreat is being held at Revolution Mill, not the ACC Hall of Champions in the Coliseum Complex where it has been held for most of the past decade, and the prompts were not the exactly same.  But the discussion was the same one the City Council has been having for years.

After brief opening remarks by Vaughan and City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba, Rachel Yost of SIR Institute for Tomorrow in Richmond got the retreat going with a discussion of the “Six Roles of Effective City Councils.”

Yost said, “Put on the hat of thinking about the big picture.”

City councilmembers discussed each of the six roles, ignoring the correct answers that were at the bottom of the handout.

The six roles of an effective city council according to SIR are:

Set Policy

Represent Everyone

Engage the Community

Be a Fiduciary

Provide Oversight

Set Strategic Direction

On setting policy, Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann said, “We often don’t understand as well as we need to the role of the City Council.  Too often we get bogged down in minutia trying to manage things on a day-to-day basis.”

Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said the council had to consider unintended consequences.

Councilmember Goldie Wells said that it was important for the City Council to understand why it was making the decision.

The correct answer according to the handout is, “Policy – Make consistent and clear policies – and follow them.”

On representing everyone Vaughan said that she thought the system of having both district and at-large members worked well.

Vaughan also said that she thought the City Council did a good job of engaging the community before a decision was made but, after the decision is made, “effectively communicating back to the community is important and I don’t think that is always done.”

The correct answer: “Representation – Ensure all voices/perspectives weigh in on important matters.”

When Yost turned to the next topic, “Strategic Direction” and asked where the City Council was headed, there was a noticeable lack of response from the members of the City Council.