The final regular Greensboro City Council meeting of 2021, on Tuesday, Dec. 21, had all the hallmarks of how this City Council has done the city’s business for more than four years.
From before it started until it adjourned, it was a typical City Council meeting. The agenda for the meeting was posted on Thursday, Dec. 16 and revised and re-revised right up until hours before the meeting on Dec. 21.
The meeting started half an hour late at 6:01 p.m.
According to City Council policy, which Mayor Nancy Vaughan reads at the beginning of every meeting, if a councilmember wishes to discuss a consent agenda item, that item is removed from the consent agenda and placed on the business agenda for the next meeting. However, at nearly every meeting Councilmember Sharon Hightower has a several consent agenda items she wants to discuss, and she is allowed to do so. At this meeting Hightower was again allowed to violate the policy that had been read moments before and discuss consent agenda items.
As is the usual practice, major items on the agenda had reportedly been discussed for months by councilmembers, but not in public meetings. The decisions were all made before the meeting in private meetings of councilmembers, which circumvented the North Carolina Open Meetings Law. Even some councilmembers who are not part of the ruling core have complained that they first learned about a major initiative when the agenda is posted and have no time to delve into the topic.
At this meeting the ordinance creating a Social District, to allow people to roam around downtown with an alcoholic beverage in hand, was not discussed at previous City Council meetings or work sessions. The establishment of a Safety Review Board by memo, not by ordinance, was also never discussed at a City Council meeting or work session. However, it was evident from the discussion at the meeting that these items had been discussed by the members of the City Council, just not at a meeting open to the public.
The major announcement of the evening, hiring a new city manager, was not on the agenda at all.
It is also worth noting that the four-year terms this City Council was elected to serve have expired, but the present City Council will be allowed to stay in office for at least another six months.