The issue of how this City Council conducts business came up during the discussion on consent searches at the virtual work session on Tuesday, Aug. 11.
Councilmember Michelle Kennedy said that the City Council had been working on requiring a written consent form for police consent searches for a year and it was time to take action.
Councilmember Sharon Hightower objected to that, saying the first time she heard anything about it was in February.
Councilmember Goldie Wells also questioned the statement that the council had been working on it for a year and pointed out the first council discussion was in February.
Kennedy revised her comment to say that some councilmembers had been working on the issue for a year.
Hightower said, “You’ve been having your isolated conversations about it.”
She said, “I don’t want it to be 20 people who come together and say do this and we do this and then six months down the road we have a problem.”
Several councilmembers mentioned that the group Greensboro Rising was pushing for the written consent form. Greensboro Rising is also pushing for the City Council to pass the “8 Can’t Wait” resolution that Mayor Nancy Vaughan said would probably come up in the next couple of weeks.
The current City Council doesn’t hold many actual work sessions as it did Aug. 11. Most work sessions are perfunctory, where a report on some issue is given by a department head and after the report the meeting is adjourned with little discussion among councilmembers.
The way this council does business is for two or three councilmembers to get together unofficially in private and work on an issue. When they reach agreement they corral two or three more votes and before there is any public discussion of the topic, it is brought before the full City Council for a vote. There is no need for discussion at that point because the votes have been lined up and the outcome has been decided all behind closed doors.
Hightower and Wells are not the first city councilmembers to complain about being left out of the loop on an issue. Councilmembers Justin Outling and Marikay Abuzuaiter have in the past complained about the same thing.
To her credit, Councilmember Tammi Thurm who has been pushing the written consent form for months, insisted on having a work session on the topic to discuss it with the full City Council.
Having a work session where the City Council actually discussed an issue at a public meeting is a step in the right direction.